Complaints have been made to the London School of Economics following a talk by a disgraced former UN official during which one of his supporters told students to read the works of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.
The alleged remarks came amid protests against the presence on campus of Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine from 2008 to 2014 who has been repeatedly condemned for inflammatory actions and statements by the UK. Today’s event was held to promote Falk’s new book ‘Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace, in which he claims Jerusalem has been “ethnically cleansed”.
UN Watch had called for Theresa May to expel Falk from Britain after highlighting the fact that in 2012 the UK Foreign Office condemned Falk for providing the cover endorsement for Gilad Atzmon’s book “The Wandering Who” which accuses “the Jews” of being “the only people who managed to maintain and sustain a racially orientated, expansionist and genocidal national identity that is not at all different from Nazi ethnic ideology”. In April 2013, the UK Mission to the UN condemned Falk after he blamed the Boston terrorist attack on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv”.
As Monday’s event descended into chaos with pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian shouting accusations and at least two of the former removed for disruptive behaviour, post-graduate Sapan Maini-Thompson claimed Atzmon audibly claimed Jews were being removed for misbehviour, as in Germany.
He told the Jewish News: “He said to those around him ‘the Jews were expelled from Germany for misbehaving’ – which he repeated when challenged. He was recommending to those around him to read the works of David Irving and said Israel’s actions in the occupied territories are Hitlerian. After the event I went up to the man and aggressively called him a Nazi. I’m not hiding that.”
While stressing he was not accusing anyone on the panel of anti-Semitism, he said of those in the audience who had made the remarks: “I think LSE should be far stricter on vetting procedures for those coming on to campus. Known fascists shouldn’t be allowed on campus.”
Atzmon later confirmed to the Jewish News he “indeed” recommended Irving’s work “to anyone who is interested in history rather than the Holocaust religion”. He added that Jews have been expelled from many countries, saying: “Jews are always expelled for a reason. This isn’t to say I support expulsion or any measure against Jews or anyone else.”
During today’s meeting – organised by the Civil Society and Human Security Unit within LSE’s Department of International Relations and also promoted by the Council for Arab-British Understanding. Hoffman shouted repeatedly claiming Falk an “anti-Semite” and together with fellow prpotestor Sharon Klaff was ejected by security after the pair unfurled Israel flags.
In a statement, The LSESU Jewish Society said they were “appalled by the treatment of Jewish students”.
“Prior to the event, the Jewish Society raised concerns through official university channels with the interim Director Julia Black and the event’s organisers. No substantial response to the Jewish Society was received.”
They add, that “during the event, physical threats were also made to Jewish students by another attendee who was not removed from the event by security.”
Attention initially focused on a report Falk recently co-authored on behalf of the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which concluded that Israel was imposing an “apartheid regime” on the Palestinians. After protests from the United States’ Ambassador to the UN, it was withdrawn from the ESCWA website.
Falk, who is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, said the “firestorm” the study provoked meant that it gained “ten times more attention than it otherwise would have,” after Israel’s Foreign Ministry likened it to Der Sturmer, an anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda publication.
“U.S. Ambassador Nicki Haley attacked the report basically by attacking me,” said Falk. “It’s illustrative of a problematic situation which has arisen over the last 5-6 years, that Israel and its strongest supporters no longer want to argue on the substance of the issues relating to their administration of the Palestinian people. They attack the messenger.”
During the event, he referred to the “changing dynamics of Zionist ambition,” adding: “If you look back all the way to the Balfour Declaration 100 years ago, what one understands is a public acceptance by the Zionist movement of limited objectives which, once achieved, are then the foundation for the expansion of those objectives. In other words, it’s a dynamic, public process by which each stage is the precondition for expanding expectations.”
UN Watch had earlier called for Falk to be expelled from the UK because of his past actions and remarks. But outside the event, an LSE spokesperson defended hosting Falk, saying: “The School works hard to ensure a balanced and welcoming environment for all our students, staff and visitors. We are committed to encouraging the free exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect even on issues over which views may differ sharply, such as the political situation in the Middle East.”
They added: “As with all public events, LSE has taken steps to protect free speech within the law and foster an open dialogue. This event is free to the public, chaired by a senior academic and includes an open question and answer session.”
Towards the end of the event, event chair Professor May Kaldor said to loud applause: “I am deeply ashamed on behalf of the London School of Economics that there should be people who come to a meeting of this kind and behave in this way. It totally illustrates to me how unacceptable the way free speech is being closed down in this country.” She said the fracas proved Falk’s point – that Israel supporters now “attacked the messenger”.
The LSE Jewish Society concluded their statement, by saying it was “completely unacceptable that Jewish students were subjected to the comments made during today’s talk”, calling for the university to take “strong action”.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) told Jewish News: “Many of Richard Falk’s views have been grossly misrepresented. I agree with him on a great deal not least his desire for a fair and just peace for all but also as I stated at the meeting disagree with him on aspects. We had a respectful debate. It is a pity others decided to rant and rave.”
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- Professor Richard Falk
- United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine
- Gilad Atzmon
- Sharon Klaff
- Jonathan Hoffman
- middle east
- Palestine’s Horizon: Towards a Just Peace
- Civil Society and Human Security Unit
- LSE’s Department of International Relations
- Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)
- Chris Doyle
- United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
- United States’ Ambassador to the UN
- Israel’s Foreign Ministry
- Professor May Kaldor
- United Nations (UN)