Monthly Archives: February 2018

King’s College London Students Threaten Legal Action After Union Promotes ‘Discriminatory’ BDS Events

February 28, 2018

avatarby Shiri Moshe

Screenshot of a KCLSU newsletter sent to students on Feb. 23, 2018. Photo: KCLSU.

Students at King’s College London (KCL) are considering taking legal action after their elected representatives promoted “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW) events in a mass email to peers.

In an “Officers Update” sent to students on February 23, the KCL Students’ Union (KCLSU) described IAW as an effort to raise “awareness of Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and [build] support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”

The week-long campaign — organized by the KCL Action Palestine Society — began on Monday and includes events on “Football and Whitewashing Apartheid,” as well as “the Politics of Racist Detention: From Palestine to the UK.”

KCL’s Israel Society denounced the newsletter’s inclusion of IAW as an expression of bias and a violation of KCLSU’s mandate.

 

“This is the only student society event of the entire year that KCLSU has advertised and endorsed, with absolutely no right to do so,” Tamara Berens — president of KCL Israel Society — said in a statement shared by the advocacy group CAMERA on Campus UK, with which she is affiliated.

Berens indicated that promoting IAW “is not within KCLSU’s usual charitable objects, and is therefore unlawful.”

“It also contravenes the commitment of KCLSU as a charity not to run a political campaign,” she added, urging the student body to apologize for advertising a “discriminatory” series of events in a way that left Jewish and Israeli students “shocked and confused.”

On social media, Berens pointed out that KCLSU President Momin Saqib participated in the “aggressive” protest held at KCL earlier this month against former Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Dan Meridor, which was condemned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the community’s representative body.

“After ignoring our attempts to arrange a meeting with him, we feel he has acted to purposefully marginalise Israeli students on campus,” she wrote.

A fellow member of KCL Israel Society, Hadar Langerman, also criticized KCLSU’s endorsement of IAW, whose slogan “itself is antisemitic and contrary to the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of antisemitism,” which was adopted by the British government in 2016 and by the National Union of Students in 2017. Aside from addressing classic antisemitism, the definition also touches on antisemitic expressions couched as anti-Zionism, including the use of double standards against Israel and the denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

“There are procedures in place where students can ask for their events to be advertised, but this is unprecedented,” argued Langerman, who is also a fellow with CAMERA. “To see our union, which is supposed to be representing all students, take a deliberate jab at Jewish students and those supportive of Israel is appalling and frightening.”

KCL Israel Society said it raised its concerns with both KCLSU and KCL administrators, neither of which replied to requests for comment by press time.

Last week, an official with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) — which represents some 8,500 students in the UK and Ireland — wrote that IAW “is weakening,” with events planned in “fewer than 10 universities across the country” in 2018.

 The current “handful” of IAW events, which still serve to “intimidate Jewish students and others,” are “being dragged by tired, worn-out campaigners who can’t admit defeat,” argued UJS campaigns manager Liron Velleman.

Yet this characterization was challenged by Berens, who wrote in response that while the number of IAW events “has somewhat waned” due to “the efforts of Zionist activists on campus,” Jewish students and their representatives should remain vigilant.

“As long as events that demonise and defame Israel continue to occur with the participation of student union presidents and sabbatical officers,” she observed, “we must treat the issue as a pressing one.”

This article was originally published in the Algemeiner.

King’s College London Students Threaten Legal Action After Union Promotes ‘Discriminatory’ BDS Events

It’s Not About the Embassy

CAMERA Fellow Sam Goodman

On Feb. 23, the Trump administration announced the U.S. embassy in Israel will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14. Some people are celebrating while others are livid. Angry Palestinian leaders including Mahmoud Abbas claim America has jeopardized its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process. The question that begs to be asked is: what peace process?

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has long been considered one of the world’s most intricate conflicts. There have been a number of opportunities for peace talks yet all have been unsuccessful and had nothing to do with the U.S. embassy location.

