Top London university to host banned speaker for Israel Apartheid Week

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Top London university to host banned speaker for Israel Apartheid Week

King's College will host Professor Farid Esack, who gained notoriety for refusing to pray for victims of the Paris terror attacks

An Israel Apartheid Week event featuring a Speaker banned by a French university is set to go ahead on premises owned by King’s College next week.

A statement from the university yesterday said next week’s event would no longer take place at the Safra theatre, prompted the belief that it had become the third IAW event at institutions nationwide to be barred in as many days.

But War on Want – which is co-sponsoring the event – has now announced a change of venue to Bush House, which will soon be the headquarters of the King’s Students Union. The Pinsker Centre claimed in a statement that the Union had given clearance for the event to proceed.

The event has provoked protests over the planned appearance of Professor Farid Esack, who gained notoriety after saying he “would not pray” for victims of the Paris terror attacks and would not “condemn anyone”.

In 2015, he appeared at a fundraising event in South Africa alongside a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose own website features the event.

In a statement that led to speculation the event had been scrapped, the office of Principal Edward Byrne said: “King’s College London is proud of its diverse and inclusive community, which comprises students and staff from more than 150 countries worldwide from all backgrounds and faiths,” according to a statement.

“We do not tolerate racism or harassment of any kind and are committed to respect for all of our students and staff. Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law. King’s is no exception.

“The university has strict procedures in place to check the appropriateness of events and speakers hosted on campus, as well as promoting beneficial relationships between all individuals and groups at the university. Due process has been followed in relation to the KCLSU events taking place next week.l”

It’s understood UK Lawyers for Israel were among those to protest the King’s event. The Israel Britain Alliance also last week launched a nationwide campaign against IAW, stressing the legal obligations on universities.

Farid was previously banned from speaking at Paris-Sorbonne University last year, and Jewish News reported that pro-Israel activists called for a similar ban here in the UK.

In a statement, the Pinsker Centre’s Sami Steinbock and Jonathan Hunter – who earlier wrote a detailed complaint to the principal – said: “While KCL noted the event would no longer be taking place within the University’s Safra Theatre – it omitted the fact that the autonomous Student Union have gone ahead and permitted the event to be held in the building that is soon to be its headquarters.

“King’s College have failed to adequately address the concerns of Jewish students or to address the worrying concerns that anti-Israeli discrimination is institutional.”

It follows the cancellation of an Apartheid Week event by the University of Central Lancashire, which cited the new definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government. UCL has also cancelled an event over a procedural issue.

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