KCL Israel Society has been accused of “racial profiling” for cancelling the tickets of specific individuals for an event featuring Israeli Colonel Eli Bar-On.
Taking place on 4th March, Colonel Bar-On spoke to students in what was formerly Tutu’s theatre in the Macadam building about the humanitarian record of the Israel Defence Forces.
The son of a Palestinian man who was originally a refugee from Iraq, Colonel Bar-On was in charge of a number of key Israeli military operations between 2012 and 2015.
This question of racially motivated profiling meant the event was shrouded in controversy, with protests organised by KCL Action Palestine taking place outside the Macadam Building.
Action Palestine accuses KCL Israel Society of racism
A week before the event took place, KCL Israel Society cancelled the tickets of many people who had purchased them for free through their link on Facebook.
The arbitrary nature of the cancellation raised questions, with KCL Israel Society explaining their actions as being because of an “overcapacity issue” at the time.
Upon the cancellation, KCL Action Palestine released a statement titled “KCL ISRAEL SOCIETY CANCEL TICKETS ON RACIST BASIS”.
The statement denounces the event and makes direct accusations at KCL Israel Society and their President Simon Moos of racism, saying that the link to the tickets “remained open even AFTER students had their tickets taken from them, with other students successfully being able to book tickets at this time.”
The statement goes onto say that this was “reflective of the systematic racism that is inherent to the apartheid state of Israel” and that KCL Israel Society has “decided to actively discriminate against Muslim and racially marginalised students”.
The statement also featured photos which KCL Action Palestine said was evidence that “there were still tickets available” and of someone “purchasing a ticket on 2nd of March AFTER KCL Israel Society began selectively invalidating tickets”.
The full statement can be read by clicking the following link here.
The President of KCL Israel Society Simon Moos commented for Roar on the accusations of racism that had been directed towards him and his society: “40 Arab students were allowed in the event. We do not pay attention to ethnicity, we pay attention to respect.
“KCL Action Palestine prepared an illegal action, a disruptive boycott of our event. We knew who was behind this and we prevented the culprits from entering the building. Racism was the only argument left for them as their unlawful plans were thwarted, these accusations are the result of frustration.
“KCL Action Palestine promotes jihadist groups that call for the extermination of Jews in the world and cynically lecture us about discrimination. While this accusation is weak and false on every front, it is the logical result of a society that despises morality, decency and truth.”
Colonel Bar-On speaks about Israel’s military humanitarian record
Colonel Bar-On described the processes the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) use to avoid civilian casualties and the difficulties they face in doing so while fighting against Hamas.
A particular military operation against Hamas in 2014 was the point of reference used throughout the presentation, an operation which Colonel Bar-On said aimed to “restore security to civilians” living in the Gaza strip.
He started by discussing the threat Hamas posed to Jewish communities by digging tunnels into Israeli territory, making the claim that tunnel exits found in civilian areas were evidence of Hamas’ desire to attack civilians.
There was great emphasis placed on the difficulty this posed all attempts at aerial retaliation of Hamas militants coming from these tunnel exits because of the risk of civilian deaths.
It quickly became clear that the aim of the colonel’s presentation was to demonstrate the “deliberate tactics” Hamas employ to attack Israel in dense civilian areas to lead the IDF into making collateral mistakes.
He showed a military video of two members of Hamas running towards a civilian area forcing an IDF missile operator to make a last second decision to direct a missile away.
The inference here is that the members of Hamas had moved towards civilians knowing that the IDF would not be able to attack with them around, suggesting a use of civilians as a form of protection.
The colonel described this tactical mentality as he saw it: “Imbed ourselves into the civilian population and the IDF will decide to either not attack us or attack us with huge collateral damage and make our population hate them even more.”
He also described the issue of fighting against a group that do not wear clear uniform as an attempt to be disguised amongst civilians: “Often there are dilemmas between who can be targeted as military and who can be considered civilian.
“Many soldiers won’t wear uniform but may be carrying weapons, and some civilians may be wearing military equipment but could be politicians.”
Colonel Bar-On also spoke about the extensive legal process that the IDF commit themselves to before any military operation is confirmed.
He described how both military commanders and lawyers evaluate the military advantage of the attack, the potential collateral damage and whether the attack justifies that risk: “How do we inject a legal input inside the idea of operations? Commanders go through mandatory legal training.
“Before the start of any operation, the lawyers move into how to best address the legal issues. There is clearly an extensive legal process that the military employs.”
KCL Action Palestine protests
During the event, close to forty members of KCL Action Palestine protested Colonel Bar-On’s appearance, with roughly 10 picketing the doors and leading the rest of the crowd in chants.
These chants were loud and unyielding and could be heard from within the event room itself several floors up, with chants of “5, 6, 7, 8 – Israel is a terrorist state,” and “One solution – revolution” featuring heavily.
Another shout employed – “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – calls for the abolition of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, a viewpoint that some commentators view as anti-Semitic.
Activists had horns and whistles which they blew on to accompany the chants.
Chants were made with the intention of drowning out the speaker at the event four stories up, causing three police officers to approach the site to monitor the protest.
The protest was partly driven by the refusal of Israel Society to grant tickets to Action Palestine activists, with one anonymous protester commenting: “We all bought tickets the first day they opened it up, and then two days before the event.
“For some of us it was yesterday, for some two days ago, everyone who had Arab/Muslim name, their tickets got cancelled. People whose names were not, still got in. There’s racial discrimination.”
On Facebook, Action Palestine said that this displayed a “fear of genuine dialogue.”
Contributions from Matthew Ader and Virjinia Vassileva