A number of explanations for these failures have been given, among which the most convincing is the role the perpetuation of the conflict has played in strengthening the Palestinian victimhood. Benefitting from the long-term conflict, Palestinian leaders have exploited their own people for personal gain.

It is said that conflict provides even the most marginalized organizations with the potential to invoke fear. This is illustrated by the “days of rage” and other violent responses Palestinian leaders have orchestrated as a result of moving the embassy. They take advantage of the ongoing conflict to persuade and manipulate their people into behaving violently against perceived change to the status quo such as metal detectors leading up to Temple Mount, put in place to protect all civilians against recent upheaval.

The world is sadly missing the counterproductive way in which the Palestinian leaders are employing violence as a bargaining tool whose ultimate goal is to inhibit peace.

In the words of Nikki Haley, the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, “The Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the choice between absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.”

Furthermore, the U.S.’s sovereign decision to move the embassy will take place despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept it. Whether or not you agree with the embassy move, it’s a legitimate decision a sovereign nation can make. The embassy move is entirely legal and will be relocated to an undisputed part of West Jerusalem.

For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not just a physical place with an abundance of Jewish history; it is a religious concept that surpasses time. At the annual Passover Seder, Jews reaffirm this connection through their proclamation of, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Thus, it is only natural for a sovereign state like Israel to have the right to independently define where its capital should be located.

Unfortunately, this is not applied when it comes to Israel, as it relentlessly faces more criticism and condemnation than any other country from the UN and countless other political organizations. This includes countries who systematically kill, torture and deny its citizens of basic human rights on a daily basis. For example, in a 2017 U.N. General Assembly, there were nine resolutions on Israel and only six on the rest of the world including one for Syria.

It is time to put an end to the obsessive focus on the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to instead, begin figuring out a way to help release the Palestinian people from the clutches of their oppressive leaders. This can only be accomplished when the world begins to recognize where the root of the conflict actually lies.

Contributed by Sam Goodman, CAMERA Fellow at Carleton University.

KCL Students Threaten Legal Action Against Student Union

February 26, 2018

London, England (Sunday, February 26th) — The King’s College London (KCL) Israel Society is considering legal action after the KCL Student Union (KCLSU) promoted ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ (IAW) in a newsletter emailed to all KCL students on February 23rd.

There is no precedent for the KCLSU to promote student society events in their newsletter.

“This is the only student society event of the entire year that KCLSU has advertised and endorsed, with absolutely no right to do so,” said Tamara Berens, President of KCL Israel Society and Campus Associate for educational organisation CAMERA on Campus UK.

According to KCL CAMERA Fellow and member of KCL Israel Society Hadar Langerman, it is unheard of to have ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ publicised in an email signed by student officers. “There are procedures in place where students can ask for their events to be advertised, but this is unprecedented,” she said.

Screenshot from KCLSU’s newsletter. Credit: Tamara Berens

Screenshot from KCLSU’s newsletter. Credit: Tamara Berens.

KCL Israel Society has responded by alerting KCLSU’s president and the president of KCL that the contents of the newsletter are unlawful and antisemitic.

“Promoting ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is not within KCLSU’s usual charitable objects, and is therefore unlawful. It also contravenes the commitment of KCLSU as a charity not to run a political campaign,” Berens said.

“The slogan ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ itself is antisemitic and contrary to the IHRA definition of antisemitism adopted by the British government and the National Union of Students. To see our union, which is supposed to be representing all students, take a deliberate jab at Jewish students and those supportive of Israel is appalling and frightening,” said Langerman.

“KCLSU should represent students of all nationalities on campus. Instead, it has publicised a series of events which specifically defame and demonise Israeli students,” said Aviva Slomich, International Campus Director for CAMERA.

Berens criticized the union for not fulfilling its mandate. “KCLSU is showing they have no respect for the rights and welfare of the students they claim to represent. I demand that KCLSU apologise for contravening their own procedures to advertise such a discriminatory event. Jewish and Israeli students are shocked and confused.”

This is not the only instance of KCLSU or its student officers expressing political bias on campus.

