British academics and students call for censorship of Israeli ambassador because his appearance could upset students

I’ll be brief, as this is all too familiar. According to the Guardian and the Elder of Ziyon sites, students and professors at a British university have their knickers in knots because two student groups invited Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, to speak.  His crime? Being the ambassador to Israel, of course, which, seen as an “apartheid regime”, cannot be allowed to have its views expressed anywhere, even through an official ambassador. The objections? Based on the mental damage Regev’s words may do to listeners, making his invitation a “deliberate provocation.” Lordy!

The objecting college is the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, part of the University of London and an institution that is diehard pro-Palestine and anti-Israeli. The groups inviting him were the SOAS Jewish and United Nations societies. The Guardian reports (my emphasis):

Students and academics at Soas University of London have said a visit by the Israeli ambassador Mark Regev this week could lead to serious tension and substantial distress on the campus.

Regev has been invited by two student societies to speak about the Middle East and prospects for peace on Thursday, but his visit has been criticised as provocative by other staff and students who are planning a protest.

More than 150 academics from Soas and other UK universities, plus 40 student societies at the university, have written to the Soas director Valerie Amos urging her to intervene to stop the meeting on Thursday at which Regev is due to speak.

A letter signed by more than 100 Soas staff says: “We fear that if this provocative event proceeds as planned, it will cause substantial distress and harm to many of our students and staff who are, have been or will be affected by the actions of what a recent UN report refers to as the Israeli ‘apartheid regime’.

“The event could further cause serious tension on campus and result in a charged atmosphere that will be detrimental to the wellbeing of all faculty, staff and students.”

This is an excuse we’re hearing increasingly often: “This person cannot speak because it will cause riots and also the words will injure our mental health.” These Regressives have learned well from the Muslim playbook. But wait! There’s more:

The students’ union challenged the university authorities over the staging of the event, raising concerns about possible safety and security risks posed by the ambassador’s visit and “the inability of students and staff – in particular Palestinian students – to participate openly in the debate, because of possible repercussions on their ability to enter Israel/Palestine”.

Soas, which is one of the world’s leading institutions for the study of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, has often been the focus of coverage of the sometimes fraught debate surrounding Israeli-Palestinian politics on university campuses. As a result, the small minority of Jewish students at Soas have complained of feeling uncomfortable on campus and unable to express themselves.

A statement posted on Facebook by the Soas students’ union said: “We stand with the Soas community in expressing our concern at Mark Regev’s presence on campus, and in rejecting the idea that our spaces of learning should serve as avenues for officials to put forward state propaganda.”

For crying out loud–state propaganda? Maybe Regev will give official government views, or maybe not, but that’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is that academics are baying for censorship on extremely stupid grounds. These objecting students have every right in the world to stage their own protests and to give counter-speeches or write critical articles, but that’s not enough. For them, nobody associated with the Israeli government, or expressing a pro-Israel position, must be allowed to poison the minds of students! I wonder what all these academics are afraid of. I think they are either afraid that Negev may actually persuade someone, but more likely they just are using this an an excuse to shut down views they don’t like.

To its credit, SOAS is standing firm, refusing to de-platform Regev.

One more bit: the “free speech but. . . ” argument:

Eighteen Palestinian students at Soas have written to Amos expressing their concerns. “The environment that Mr Regev would create on our campus for the event is unsafe for us as Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services,” they said.

A letter from 50 academics from other institutions across the UK agreed that everyone benefited from an open debate where Israel’s policies could be heard and challenged, but added: “There are two factors that make the projected meeting an exception to this rule, however. The first is that the format of this meeting does not permit Regev’s case, such as it is, to be subjected to any scrutiny.

“More importantly, there is Regev himself. He is the official representative of a government that is in violation of countless United Nations resolutions, and which routinely and for 50 years has denied human rights, including that of national self-determination, to the Palestinians.”

If these students really think that Israeli security will be taking names at the meeting, and preventing them from returning to Palestine (I doubt that they can, though I doubt even more that Israeli security services will be there), they just shouldn’t go. But these students have already signed the letter and so their opposition is already public! As for the lack of debate, there is a discussion with a professor from Queen Mary University AND there will be questions from the audience! What more do these clowns want?

