Some 400 demonstrators came out to protest Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev’s appearance at a prominent London university on Thursday, with one protester recorded saying that the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were “cowards.”
According to footage posted on social media, the demonstrators filled the campus of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), waving Palestinian flags, blaring music and chanting the popular call for the destruction of the Jewish state, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.”
There were about 100 pro-Israel counter-demonstrators, according to eyewitnesses, some of whom attempted to converse with the other side, but reported being shoved and having abuses lobbed at them in response. According to eyewitness accounts, Israeli flags were ripped out of the hands of individuals in the Zionist camp and smeared with fake blood.
The pro-Israel demonstrators also sang and chanted slogans.
Tamir Oren — the director of public affairs for StandWithUs UK — told The Algemeiner that Hezbollah flags and hats were seen around the quad, which was also papered with fliers from a group called “SOAS United Against Apartheid.”
“The ambassador came to SOAS to answer the most difficult questions about Israel, and so he did,” said Oren, adding that the Q&A session covered issues such as settlements and alleged IDF war crimes.
Khulan Dav, a member of the SOAS Jewish Society and an organizer of the Regev lecture, said the event was a success, featuring an “amazing, absolutely respectful conversation.”
Dav said it was “peaceful” inside the event venue, though at first it was difficult for the audience of some 70 SOAS students to hear the ambassador over the protesters’ loudspeakers, a problem rectified with the help of a mic.
Dav applauded what she called “SOAS management’s shockingly helpful” role throughout the process of organizing Regev’s talk, even arranging for a taxi to transport Dav home after it ended to ensure her safety.
“I was really surprised to learn that SOAS management really is devoted to free speech,” she said. “They were determined that this event should happen.”
The SOAS registrar, Paula Sanderson, made clear that the individual who mocked the Holocaust was not a member of the university’s community and that “hate speech or antisemitism” by anyone who was would be investigated.
“There is no place for hate speech on the SOAS campus and freedom of speech does not permit the expression of racist or antisemitic views,” she said. “We condemn unreservedly the comments that were made by the person shown on the video.”
As The Algemeiner reported last week, the announcement of Regev’s upcoming talk led to an immediate backlash from the SOAS community. A student group that was meant to co-sponsor the event backed out days before the lecture due to the controversy.
Last month, footage was released of SOAS students openly expressing support for Hezbollah and Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. Some in the Jewish community wryly said the school’s acronym stands for “School Of Antisemitism.”
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner Rachel Frommer