The president of KCLSU Momin Saqib was also filmed on video actively participating in an aggressive protest against an event hosted by KCL Israel Society featuring former Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Dan Meridor earlier this month.

Contributed by CAMERA on Campus UK staff.

Visiting Ramallah

February 22, 2018

Lilia Gaufberg

This past July, at the peak of another sweltering Israeli summer, I hopped onto bus 218 from Jerusalem to Ramallah, the primary Palestinian-Arab city in area A of Judea and Samaria, more commonly known as the West Bank. 45 minutes and one security checkpoint later, the rolling hills of Jerusalem, dotted with the blue and white of the Israeli flag, blended into bustling landscapes sprinkled with red, black, and green.

Ramallah is a city like any other: alive with sounds and smells, ripe with an energy unique to largely populated areas. In Ramallah, I saw gorgeous apartment buildings, schools, and towering mosques contrasted with littered streets. In Ramallah, I witnessed girls in tank tops and shorts drinking iced coffees in front of mosques during the call to prayer. In this landscape of life, one overwhelming element felt out of place: in Ramallah, everywhere you turn, a vehement hatred of Israel and a denial of Jewish history in the land of Israel pulses throughout the city, an overwhelming undercurrent of identity oppression. In Ramallah, streets and squares are named after internationally recognized terrorists. In Ramallah, the main museum in the center of the city, entitled “Yasser Arafat Museum”, complete with marble floors, decorated guards, and an extravagant wading pool, contains exhibits which praise the “intifadas”, the terror wars, inflicted upon Jews and largely orchestrated by Palestinian leaders themselves.

To read the rest of this article click here.

Contributed by former CAMERA intern Lilia Gaufberg.

Recent Events on CAMERA Supported Campuses

February 16, 2018

CAMERA supported campuses have been busy for the first half of February! Each event was well attended and proved to be successful!

Aggies for Israel at UC Davis held a successful event at the end of January! During the event, they were able to discuss Tu B’Shvat, their organization, and the process of becoming a new member! It was a great way to jump back into the semester and meet with their new members!

At the beginning of February, Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) at Binghamton University held their event “Shuk Shack”. They were able to recreate their own form of the shuk in Israel on their own campus! Students were given facts about Israel (with a “shuk like theme”!), to use as their currency in the shuk. The event was attended by more than double the number of people that they were expecting, and had the feedback on the event was overwhelmingly positive!

Students at Binghamton University Zionist Organization’s Shuk Shack Event

At the end of Fall semester, Bobcats for Israel at Ohio University held “Israeli Shabbat”. Different groups of students were able to come together to talk about their past or upcoming Birthright trips, current events, and Israeli culture. It was a great way to bring different communities together!

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Alex Rittenberg

UK Students Petition Against Restrictions on Israeli Activist’s Talk

February 8, 2018

Israeli activist Hen Mazzig is set to speak for a second time at University College London later this month, but in light of protests that disrupted his talk in 2016, restrictions have been placed on the event, sparking backlash among pro-Israel students.

UCL announced on Tuesday that it had invited Mazzig back to the university, in what it called “an explicit demonstration of its commitment to free speech,” given that his previous talk was cut short.

Mazzig, a writer, speaker and former IDF officer, is set to speak on January 25, on the theme of “Overcoming Hatred.”

But the press release noted that it would be an all-ticketed event for some 100 UCL students and staff. UCL has also said that the event would not be publicized, out of security concerns. After the Jewish Chronicle picked up on the news and published it, however, UCL apparently felt compelled to release an announcement about the event.

Jewish students from other universities, who attended the 2016 event hosted by the UCLU Friends of Israel society, are upset that they are being barred from returning.

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 people had signed a petition launched Monday night on change.

org under the banner “#Not- OnOurCampus- Let Hen Mazzig speak to students from across London without disruption.” The petition was started by UCL Friends of Israel Society, the KCL (King’s College) Israel Society and the SOAS Jewish Society.

“Holding an event that prohibits [attendance by] the very minority that was attacked at Mazzig’s 2016 UCL event, and not advertising publicly in fear of a protest, is not ensuring that freedom of speech is upheld,” the petition reads.