What they want, clearly, is for the opposing voices to be silenced, and it’s sad that British academics are going the route of their American colleagues (see previous post). As for the second part, many of these objectors want to do away with the state of Israel (an open secret of the BDS movement), which is just as odious. And of course Palestine denies human rights to women, gays, and apostates, none of which are demonized in Israel, many of whose citizens are women, gays, and atheists!

Finally, Elders of Ziyon notes this (their emphasis):

A letter signed by more than 100 Soas staff says: “We fear that if this provocative event proceeds as planned, it will cause substantial distress and harm to many of our students and staff who are, have been or will be affected by the actions of what a recent UN report refers to as the Israeli ‘apartheid regime’.

The event could further cause serious tension on campus and result in a charged atmosphere that will be detrimental to the wellbeing of all faculty, staff and students.”

This is not a spoof. This is not satire. This is seriously what supposed academics are claiming will be the outcome of an Israeli representative speaking on campus, a single Zionist speech among the hundreds of anti-Zionist talks, activities, lectures  and boycotts that infest SOAS every year.

The students’ union challenged the university authorities over the staging of the event, raising concerns about possible safety and security risks posed by the ambassador’s visit and “the inability of students and staff – in particular Palestinian students – to participate openly in the debate, because of possible repercussions on their ability to enter Israel/Palestine”.

Apparently Israel is completely unaware of the anti-Israel activities they do the other 364 days of the year, but they will have Mossad operatives taking names on the day of the Regev speech just looking for excuses to ban Palestinians from coming home.

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, one of the organisers of the academics’ protest letter to Lady Amos, said: “Holding this meeting at Soas, where staff and students have voted overwhelmingly in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and in support of Palestinian rights, seems like a deliberate provocation.

Calling for the destruction of Israel isn’t a provocation. Holding a speech defending it is.

31 Comments

  1. Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    If your peace of mind can be disturbed by mere words, then your mind has never known peace. And if your sense of security depends upon actively silencing other voices that you find unpleasant to listen to, then you are fundamentally insecure to begin with.

    A Jewish black lesbian ACLU lawyer is almost certainly securely at peace with herself even as she defends the rights of Nazis to tell her how despicable she is. And if she, of all people in all situations, can know secure peace…

    …then it should be blindingly obvious that the actual source of fear and insecurity in these snowflakes comes from the one place they can never escape: their own selves. Where else? It’s clearly not anything external to them.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Kevin
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Self-manufactured trauma. Spot on.

      • Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Yes!

        They imagine that they will gain pleasure from being outraged, that righteous indignation will bring them peace and happiness.

        Instead, all they do is become outraged and angry and not at all peaceful and happy.

        …and then they wonder why they’re feeling the discomfort of angry outrage and why indignation isn’t peacefully happy.

        And, at the same time, they do absolutely nothing whatsoever to actually right the worngs they perceive. This despite there being no end of substantive things they could to to make the world a better place.

        (Yes, many of the things they could do are minor, even to the point of triviality. But something trivially better is substantially better than something that makes things significantly worse. And perfection isn’t coming anytime ever, so why should one prefer the nonexistence of hypothesized perfection over the concrete reality of baby steps?)

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Apparently, it is this insecurity which students are learning on campus.

      They would do better to focus on global warming, nuclear weaponry, earthquakes caused by frakking, epidemic diseases, and other real existential matters for which protests might make a difference. Influence politicians to address these!

      As for Gaza et al, I would ask them the same thing UNWatch asked the UN Security Council’s Arab membes: “Where are your Jews?” The answer — pure silence — was deafening.

      There’s your “apartheid.”

      • Posted April 27, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        I’m cool with people focussing their efforts on their personal passions rather than whatever might objectively be considered the biggest threat. I’ve done what I can to combat the effects of carbon pollution by covering my roof in solar panels, but I can’t claim to have done nearly as much to promote nuclear disarmament.

        But your point about contrasting the Arab and Muslim population within Israel with the Jewish population everywhere else in the Arab and Islamic world is spot-on.

        Why aren’t the snowflakes agitating against Saudi Arabia’s treatment of everybody who isn’t a straight Muslim man? What of the Jewish lesbians in Saudi Arabia — they’re just chopped liver? Nobody would bat an eye at a gay Muslim with an art gallery in Tel Aviv. Where’s his inverse equivalent elsewhere in the Middle East?

