Death threats force London Uni Israel society to cancel speaker event

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Death threats force London Uni Israel society to cancel speaker event

EXCLUSIVE: British-Israeli IDF veteran Ely Lassman tells Jewish News he feared for his safety ahead of in-person event to discuss conflict resolution at King's College London

The Israel society at a leading London university has cancelled a panel event over security concerns.

Ely Lassman, who was due to speak at King’s College London, appears to have been targeted with multiple death threats because he once served in the Israeli army.

A graduate of Bristol University, Lassman is chairman of non-profit, non-partisan organisation Prometheus on Campus.

In a statement to campus newspaper, Roar, King’s College London (KCL) Israel Society organisers said: “Due to intimidatory activity surrounding the event, as well as dozens of death threats directed towards our speaker Ely Lassman, we have chosen to prioritise the safety of our guests, attendees, and members. We are very saddened to see the unfathomable levels of hostility within the King’s community regarding anything remotely Israeli.”

Screenshot of event scheduled for 20th March 2024 on campus at King’s College London for it’s Israel Society.

The other intended speaker was Kiyah Willis, who describes herself as an ‘Advocate for the Secular Liberal Right’ and works for the Objective Standard Institute. On a recent Instagram post, she wrote that “Gaza should never have started the war on October 7 and now must be prevented from ever attacking again”.

King’s College London Strand campus.

Speaking to Jewish News, Lassman said: “Prometheus on Campus was founded to promote rationale and accessible philosophy. We by no means have any focus on Israel. It is not part of what we usually do. But because Kiyah was coming to the UK and was going to do a talk about Israel, we ended up agreeing to this event on perspectives on the conflict.

“This was not supposed to be large-scale event. This was supposed to be quiet, interesting, thought-provoking evening where Kiyah and I would give our thoughts on the conflict, discuss agreements, disagreements and all the nuances in between.”

Screenshot, Kiyah Willis

He added that they were informed a few days ago that a student body was organising a protest against the event for two reasons.

“One, because Kiyah has made some tweets that upset them and two, because I, in the past had served in the IDF.”

Whilst the speakers initially decided “to go ahead with the event in light of the moderate protests”, details of the panel were posted up online, alongside “made up information about myself” with “my photo as their front cover condemning me as the embodiment of evil”. He added the post “essentially called for anyone who is up for it, to harrass me and intimidate me from pursuing the event.”

Screenshot, Dilly Hussain, Twitter

Lassman told Jewish News that the authors of a post pinned the comments with his personal social media accounts, “so that anyone can see where they can approach and harass me.  Yesterday, I woke up seeing my face on these info-graphics. They had stuck me with explosions behind me, really awful things and dozens of messages from people I’ve never heard of before”.

He adds that some were anonymous, calling him “the most awful names under the sun” whilst others were “directly threatening to harm me and the people around me, including some calls for jihad. All of the information that the original posters put there about me are entire false. There is not a shred of truth.”

Amongst those to comment on the event speakers was Dilly Hussain, deputy editor at controversial media outlet, 5 Pillars. On Twitter/X, Hussain referred to a now deleted tweet and said: “Yesterday, I posted a tweet claiming that IDF veteran Ely Lassman had possibly committed war crimes in Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Gaza — this was untrue, and that tweet has been deleted. I apologise for this error. The last record of Ely’s military service for the IDF was December 2017, where he served as part of a combat unit (401st Brigade) that has participated in previous wars and the current war in Gaza.

“However, does this mean that King’s College students and pro-Palestine campaigners were wrong to peacefully protest against his planned event today to discuss “conflict resolution” with the Zionist genocide enabling @kiyahwillis? Absolutely not.”

Screenshot: KCL Students For Justice For Palestine Instagram, Monday 18th March 2024

The post adds that “Given that Ely has served in an IDF combat unit that is currently active in Gaza, and Kiyah has been unequivocal in her support of a plausible genocide being committed by Israel, their moral basis to lecture people on “conflict resolution” is nothing short of hypocrisy”.

He calls it “wholly inappropriate of @KingsCollegeLon to have allowed this event given the death and destruction meted out by Israel in its collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, and Kiyah’s blatant Islamophobia in defending a plausible genocide.”

Lassman said the most important point he’d like to make is that “people should be concerned with facts. Every attack received on my character was based on premises that are just not true.”

Aurele Tobelem, president, KCL Israel Society told Jewish News they “went through every review and approval process required of us by the KCLSU (King’s College London Student Union). We had numerous meetings with the university’s security team as well as members of the senior administration to ensure that attendees would be safeguarded”.

He adds that Lassman “received so many death threats that we were unable to proceed with the event due to concerns about jihadist terrorism on campus.”

The event was streamed live from a secure location on Wednesday evening.

A King’s College London spokesperson told Jewish News: “We have robust policies in place to ensure that a range of events organised and hosted by student societies can take place on campus safely and this event was no exception. However, the society took the decision to cancel the event. We are proud of the diverse range of around 300 student societies at King’s, and support debate of the wide range of issues they highlight”.

Jewish News contacted King’s College London Student Union and KCL Students for Justice for Palestine Society for comment.

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