#NotOnOurCampus- Let Hen Mazzig speak to students from across London without disruption
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In October 2016 Israeli speaker, writer and human rights activist Hen Mazzig was denied his freedom of speech by a violent mob of protesters at University College London. Protesters jumped through windows, banged on walls and shouted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’. They called for destruction of the State of Israel, singling it out from other nation states. Such calls fall under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-semitism. Ultimately, students had to barricade themselves in the room for their own safety and later had to be escorted out by 20 police officers. Mazzig was rushed out of the university in a police coat.
The event was organised by UCL Friends of Israel with KCL Friends of Israel and was sponsored by CAMERA on Campus UK.
The UCL Friends of Palestine Society cited their active organisation of the violent protest against this event as being due to Hen’s service in the IDF (Israel Defense Force), characterising the IDF as an army of war criminals. In fact, Hen’s service in the COGAT unit revolved around humanitarian cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.
Hen has since been invited by the UCL administration to return to the campus later this month, in recognition that the violent protest which shut down his previous speaking event was discriminatory. However, UCL has restricted the attendance of the event to UCL students and staff only, ignoring the fact that the majority of attendees were from the Jewish student community, which spans multiple universities across London. UCL's event is intended to discuss the issue of freedom of speech, something that Jo Johnson MP commented on at the Limmud Conference last month.
Holding an event that prohibits the very minority that was attacked at Mazzig’s 2016 UCL event, and not advertising publicly in fear of a protest, is not ensuring that freedom of speech is upheld. Free speech cannot and should not take place in private or in hiding. Universities need to be able to counteract protests with a sufficient security presence rather than by restricting the publicity of the events that occur on their campuses and the students who are allowed to attend.
In 2018, Jewish speakers should not have to hide their identity or location for fear of reprisal. It is reprehensible not to include the victims of the attacks on Mazzig’s 2016 event at UCL, who were not able to hear Hen share his story, in this upcoming event. It is up to UCL to make sure that the perpetrators of last year's protest are properly restrained in the run up to this next event, rather than punishing the victims. The UCL Friends of Palestine Society frequently holds events which are open to all students, despite the deeply controversial nature of their speakers. Israeli speakers should not be treated differently to speakers of other nationalities simply because certain groups wish to protest against them.
Furthermore, the same group that shut down his freedom of speech in 2016 has once again publicly made it known that they seek to discriminate against him on the basis of his nationality. They again cite his participation in the IDF, which is compulsory for all Israeli citizens, as the reason to not give him a platform to speak. Hen's work in the IDF helped save lives and build bridges for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and he never caused hurt or injury to any individual. Nonetheless, the UCL Friends of Palestine Society continues to make the fictitious claim that Hen is complicit in war crimes.
We urge UCL to keep discrimination and racism #NotOnOurCampus and ensure that Hen is able to tell his story and engage in dialogue without violent disruption. Peaceful protests are always welcome, however interruptions into the event itself at inappropriate times in an attempt to prevent it from going ahead must not be tolerated.
We urge UCL to take into consideration the Friends of Palestine's public comments about Mazzig's return and the importance of this event being open to the students who were attacked last year in order to ensure that free speech is properly upheld. The Jewish community was deeply affected by the event in 2016. It is crucial that Hen's invitation to come back addresses the wrongs that were inflicted on the community last year.
For further information, please contact:
Tamara Berens, KCL Israel Society at firstname.lastname@example.org
Khulan Davajaav, SOAS Israel Society at Khulan@camera.org
Lia Lands, CAMERA on Campus, Lia@camera.org
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