Academia,  antisemitism,  Israel/Palestine

UJS and LSE Israel Society statement on Abdel Bari Atwan talk at LSE

Cross-posted from the UK Union of Jewish Students

LSE Students’ Union Israel Society together with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) are appalled by the antisemitic incidents and atmosphere at last night’s [Monday] LSESU Palestine Society talk “How much influence does the Zionist Lobby exert on US & UK Foreign Policy?” with Abdel Bari Atwan.

Given the topic of the speech and previous comments made by Atwan [1], UJS and LSESU Israel Society approached the Students’ Union prior to this event in an attempt to mitigate against any potential hate speech or intimidation. However, as feared, the meeting quickly degenerated into an extremely hostile atmosphere for Jewish and Israeli students.

Atwan repeatedly referred to an all-powerful “Jewish lobby” and shouted at Jewish students “you bombed Gaza”.

The event was chaired by senior LSE lecturer Professor Martha Mundy, co-convenor of British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), and her conduct fell well short of that expected of a respected academic. Professor Mundy failed to maintain order within the meeting, was aggressive to those students with whom she disagreed and contributed to the destructive atmosphere of the event.

During the event Jewish students were shouted at and labelled “Nazis”, whilst others were bullied from the room. This continued after the event was closed down by university security, following which a Jewish student was accused of being an agent of the Israeli state and had his loyalty to Britain questioned.

Unfortunately these incidents are far from isolated at LSE, with concerns being raised over the hostile atmosphere for Jewish students over a number of years. In 2009, following a series of incidents during Operation Cast Lead, the Students’ Union passed a comprehensive policy against antisemitism [2]. UJS and LSE SU Israel Society believe that this event clearly breached that policy.

Carly McKenzie, UJS Campaigns Director said “We support freedom of speech, but that freedom also comes with responsibility. Those involved with the organisation and regulation of this event have failed to live up to that responsibility, despite prior assurances to the contrary. The comments made by Atwan and others tapped into classic antisemitic tropes of ‘Elders of Zion’ conspiracy, accusations of Jewish dual loyalty, equation of Jews with Nazis and blaming Jews in general for particular actions of the Israeli government.”

“Universities should be safe spaces for students, free from hatred. These shocking incidents highlight the importance of better regulation of extremist speakers on our campuses.”

Gabi Kobrin, President of LSE Israel Society said “Last night has had a really chilling effect on campus. Through organizing this event and relishing in its ‘success’ LSESU Palestine Society have shown that they have no regard for student welfare, good campus relations nor a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East. Our repeated attempts to work constructively with Palestine Society have been rejected in favour of them pursuing an aggressive, alienating and one-sided agenda.”

UJS and LSESU Israel Society are working with the School and Students’ Union to ensure that a full investigation of this event takes place and that those responsible are held to account. We look forward to further discussions to ensure that stringent measures are put in place to ensure student welfare is protected in future and that these shocking incidents are never repeated at LSE.

[1] In a Spring 2006 interview, Atwan stated that: “the Jewish lobby is extremely influential, and they are after us. For example, the Israeli embassy is really influencing the BBC and the media here and they are not allowing me to appear on TV with any Israeli spokesmen because they believe I can win the arguments against them. So yes, they are after us, all the time. They have the power, they have the means, they are native English, they are native British, they know the culture, they know how to use the media, they are very organised, they’ve got the money, they’ve got the capabilities.” (

In June 2007, Atwan promised that “If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight…Allah willing, it will attack Israel, as well.” (

In March 2008, Atwan stated that the Mercaz HaRav murder of eight students “was justified” and that subsequent celebrations showed “the courage of the Palestinian nation.” (

[2] ‘Stop Antisemitism Now’, p37,