King’s College London has banned an event from taking place in the Edmond J. Safra lecture theatre due to concerns that the talk might involve antisemitic content.
The event was planned as part of Israeli Apartheid Week and featured a talk by a South African Muslim Professor Farid Esack at the lecture theatre, which was named after a Beirut-born Jewish banker.
The move comes after founder of King’s Israel Society Sami Steinbock expressed concern that the speaker has been accused of making statements with antisemitic content and of sympathising with the Charlie Hebdo attackers.
Mr Esack directly responded to the allegations made by Steinbock saying, “If Edmond J. Safra was an ideological Zionist and uncritical in his support for Israel, then it was a sensitive move on the part of the University to not have the event in the lecture theatre named after him. If the decision was taken merely because he was a Jew, then it was a rather silly choice based on stereotyping all Jews.”
He added, “I am confident that a vast and extensive search of my entire public or personal history would not yield a single shred of evidence that I am anti-Semitic or Judeophobic.”
“I have no sympathy for any murderers – including the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo crowd. I confirm that I said that I will ‘not pray for Paris’ at that time. It may have been a bit insensitive then.”
Whilst the talk will not be taking place in the original venue, the College confirmed that the event would still be taking place at Waterloo Campus. This is despite similar events being cancelled by the University of Central Lancashire, which cited the new definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government. UCL has also cancelled an event over a procedural issue.
“We do not tolerate racism or harassment of any kind and are committed to respect for all of our students and staff,” said a spokeswoman from King’s.
“Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law. King’s is no exception. The university has strict procedures in place to check the appropriateness of events and speakers hosted on campus,” she added.
The event is due to take place at 6:30-8:30pm on Tuesday 28th February in Franklin Wilkins Building (B5 Auditorium).