KCL Action Palestine provided a statement after Ami Ayalon’s event on Tuesday 19th January 2016, to express its regret at the few acts of disorderly behaviour that were carried out that evening from both sides.
Due to the heightened coverage, inflammation and distortion of events by the mainstream media, we have decided to provide a detailed account of what happened on the 19th of January.
Ami Ayalon is the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Torture of Palestinians by the Shin Bet was commonplace during Ayalon’s leadership of the organisation (see here and here). The invitation of a former Israeli state official who is deeply implicated in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and war crimes, was a provocative step that deeply troubled Palestinians, pro-Palestine students and supporters of human rights at KCL. Students at King’s College London have a right to protest and it was right that Ami Ayalon’s visit to KCL was protested.
Our account is as follows:
● Only 5 members of the King’s College London Action Palestine (KCLAP) society were present at the Ami Ayalon’s event. It was open to the public, and many people who are not students at King’s College London also attended.
● The 5 KCL Action Palestine members who did attend, went with the intention of handing out leaflets and questioning Ami Ayalon about the accusations of torture and other war crimes levied against him, as well as his contradictory and problematic views when it comes to illegal settlements, the apartheid wall, and his proposed solution to the occupation.
● Some external attendees that expressed a wish to either question or interrupt Ami Ayalon in protest were told, by KCL Action Palestine in a meeting before the event started, to be reasonable and to not resort to any disruption. They were told that they would probably be provoked for handing out leaflets, and that it would be unacceptable to respond to any provocation.
● At the entrance of the event, after the room started filling up, rather than permitting entrance on a firstcome basis, the president of the Israel Society at King’s College London began to arbitrarily hand pick those who would be let in. Such actions go against university policy.
● Shortly after the event began, a large group of people comprised of both proIsrael attendees and proPalestine attendees who had been denied access to the event, remained outside and some attempted to gain access to the room by pushing into the corridor. This escalated into the chanting of proPalestine slogans outside of the venue and some people banging the windows of the door of the Norfolk building to make noise.
● Some proPalestine attendees were hit, pushed and called “Hamas sympathisers” and other names for protesting. Security staff called the police wrongly claiming a hundred people were fighting outside the Norfolk building.
● The president of the Israel Society made a complaint to the police regarding being pushed. This followed a heated argument about her filming people’s faces without their consent.
● One proPalestine campaigner from SOAS made a complaint to the police regarding being hit in the shoulder by someone who was wearing a King’s College London lanyard and who seemed to be associated with the organisers of the event. Another proPalestine campaigner who was balancing on the railings of Norfolk building while holding a Palestinian flag up against the window of the room, was pushed by a proIsrael supporter, which could have resulted in serious injury.
● All of these incidents happened over a very short length of time before the police arrived.
● We believe that the one window that was cracked, was cracked as an unintended result of the banging on the windows of the door of the Norfolk building as people protested and made noise.
● No chairs were thrown by any of the protestors at the event. A small number of the activists outside of the event and in the building’s corridor used chairs to make noise by banging them against each other.
● Following the event, KCL students associated with the Palestinian cause have received Islamophobic hate messages, victimisation and demonisation via social media.
In light of the above, KCL Action Palestine wishes to make the following points:
● We reaffirm that it was right for the visit of Ami Ayalon to be protested due to his participation in torture and other violations of basic human rights and universal freedoms. We reassert that students have a right to protest.
● Any physical confrontation on campus is clearly deeply regrettable. However, no member of KCL Action Palestine initiated a physical confrontation with any proIsrael activist attending the event. To the extent that any physical confrontation did take place, it was initiated as much by supporters of Israel at the event as proPalestine activists.
● As a matter of principle, KCL Action Palestine is opposed to all forms of discrimination and oppression, including Islamophobia and antiSemitism. We do not believe that any of the events that took place at the Ami Ayalon event were antiSemitic in nature or intent.
● Any claims that KCL Action Palestine “attacked” the event, “threw chairs” or “smashed windows” are false.
● We believe that peaceful disruption of speaker events by people who have participated in war crimes, including torture, is a legitimate form of protest.
● We deeply regret the way in which the media has reported events. Many of the media outlets that have repeated the Israeli Society’s version of events most critically did not contact us to seek our version. As a result of some of the attacks, KCL Action Palestine will be seeking advice with the Press Complaint Commission due to distortion, misrepresentation and libel.
● Moreover, KCL Action Palestine members have faced undue intimidation, victimisation and online harassment as a result of the inaccurate statements made by the media. The College has not yet addressed how proPalestinian students on campus may be feeling as a result of this.
● We look forward to fully cooperating with the investigations by the university and the student union, and we hope the safety and wellbeing of proPalestinian students on campus is given as much attention as that of Israeli Soc members.
● Overall, we reaffirm our commitment to take peaceful action in support of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and our solidarity with Palestinian students and youth, who have in recent months been mobilising in huge numbers to resist Israeli settler colonialism.