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

  2. Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    On a more positive note, raging antisemitism Malia Bouatia has been given the boot from the NUS. Her successor, Shakira Martin, recently took a trip to Israel. She has taken a lot of flack over that but this might represent a turning point for the NUS.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/shakira-martin-wins-nus-presidency-further-education-candidate-president-tom-harwood-malia-bouattia-a7703001.html%3Famp

    • Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Bouatia out? Good news! She was a nasty piece of work. Frankly, I’m surprised.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    So, not only a case of first class censorship, we can also include bigotry. Good show, university.

  4. Malgorzata
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    sub

  5. John Crisp
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree in principle woth the substance of this post, except with the remark about the likelihood of Israeli security personnel being present. It seems to me very improbable that the Israeli ambassador would attend such an event anywhere without protection, and perhaps especially at SOAS, and more speculatively, it would surprise me if some note were not taken of the people present and their views, either by the Israelis or by their British counterparts. Radicalisation in higher education institutions is a big issue in the UK, so I imagine that there would be cooperation between British and Israeli intelligence. Arguably, this does lend some credence to the view that speech at such an event would not be “free”, at least for Palestinian and Muslim students, since freedom of speech is predicated on the principle that speaking freely will not have adverse consequences for the speaker.

    • Xuuths
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      You almost had that right. “Freedom of speech is predicated on the principle that speaking freely will not have adverse consequences for the speaker from the government.” It has never been a talisman for protection from adverse consequences for the speaker from listeners, or adverse consequences for the listeners from other listeners.

      • Gordon
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        A somewhat narrow view of freedom of speech. In many countries there is protection from discriminatory treatment in employment and other areas based on one’s political views and in countries that do not enjoy US “at-will” employment a dismissal on such grounds is likely to be held to be unfair/unjustifiable.

      • John Crisp
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        I would have thought that was fairly obvious from the context of my comment. In today’s world, ambassadors do not go out in public without protection, for good reason. For the same reason, it is naive to imagine that this kind of event is simply an exchange of ideas, with no potential real-world consequences. In Israel, Palestinians are trying to kill Israelis every day, and Israelis are locking up Palestinians every day. This is not just an academic or intellectual issue.

        • Gabrielle
          Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          I completely agree. I doubt the ambassador goes anywhere without a security detail, and least of all to give a speech such as this.

        • Posted April 27, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          I read your statement, “In Israel, Palestinians are trying to kill Israelis every day, and Israelis are locking up Palestinians every day.”

          By contrast, in the U.S.A., cops are killing unarmed black men and small boys “every day”, and judges are throwing black people in prison for minor offenses that whites get away with “every day.”

          Here’s the reality that I see, actually living in Israel, using public transportation, shopping in grocery stores, and going to the post office: Literally everyday, here in Israel, I see Arabs all around me. I can’t tell Jews and Arabs apart unless they choose to dress religiously, and believe me, quite a few don’t so choose. Still, there are women with Jewish covering (elbows, knees, and head but not neck) and women with Muslim covering (from head plus neck to full body and face with only eye slits). Men wear equally wide variations of religious garb, and I’m talking Jewish and Muslim. The variations, in and of themselves, prove the freedom in Israel. I haven’t been anywhere that I didn’t see someone in Muslim dress or hear Muslim expressions or Arab accents — even inside Ministry of Absorption spaces.
          If this is apartheid, the world needs more of it.

          • Posted April 27, 2017 at 10:15 am | Permalink

            Clarification: Muslim women who chose to dress in religious garb vary. Some wear only a scarf to cover their head plus neck. I can tell them from Jewish women who wear scarves cover their heads but not their necks. The other extreme of Muslim garb covers every inch, including gloves for the hands, leaving only slits for the eyes. I’ve seen everything in between, too. The Muslim head and neck scarves, paired with skin tight leggings and similarly skin tight shirts, over high heels, really confuse me. What’s the message there? No matter. The young women who dress this way have the freedom, here. They wouldn’t have it in any Muslim country inside or outside the Middle East.

      • Craw
        Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        The blackshirt’s credo. That broken arm of yours? Words have consequences.

