The 27th of October for Jewish students was intended to be a day of sweet solidarity, a valuable opportunity to discuss mediation and peaceful resolution in regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hen Mazzig, a former intermediary to the Israel Defence Forces, The Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, was the key speaker at the event on the 27th. Known as the “miracle man” for galvanising both Palestinians and Jews, Hen brought about a dialogue of peace emphasising a desire for both Israelis and Palestinians to enjoy self-determination. The event was attended by non-Jews and Muslims also. Hen was brought to the event by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA), An organization that aims to support Jewish students and tackle propagandistic assaults on Israel, that have become increasingly commonplace on university campuses.
Although the event was held to promote peace and resolution, University College London’s student union unjustifiably no-platformed the event, however, in turn, this was overruled by UCL’s management.
While the event was set to go ahead, the event had to be relocated last minute as protesters swarmed the original location, which had been booked for a psychology lecture. The protesters interrupted the lecture with anti-Israeli chants, searching like “jackals” for Jewish students, who were consequently forced to sneak off in small groups to the new location, as to not attract detection from protesters. After listening to Devora Khafi’s account intently it was abundantly clear that the Jewish students felt “sick to their stomachs” and were “horrified” about the ongoing situation
“It was absolutely terrifying, the worst event I have ever attended. Jewish students were forced to sneak into an event, while protesters were essentially hunting anyone supposedly Jewish or linked to the event in any way. We were subsequently barricaded into the room designated for the event while two men broke in with the motive to attack Hen during his speech.”
“Protesters would bang on the windows and slam the doors making it impossible for the event to run smoothly.”
“The campus security who were meant to protect us completely allowed the demonstration to move far too close to the event, hence allowing Hen’s speech to be completely disrupted.”
“Another girl and I were assaulted, I can remember being grappled against the door, hardly able to breathe while protesters snarled and cheered.”
“Protesters loudly chanted “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” which is a chant that implicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the exile of Jews.”
Within a short period, the hostility escalated to dangerous levels to the extent that campus security was unable to manage the sheer hostility of the situation; the police were called swiftly as there were fears that the Jewish students would no longer be safe without an armed presence. Devora stated:
“We were told not to engage protesters and to avoid eye contact with the protesters, who indifferent to the new-found police presence screamed anti-Semitic abuse in our faces, and persisted in pushing and shoving us while filming us as we struggled out onto the street.”
“Protesters would raise their fists and force cameras into our faces, yelling “shame” trying their very best to provoke a reaction from us.”
Hen Mazzig himself was ordered by police to disguise himself as security staff, saying:
“They had fear that I’ll be violently attacked by the anti-Israel “peace loving nonviolent” fanatic mob.”
After finally making it onto the street, Hen took to Twitter, commenting:
“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.”
CAMERA made an impassioned statement in the aftermath of the event, unconvinced by the way UCL managed the event, and the “unserious” statement that they released afterwards:
“UCL issued an unserious response in which the violence was denied, despite video footage that showed physical coercion,”
“Police officers were called to the CAMERA- sponsored event last Thursday to put down the violent anti-Israel protest that saw Jewish students, trapped in a lecture room with Israeli guest speaker Hen Mazzig, who was invited to speak about Israel and gay rights issues.”
“Pro-Palestinian protesters were caught on film coming through windows, screaming anti-Jewish slogans and shoving Jewish students.”
Levin accused UCL of downplaying the extent of the mob attack, calling it a “small but noisy group of protesters.” She further stated:
“It wasn’t small. Scores can be seen on video,” she said. “Police had to escort Jewish students through crowds of demonstrators screaming for the destruction of the Jewish state. UCL seems more concerned with public relations than with protecting Jewish students’ rights of free speech. It’s shameful.”
CAMERA has called on UCL to take the threat against Jewish students seriously by expelling any students who broke into the event and to shut down any campus groups that were responsible for organizing the protest. It also called on the university to invite more Israeli speakers to the campus as a way to “broaden discourse on the Middle East.”
“UCL needs to respond meaningfully, not just try to quell bad publicity,” Levin said. “Mob behavior must not be tolerated on any campus.”
To the utmost dismay of the Jewish societies within the University of London and CAMERA, the absolute calamity that unfolded on the 27th is by no means an isolated incident, with a similar set of events occurring in January at a similar peace event held by Kings College London’s Jewish society. At the event protesters smashed windows, threw chairs, set off fire alarms and chanted “Nazis” at the students blockaded inside. One Student, Esther Enfield was assaulted resulting in the prosecution of the offender Ivana Bevilaqua at Westminster Magistrate’s Court. It has become abundantly clear from the two protests discussed, that the sheer virulence and malice towards innocent Jewish students, and the willingness of universities to appease this, has become a bitter reality for the Jewish community.
After reviewing the cases discussed above I brought it on myself to once again contact Devora Khafi. An activist of “stand with us UK” and a much-loved member of the Queens Mary’s Jewish society she raised her concerns about how the rise of anti-Semitism was being appeased by University culture.
Devora, emotional and shaken about the current situation on university campuses, outlined her concerns saying:
“Jewish student concerns are not taken seriously.”
“The NUS has elected a president who has blocked us from picking our own representatives, made appalling anti-Semitic remarks, stirred up racial tension telling students at SOAS that “the Prevent strategy was caused by Zionist lobby groups.”
“At one point a student at the National Conference of the NUS called for abolishing the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial day only to be met with avid applause and standing ovation.”
Devora also discussed with me how the Palestine Solidarity Society had been allowed to invite an extremist Jihadi speaker, who was unrepentant of his killing of an innocent Israeli.
“I reported the event to the University and the Palestinian solidarity society was consequently suspended.”
“On one occasion members of the society recognised me and screamed abuse at me, I was forced to run off campus to the nearest tube station because they persisted in following me.”
Finally, Devora talked about how Anti-Semitic hate crime had increased by 60% last year alone, leaving the Jewish community, an incredibly small community in size, in a state of alarm. Devora criticised the university culture saying that:
“The particularly middle-class, left-wing nature of universities has been conducive to students aligning themselves with anti-Israel views even though the vast majority of students are neither Muslim nor Jewish and have little knowledge of the Israel-Palestine conflict. As a result of this, most students lack empathy with Jewish students when anti-Semitism presents itself on campus.”
“My grandparents are refugees, and it’s disheartening to see how Anti-Semitism is still a problem, even in Britain.”