Roar documents a string of allegations made by three King’s College London (KCL) societies.
On 1 November, KCL Students for Justice for Palestine (KCL SJP) published a statement on their Instagram accusing “a member from Liberate KCL” of using “hostile language” against one of KCL SJP’s Palestinian members, in what KCL SJP called an attempt to “harass and intimidate”.
Liberate KCL, a left-wing society at King’s, had published a statement on 18 October which criticised KCL SJP for refusing to collaborate on a joint statement with Intersectional Feminist Society (IFEMSOC) and the KCL LGBTQ+ Society. They said that:
“Over the past days and weeks, Liberate KCL has worked hard to coordinate a solidarity effort between non-palestinian student groups, with participation from various student societies from across the university. KCL LGBT were keen to support the solidarity effort. Sadly KCL Students for Justice for Palestine refused to collaborate with KCL LGBT and did not give a reason”
In a statement given directly to Roar News, KCL SJP said members were met with “harassment and bullying to sign onto a statement that didn’t address the massacres”. They said these groups had “steamrolled to release a statement” on the same evening as the al-Ahli Arab Hospital explosion, and that the content “wasn’t aligned with what we saw fit in the context of the current onslaught”.
In their statement to Roar News, KCL SJP asserted:
“Our society’s purpose is to advocate for justice for Palestine. Our current focus has been on the genocide of the Palestinian people, with over 8,000 deaths, 3,000 of whom are children. A complete blockade for over 3 weeks now with no fuel, water or food granted access into Gaza and hospitals and homes have been continuously bombed by the apartheid state of Israel.”
In a statement given to Roar following the publication of KCL SJP’s allegations, Liberate KCL said they “reject KCL SJP’s claims and we consider them to be a direct attempt to distract from the criticism of their refusal to work with KCL LGBT”. They called KCL SJP’s allegations of bullying “unsubstantiated” and asserted that “at no point did anyone compel or demand that KCL SJP Co-signed the statement”. Liberate KCL said that KCL SJP were “met with rightful criticism when they tried to exclude KCL LGBT from the coordinated solidarity effort between non-Palestinian student groups”. They said they would “continue to be ready and willing to work with KCL SJP” but called out the society for “exposing our students [members] to vile homophobic/transphobic abuse”. Liberate KCL also affirmed “our support of them [KCL SJP] is not contingent on any positive act but we do condemn their overt homophobia/transphobia and that is our duty”.
“Liberate KCL stand in fierce solidarity with the Palestinian people. We also stand staunchly against queerphobia, and in particular, in solidarity with queer and trans* Palestinians”.
In reference to Liberate KCL’s original statement, the KCL LGBTQ+ Society told Roar News:
“We, the KCL LGBTQ+ Society Leadership team, were wholly unaware that this Statement from Liberate KCL would be made and condemn the accusatory nature of the statement as we understand this is extremely difficult time for KCL SLP, Palestinians, and Muslim students more broadly. With that said, however, we do agree with the sentiments addressed.”
In a statement to Roar News on 26 October, KCL IFEMSOC said:
“Though our solidarity with queer Palestinians is unwavering and we strongly believe they should always be included in conversation around the apartheid, it is important to note that commenting on queer issues publicly can put Palestinian and Muslim students in danger, especially those who are queer themselves. In my opinion, solidarity between marginalised groups is essential when it comes to creating spaces for safe and productive activism, but it is not always easy or straightforward – this is why intersectionality should always be at the heart of liberation movements, including the fight for Palestinian liberation.”
The LGBTQ+ Society also told Roar that they “simply asked KCL SJP if they would be willing to sign off on the statement, attach their logo to it and share it on their socials”, in an effort to ensure the statement would be “community led”.
The LGBTQ+ Society said it had “made several attempts to reach out to KCL SJP both prior to the escalation [of the conflict between Israel and Hamas], and more recently as the situation in Palestine has deteriorated, to offer support and establish a mutual solidarity particularly for the sake of the countless queer Palestinians affected by the conflict”. But they commented that the response from KCL SJP “has never been positive”.
Liberate KCL’s statement also claimed that “Sadaf Abbas Cheema, KCLSU student officer, supported KCL SJP’s position on not collaborating with KCL LGBT”. Roar News reached out Sadaf Abbas Cheema for a statement, however she had not responded by the time of publishing.
In their statement, KCL LGBTQ+ Society said that KCLSU had “failed significantly” in encouraging many of KCL’s cultural, political and faith societies to address the problem of LGBTQ+ inclusion. KCL LGBTQ+ further said that KCLSU “have never offered meaningful resources to foster LGBTQ+ inclusion”. The LGBTQ+ Society called upon all societies to appoint “Liberation Network Leads” in order to “ensure liberation is always at the forefront of their work”.
KCL LGBTQ+ said the situation with KCL SJP should serve as a “wake up call to the numerous societies that have historically failed LGBTQ+ students”. KCL LGBTQ+ called upon KCL SJP, KCL Islamic Society, KCL African and Caribbean Society and KCL Association of Southeast Asian Nations Society specifically to make “unapologetically clear and public statements expressing their commitment to ensuring their spaces are safe for all LGBTQ+ students”.
In reference to the situation, KCL SJP said on their Instagram that “this has all been a massive distraction from the main issue of campaigning for the liberation of Palestine and highlighting the injustices which have occurred”.
They also accused Roar’s coverage, including this article, of being “part and parcel of the concerted effort to undermine Palestinian voices on campus at KCL”. Editor-in-Chief Fintan Hogan said:
“I’m proud of our team for covering the issues on campus and I don’t believe that publishing KCL SJP’s side of the story is ‘undermining’ Palestinian voices. I am glad that our editor delayed publication of Liberate KCL and KCL LGBTQ+ Society’s claims until we had a response from KCL SJP, especially since it brought to light important new elements. We now have a more complete picture of events and I would like to thank KCL SJP for helping us with that.”