Principal of King’s College London brands Israel Apartheid Week ‘abhorrent’

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Principal of King’s College London brands Israel Apartheid Week ‘abhorrent’

Professor Ed Byrne, in address to Board of Deputies, speaks of strong personal and academic ties with Israeli institutions

Professor Ed Byrne, principal of King’s College London
Professor Ed Byrne, principal of King’s College London

The Principal of King’s College, London, has explained how he has sought to resolve out problems that cause disruptions at pro-Israel meetings on campus, saying he “abhorred” Israel Apartheid Week .

Addressing the Board of Deputies on Sunday, Professor Ed Byrne said he and his staff had been “working closely with the Jewish Society and the Board of Deputies and others for over a year now, triggered by a regrettable event where Dan Meridor spoke and was heavily protested”.

Adding that he and his team had “learned a lot”, Byrne said that “management of these events has been overhauled, we’ve implemented new processes with greatly improved oversight, greatly improved risk mitigation, with the whole aim of ensuring respectful free speech”.

However, Byrne stressed that King’s was “not preventing peaceful protest; that’s allowable in universities, but we’re making sure that the peaceful protest does not interfere with the events”.

Universities, he noted, should be places “where bridge are built and where people speak to each other”.

Byrne said his personal ties with Israeli academic institutions, such as the Technion, in Haifa, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute were “strong”.

On the academic level, he said: “They’re not just words, we have people coming backwards and forwards, we have joint educational and research programmes. I’m especially pleased with a whole range of new medical research programmes we’re just launching with the Technion.

“Our collaborations reflect not only the positive relationship King’s has with Israeli universities and with Israel generally, but also my passionate belief that academic relationships with Israel are essential and non-negotiable; they’re part of our DNA at King’s, and I believe they should be part of every university’s DNA.”

Byrne reiterated his opposition to Israel Apartheid Week, saying: “I totally abhor it. I think it’s completely inappropriate,” adding: “I will continue to make it very clear at the university level that we have no toleration for this at all and will continue to work with the student union to try to develop a collegiate position where the students at Kings don’t endorse it.”

UJS president Hannah Rose

Union of Jewish Students (UJS) President Hannah Rose also addressed the meeting, saying: “While problematic [antisemitic] events do occur. Make no mistake. Jewish students are standing up and making their voices heard every day.”

She added: “When we come together as a community to fight antisemitism, we can beat antisemitism.”

Board of Deputies President Mari van der Zyl said: “I am very grateful to Professor Byrne for giving up his Sunday to speak to us about the excellent  work he has done with the Board of Deputies and UJS, moving forward from a very distressing incident in which Jewish students were intimidated on their own campus.

“I was particularly happy to hear his forthright condemnation of Israel Apartheid Week. The relationship we have developed is good news for Jewish students at King’s college London. Thanks also to  UJS President Hannah Rose who gave an excellent speech about the challenges facing Jewish students.”

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