Last night, tensions were high outside Strand as KCL Action Palestine (KCLAP) protested the presence of Eyal Dror, a retired Colonel in the IDF. He was invited by KCL Israel Society to talk about about Israel’s humanitarian action in Syria.
According to a protester, who wishes to remain anonymous, “the IDF routinely commits war crimes, routinely kills civilians and as students at King’s we believe this goes against our community values.”
The protest taking place outside Strand
Members of KCLAP allegedly had their tickets to the event cancelled and were refused entry. Asrah, the only KCLAP member to enter, silently listened alongside an unnamed student wearing a hijab. After the event, a member of the Israel Society said that he hoped they felt welcome. The unnamed student then asked why she had seen her name highlighted on the list of attendees. She was told that people’s names were highlighted if they were either a part of KCL Action Palestine or if they seemed to be a threat. When it was pointed out that she was a first-year student and not part of KCLAP, the Israeli Society member confessed to confusing her with someone else.
Similarly, Maria, a student from Syria, had her ticket confirmed by Eventbrite and received a follow-up email later in the afternoon disclosing the location of the event. However, upon reaching the Macadam building, she was refused entry. She was told by KCL event security staff that her name was not on the list. She suspected that this was because of her Arab surname, since she had no record of involvement in past anti-Israel protests and was not a part of KCLAP. Maria felt that if the Israel Society truly wished to promote dialogue, they would not have denied her entry.
Regarding the issue of ticket cancellations, KCL Israel Society said: “There were 5 student tickets that were cancelled for security purposes. Fearing for the safety of the Israel Society’s committee, the speaker, and the event attendees, we had no choice but to cancel 5 tickets of students that had planned to shut the event down at any cost. The decision to cancel these tickets was based on concrete leaked information from the KCLAP. It showed their intentions to disrupt and shut down the event whilst violating our right to freedom of speech. There were many members of KCLAP that booked tickets and did not have them cancelled because we chose to promote dialogue over chaos.
“The event might have been a tremendous success but we still have a lot of work to do to fight antisemitism, discrimination, bigotry and hate off campus.”
Meanwhile, five security guards were posted outside the Macadam building, where the event was taking place. A small group of protesters managed to get inside but were refused entry. They stayed outside the room and protested at the start of the talk, chanting and banging, but were led away.
Outside the building, the protest was in full swing. According to an eyewitness, David Collier and a Zionist activist were draped in Israeli flags outside the Macadam Building, and were disrespectful when protesters of Palestinian descent were sharing their stories. As protesters requested not to be filmed, an unknown man pushed Collier and attempted to grab his camera, described by another eyewitness as a “dumb ass move”.
The scuffle was broken by both protesters and King’s security guards who “rushed to his aid and in pursuit of his attacker”. Soon after, two police vans arrived at the Strand.
I was just attacked, my camera was grabbed (not damaged) police on their way. Arms and hands sore but otherwise OK. Tripod broken. All this at British University. Can you imagine how much worse this will all be if Corbyn wins.
— David Collier (@mishtal) November 18, 2019
Tweet by David Collier about the protest
To Roar, Collier said: “Yes, my camera was grabbed violently – the person who attacked me tried to take it off me. He failed, but I hurt both my arms and hands whilst trying to maintain a grip on it.
“I film because I am a journalist and that is what we do. I also need to film. It is an added layer of security. It is not safe for Jews – there were two physical attacks last night, one on the person holding a flag, one on me – luckily the camera caught both attacks as the perpetrators are visible in the footage.
“I was interested in filming this protest because it highlights the absurdity of these anti-Israel protestors. The person inside the hall has saved 1000s of Syrian lives.”
Meanwhile, tensions were running high at Strand. The crowd of about thirty Action Palestine protesters were faced by a smaller group of people who claimed to be with the Israel Society. A few police officers placed themselves in between the two groups.
On the topic of the protest, a self-described liberal Jewish student said: “The protest sought to intimidate pro-Israel voices and deny freedom of speech, on the unrelated topic of an amazing humanitarian operation which saved thousands of lives. It was scary to be subject to such vitriol, as they began banging on the door of the lecture theatre. Why can’t they encourage dialogue, not division? It seemed they were more concerned with being anti-Israel than having solidarity with the suffering of Syrians.”
Conversely, a protester of Palestinian descent emphasised recent IDF airstrikes on the West Bank [Roar can confirm that the last Israeli air strike in the West Bank was in August, 2018]. According to him, humanitarian work, even in the “annexed” Golan Heights, was to be welcomed. However, he added: “but it doesn’t mean they’re [IDF] an ethical army… you can’t use that to try to cover up the killing that’s happening.”