“Free speech cannot and should not take place in private or in hiding,” it continues.

“Universities need to be able to counteract protests with a sufficient security presence rather than by restricting the publicity of the events that occur on their campuses and the students who are allowed to attend.”

Pro-Israel organization CAMERA sponsored the event in 2016, and partly funded Mazzig’s expenses this time, too.

“We are shocked that an event that is meant to serve as a symbol for free speech and making amends with the Jewish community is not permitting the student victims of the attack on the event of 2016 to be a part of it,” said Tamara Berens, CAMERA on Campus UK associate and president of the KCL Israel Society.

“To the shame of the university, Hen was escorted out of the event last year in a police coat, and students required dozens of police officers to safely escort them out of the event,” she added.

“UCL wants to show they are standing up for free speech, but preventing the attendance of the victims from last year’s event as part of precautions against another protest shows they are cowing to the anti-Israel demonstrators.”

Following the chaos that broke out the last time Mazzig spoke, which involved violence and intimidation, UCL opened an investigation into the circumstances of the meeting. A report was published last year, including recommendations to prevent future incidents of this kind.

A UCL spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that the university is now acting according to those recommendations, which include procedural changes to improve event management.

UCL, the spokesman said, had maintained from the start “that this will be an all-ticket UCL event for UCL students and staff chaired by the university’s provost, rather than a student society-hosted event. We unfortunately feel it is not appropriate to change that, not least that one of the criticisms in the investigation report into the disrupted 2016 event related to late changes being made.”

Contributed by JPost Columnist Tamara Zieve.

Originally published on January 9th, 2018 at the Jerusalem Post.

Universities Must Celebrate Rather Than Silence Debate

October 2016, University College London (UCL), I’m rushed out of the school in a “London Police” coat, escorted by police officers, as 150 protestors are rioting outside the venue where I had been due to speak. The event was hosted by CAMERA on Campus UK (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting).

 

There are horrific images and videos from that night, when a violent mob blocked me and my audience in a room, broke through the windows to get in, and attempted to shut down my event.

Various groups supported this violent mob and labelled me a genocidal war criminal.

The UCL Friends of Palestine Society claim to have participated in the organisation of this violent protest owing to my service in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), which they describe as “an army of war criminals”.

For the full article, visit Jewish News.

Contributed by Israeli writer and speaker Hen Mazzig.

Changing the Dynamic on British Campuses

At our demonstration last week in support of pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig, we witnessed Jewish students beginning to demoralize the anti-Zionist protesters with their enthusiasm and positivity. Mazzig has now twice been dehumanized and defamed in an antisemitic manner during visits to UCL, University College London. However, as Jewish and pro-Israel students, we will continue to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs and strive for an open environment surrounding discussion of the Middle East on campus.

We have indeed reached a milestone. Palestinian demonstrators feel that Jewish students are successfully portraying themselves as “the good guys.”

Last year, Mazzig was violently protested at UCL at his event with CAMERA on Campus UK and UCL Friends of Israel. With the slanderous claim that he was complicit in “war crimes,” we came in expecting to be on the defensive. The Palestinian Society from UCL and other London-based universities caught the Jewish community off-guard. On the whole, our response to their antisemitic chants of “from the river to the sea” was fear and confusion. They jumped through windows, banged on the doors, pushed, shoved and screamed and we were collectively shocked into inaction.

This time, we were prepared to stand up for ourselves in a decisively peaceful manner. We organized a protest entitled “Tel Aviv Takes UCL Quad” and created an atmosphere in which we celebrated our identities, our freedom of expression and the State of Israel. We danced, we sang, we chanted peacefully and we attempted to hand out Israeli food to protesters and passers-by.

An op-ed written by a Palestinian demonstrator after the event alleges that we behaved “appallingly, demonstrating racist and dangerous views.” The same writer, however, notes that we appeared to “win over the hearts of the uninformed.”

