King’s College London has adopted the international definition of anti-Semitism in order to protect Jewish students as well, it seems, speakers at the university.
This is welcome news as there have been a number of incidents at King’s College where Israeli speakers and pro-Israel events have been disrupted by violent student protests.
In February this year students attempted to disrupt a talk by a former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor. The anti-Israel activists lined the hallways and shouted anti-Israel slogans during the talk.
When students who attended the talk were leaving, they were shouted at and intimidated. The intimidation did not stop there and some Jewish students were subjected to abuse even after the event was over.
“It is disgraceful that in 2018, Jewish university students should be made to feel afraid or ashamed to walk freely on campus,” one student said.
Another incident at the university saw a discussion on free speech getting shut down by violent “Antifa” protesters. Anti-Israel protesters where also involved as one of the speakers on the panel was an Israeli Jew. During the incident, protesters violently assaulted a security guard, hospitalising him, before storming the stage and shutting down the event.
On a separate occasion, a pro-Palestinian activist assaulted a Jewish student who was peacefully filming an anti-Israel demonstration. Ivana Bevilaqua, 25, and a Politics graduate from King’s College was found guilty of assault by beating and was ordered to pay £100 to her victim.
The Jewish News reported:
Professor Byrne said that KCL had seen some difficult and distressing campus meetings where speakers had been disrupted and students felt intimidated. He was determined to stamp this out, he said. “We have three key priorities: freedom of speech — we’re not allowing ‘no platform’ — but always in the context of the law.
“Second, we will allow peaceful protest, but the problem is that we have not put enough effort into defining and controlling how protests will take place”. That will change, he said, as protesters will be made to demonstrate far enough away from any meeting so that they do not disrupt it with noisy chanting. Megaphones or loudhailers will be banned, Professor Byrne said.
His third priority was that “everyone on campus, students and staff and visitors, feels completely safe. That’s safe from any physical violence, but also safe from hate speech.” Discussions would continue to take place about the use of cameras by protesters, whether or not events should be ticketed, and the moderating of speech within events by independent chairs. Banners or flags will not be permitted inside lecture theatres.
Professor Byrne said there were a range of behaviours “that go beyond acceptable debate”, which would not be tolerated at King’s. “Anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable in our community. For us, we have an absolute commitment for Jewish students not only to feel safe, but to feel welcomed.”