Students Clash at UCL After Free Palestine Protesters Interrupt Friends of Israel Event
Thursday evening UCL Friends of Israel Society held a talk with Israeli writer and activist Hen Mazzig, but the event was disrupted by student protesters. Police were called as UCLU Friends of Palestine Society members blocked attendees in the room where the talk was held.
It was reported that, prior to the event, UCLU had banned Hen Mazzig from speaking on campus, but the decision was overturned by UCL management. His appearance caused some controversy due to his previously being in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).
Video footage shows students chanting “free Palestine” and “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.
— Sacha Rojtman Dratwa (@SachaDratwa) October 27, 2016
— Craig Dillon (@craigtdillon) October 28, 2016
— Board of Deputies (@BoardofDeputies) October 27, 2016
“Don’t touch the vermin”.
The video below shows attendees trapped in a room, with protesters banging on doors and windows. Two protesters can be seen throwing themselves through windows into the room, at which point things get considerably more heated.
The protesters lay on the floor as someone who attended the event attempts to take photos of them, shouting, “show your faces you cowards… let’s get you on camera.” It appears the individual tries to pull one of the protesters up off of the ground, but is stopped by others who can be heard saying, “we’re not touching them,” and “don’t touch the vermin”.
— CrassusDT -C (@CrassusDT) October 28, 2016
Police had to escort attendees of the event out of the building.
Protesters can be seen chanting “shame” as those who went to the talk left campus.
— Elliot Miller (@Elliotmiller94) October 27, 2016
Many took to Twitter sharing opposing views on the protest.
Don't let anyone fool you into thinking what happened at #UCL was 'activism', it was violent, threatening behaviour
— Est Green (@EstherGreeny) October 27, 2016
— Devora Khafi (@DevoraKhafi) October 27, 2016
Watched some of this footage from #UCL – absolutely unacceptable intimidation of Jewish students. This is not ok. Should not come to this
— Karen Pollock (@KarenPollock100) October 27, 2016
The protest with people shouting Free Palestine in UCL at the Israeli guest military speaker is absolutely beeeaaautifulllllll
— eternity (@KayKaayyPD) October 27, 2016
— Fatime Al-Badri (@falbadri1995) October 27, 2016
Wonderful scenes emerging from #UCLProtest, an entire livestream available for the false claims of violence. Peacefully opposing genocide.
— Fatime Al-Badri (@falbadri1995) October 27, 2016
And Hen Mazzig described UCL as a “warzone”.
I had to be rushed out of the event at @UCL with security. The campus was the war zone and the streets are the safe place. I'm out. My god.
— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) October 27, 2016
The Union of Jewish Students issued a statement describing the protest as “an absolute disgrace”.
“There can be no excuses for the events that took place at UCL last night. The fact that such violence and hostility took place only 9 months after the incident at KCL, with police having to once again be called, is an absolute disgrace. UCL Friends of Israel were simply trying to engage students in discussion on Israel, but instead were met with a wall of intolerance and intimidation aimed at shutting down free speech.
“It is reassuring however that, despite the acts of the protestors, the event went ahead as planned with around 50 engaging in peaceful and positive discussion on Israel and Palestine. We are also glad to say that all students at the event were reported safe.
“We would like to commend the organisers of last night’s event for their commitment in ensuring the event went ahead as planned. Despite the hostility, Jewish and non-Jewish students alike, across the country, will never stop engaging in constructive debate around Israel/Palestine.
“It is imperative that UCL and UCLU take action following last night’s events and we will be working with UCL Friends of Israel to ensure just that. Whatever your position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no place for intolerance and intimidation like was seen last night at UCL on university campuses.”
UCLU Friends of Palestine Society have since released the following statement. It was published to their Facebook page Friday afternoon.
“Last night, a large and diverse group of students staged a protest against Hen Mazzig, a former lieutenant in the Israeli army. UCLU Friends of Palestine would like to make clear that the protest was not organised on behalf of the society, or affiliated to the society in any way.
“Hen Mazzig was a ‘humanitarian affairs’ officer in CoGAT, Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territory, the Israeli state body responsible for the day to day management of the military occupation, including demolition of Palestinian homes, forced displacement, restrictions of movement, and is headquartered in illegal settlements. These are grave violations of international law, and it is reasonable for students to protest an event at which these crimes are whitewashed and defended.
“We support the protest which took place for these reasons. We also believe that all groups reserve the right to free expression as long as they abide by the UCL code of practice on freedom of speech and remain within the law. This allowed the event as well as the protest to take place.
“Both authorities; the UCL security and police, confirmed that the protest ended safely, and there are hours of footage live from the protest suggesting that it was peaceful. We do condemn all forms of abuse and violence and encourage the relevant authorities to investigate any instances of it if reported by individuals.”