Never before have we been seen to be in such a position of strength. On campuses in the UK, the default position expected of uninformed students is anti-Zionism. However, as we take a proud, positive approach to Israel engagement, we can see the beginnings of change.

We have decided that our Israel societies do not exist to focus wholly on the negative in Israeli society. Our existence is based on a positive celebration of our identity, not on any denunciation of Palestinian identity or statehood. We aim to educate about the threats and challenges facing Israel, but we do not come from a position of victimhood. We enjoy just as much putting on social events and educating about Israel’s achievements, including in technology and innovation.

For the Palestinian Society however, identity and purpose is based on demonizing Israel and intimidating pro-Israel students on campus. Rather than focusing on issues pertaining to building democratic social and political institutions in the Palestinian territories, their purpose is to demonize every single Israeli that dares set foot on campus.

As students in the Diaspora we are in a really unique position to engage with “pro-Palestinian” students in discussions about the conflict. However, the students representing Palestinians on campus refuse entirely to engage in any dialogue. They see Israel as an insurmountable enemy that they can never accept in any form.

We attempted to sit down and dialogue with them throughout the protest, and I personally had constructive conversations with someone who was keen to accept an Israeli state alongside a Palestinian one. However, there were always multiple people among the Palestinian protesters pulling at us, attempting to separate us and prevent our discussion. They said: “don’t feel like you need to respond to them.”

The reality is that the Palestinian societies exist as an anti-Zionist, not a pro-Palestinian, movement on campus. We on the other hand exist as a movement to celebrate and explore Israel. We should be incredibly proud of our state, which has existed for a mere 70 years, built on refugees from across the globe, on strength and ideals and perseverance. Our activities on campus reflect this.

Perhaps if we continue to “win over the hearts of the uninformed,” we will be able to build a better environment for dialogue on campus. One based on a constructive desire to discuss political issues and reach new levels of understanding. Until this occurs, we will keep striving for this ideal and for our freedom of expression as proud Jewish and pro-Israel students.

Contributed by Tamara Berens, Campus Associate for CAMERA on Campus UK and president of CAMERA-supported society KCL Israel Society.

A version of this article was originally published at the Jerusalem Post.

BDS at OSU

February 2, 2018

On January 24, 2018, Resolution 50-R-27 was presented to the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). The resolution was entitled, “A Resolution to Establish a Committee to Investigate OSU’s Investments in Companies Complicit in Human Rights Violations”. The resolution called for the creation of an ad-hoc committee to further investigate the investments of the Ohio State University.

After a five and a half hour meeting, the vote went to a secret ballot, a practice not normally utilized in this setting. Despite the length of debate, the resolution passed.  

During the meeting, several students addressed the Senate chamber expressing their concerns, either in favor or against the resolution. In total, thirty-eight students spoke against the resolution, while only eight spoke in favor. A petition signed by nearly 800 undergraduate students in opposition to the resolution was also presented to the chamber.  

The initial resolution held many points with direct mention to the Israeli military and Palestinian life. Similarly, the resolution named several companies that have been accused of being complicit human rights violations  (the GEO group, CCA/CoreCivic, HP enterprise). As the Student Union was closing shortly, the meeting became more rushed. During this rushed period, several amendments to the resolution were proposed, discussed, and decided upon. The direct mentions of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and Israel were removed from the final resolution. However, the companies that were initially listed, as well as other campuses from across the country in which similar resolutions were passed (i.e., The University of Michigan, University of California- Davis, and DePaul University) were left in the resolution.

Contributed by Campus Coordinator Alex Rittenberg

Full Hen Mazzig Interview

February 1, 2018

A week ago, we supported Hen Mazzig​ in his return to UCL. After the event, he was interviewed by UCL’s campus paper, Pi Media.

Unfortunately the part of the interview where Mazzig offers to hold an event with the UCL Friends of Palestine Society was cut by editors from the video. Editors also decided not to publish an article about the interview. Here is the full, uncut interview:

Footage/interview: UCL student journalist Julian Coleman​

Julian Coleman’s article covering the protests at Mazzig’s return event can be accessed here.