    • Gordon
      Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      I also have no problems with the post but am somewhat less sanguine about the potential consequences for those identified as “anti-Israel” given the recent policy moves of the Israeli government in relation to those who take an anti-government line. Almost certainly there will be reports on those at the meeting going back to the Israeli government.

      In the last month or two I can recall a couple of cases of people being refused admission (after this not being a previous problem) to Israel (and Palestine) on account of their political views, the government is mounting attacks on foreign funded NGOs whose views it dislikes and Netanyahu seems to be boycotting politicians who meet with people he disapproves of.

      A year or so ago one couldn’t have made this comment

      • eric
        Posted April 27, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Almost certainly there will be reports on those at the meeting going back to the Israeli government.

        The correct response to this concern would be: don’t go.

        But as Jerry pointed out, the students weeping and wailing about Mossad taking their names down if they attend signed their name to a protest letter. So either they are incredibly stupid and inconsistent in their concern, or they’re insincere and making stuff up to deny the ambassador a chance to speak.

  6. jrhs
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Dear SOAS students, staff, and professors,

    I understand the event can be stress-provoking. However, have no fear, it is just a speech. BTW, do you know that wearing earmuffs is a safe, stress-free way to silence someone?

  7. David Duncan
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    “His crime? Being the ambassador to Israel”

    from Israel.

    The snowflakes should stay home that day, and bury their heads under a pillow. That should protect them.

  8. RossR
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    could lead to serious tension and substantial distress
    Figures. That will be the distress they feel when they are unable to shut up people they disagree with.

  9. GBJames
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It never ends.

  10. Posted April 26, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    For a contrast, and a reminder that things can change for the better, here is Angela Merkel’s brief speech in accepting the Elie Wiesel Prize this week.

  11. Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I think they are confused between the definition of a university and a clinic for psychologically unstable:

    “We fear that if this provocative event proceeds as planned, it will cause substantial distress and harm to many of our students and staff who are, have been or will be affected by the actions of what a recent UN report refers to as the Israeli ‘apartheid regime’.
    The event could further cause serious tension on campus and result in a charged atmosphere that will be detrimental to the wellbeing of all faculty, staff and students.”

    Previous mischieves by SOAS students reported by Prof. Coyne:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/students-demand-that-white-philosophers-be-dropped-from-curriculum/

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Do not suffer the heretic to speak, seems to be their motto.

  13. Gabrielle
    Posted April 26, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I understand the Palestinian students concerns about being able to travel to and from the Palestinian authority, if their names become known to the Israeli officials present at the speech. Palestinians must travel through Jordan when they leave or enter their country, and Israel controls the border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

    I think to address their travel/security concerns, no one at the speech should be asked to identify themselves when asking a question. Or, written questions could be answered by the ambassador.

    “Maybe Regev will give official government views, or maybe not, but that’s irrelevant.”

    Of course he’ll be presenting official government viewpoints; that’s his job as an official representative of the Israeli government. It’s not as if he’s giving the speech on his own time as a private individual. It is not as if he were a journalist or author or professor.

    In case anyone is wondering, I’m Jewish.

    • Posted April 27, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I cannot imagine Jordan bearing no weight over who comes or goes through its Israeli border.

  14. roadworker
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Their state of hate is so fragile, that they are afraid that Regev will use his Rothschild-Zionism ray gun to make tham all into Jews.

  15. elaine miller
    Posted April 27, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Says a lot about free speech and the academic community in England. Didn’t know Mosad was so powerful.

  16. Posted April 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    “Holding this meeting at Soas, where staff and students have voted overwhelmingly in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and in support of Palestinian rights, seems like a deliberate provocation.”

    – I actually agree with this, it may very well be an attempt to be provocative. But my response is: so what? Who would want to invite a boring speaker that everyone agrees with anyway?

    As for the security of the students’ concerns, I would be concerned too, but I agree then the paradox of signing a petition sort of nullifies this – but only slightly. This is because of cameras: it is easier to pass along data to security services. Consider a student Chinese national wanting to attend a lecture about 1989 in Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, Tibet, whatever: similar situation. (Certainly subjectively, and subjective wellbeing is important too.) What should be done about this? I don’t think the university should cancel/censor/etc. to avoid this concern, but I would definitely say that any “counterspeech” be elsewhere to avoid this (and other) security concerns.


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