UCL in La La Land

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

La La Land may not have won ‘Best Film’ at the Oscars on Sunday but we were treated to a version of it at UCL the following day. Excepting that this production was set not in Los Angeles but in the Middle East. And no singing and dancing – just two and half hours of unadulterated vitriolic one-sided mendacity about the Jewish State, poisoning the minds of yet another generation (some 150) of students.

If there was an Oscar for ‘most duplicitous medieval disputation of the Jewish State at Israel Apartheid Week 2017’, this event is the odds-on favourite (though please be reassured that the rest of the week/fortnight/month will produce some close challengers).

The contender for ‘best actress’ was Dr Ang Swee Chai of Medical Aid for Palestinians. Undoubtedly she saw some terrible things in Gaza Hospital in Beirut during the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982. But that does not entitle her to present an entirely false and one-sided account of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Thanks to Richard Millett, her talk was familiar. As always she failed to mention that the Sabra and Shatila massacres were carried out not by Israel but by Lebanese Christians. And as always she showed the ‘map that lies’.

The ‘best actor’ contender was Abdelrahman Salayma. He lives in Hebron and is part of an organisation called ‘Youth Against the Settlements.’  In his entirely accurate account of the event David Collier calls Salayma ‘Mr Slick’. He presented himself as a lover of peace and ‘non-violent action’ but of course in the Q+A the mask slipped and he endorsed ‘armed resistance’.

But there was a third contender for an Oscar – for the ‘Most Biased Chair at Israel Apartheid Week 2017’.  Enter Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights and Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and Political Theory. If you Google him you will see that in 2009 he urged the Science Museum to cancel its Israel Science Day; that he believes the nonsense that the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism is ‘an attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel;  that he supports a boycott of Israeli goods. And he began the evening with an attack on the IHRA Definition (“I want to say something a little bit political”). He suggested the Definition is “attack on free speech” … “it implies that events like this one  …. shouldn’t happen.” Er ….. Precisely Dr Meckled-Garcia. If you want to chair a meeting where Israel is slandered, traduced and demonised, feel free to hire the room above The Marlborough Arms in Torrington Place. It’s just that we do not expect such events to happen in an Institute of Higher Education. In Tehran possibly – but not in London. And if you don’t like the IHRA Definition Dr Meckled-Garcia, you are also bound by the provisions of Prevent. This meeting should have been risk assessed; the speakers researched for the risk of drawing people into extremism; and possibly opposing speakers should have been invited. Was any of that done? No doubt we will find out………….

And, Dr Meckled-Garcia, you misrepresented the IHRA’s stipulation not to require of Israel ‘a behaviour not demanded of any other democratic nation’. It does NOT – repeat, NOT – mean (as you suggested) that you cannot discuss whether Israel is or is not ‘like any other democratic nation’. (And by the way your analogy of Israel with Turkey was absurd – to remind you, after the failed coup Erdogan fired 2700 Judges and closed down the key Opposition newspaper). It means what it says! That holding Israel to a higher standard than any other democratic nation is antisemitic. See the difference, Dr Meckled-Garcia? (I would imagine for a senior academic like yourself it’s not hard?)

In Salayma’s presentation there were so many falsehoods, we lost count.

“Being under military law means I am guilty unless I prove otherwise.”

… Referring to the ‘knife intifada’, “Many Palestinians without knives have been killed’.

“The settlers can do what they want and no-one can stop them.”

We heard about the Israeli ambulance driver who throws people out of the ambulance … and that Elor Azaria killed a Palestinian (Abdel Fattah al-Sharif) who apparently had been a mere bystander ….

And about the young girl student, Hadeel al-Hashlamon, who (we were told) was shot by the IDF for doing nothing (on September 22, 2015 Hadeel al-Hashlamon, a 19-year-old woman student, dressed in full niqab garb, approached a soldier at a Hebron checkpoint, pulled out a knife, and attempted to stab him)

About a 5 year old boy arrested for nothing (the truth is here).

In response to a question about the killers of the Fogel family, Salayma said the crime was committed not by a Palestinian but by an African! The truth of course is that Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad, two young Palestinian cousins from the village of Awarta, were convicted for the murders and later proudly confessed.

The bias of Dr Meckled-Garcia can be seen here (at -13.50 on the video).  Salayma was asked by Harvey Garfield why his talk had entirely omitted any explanation of the context for Israel’s security measures – the stabbing intifada for example or the numbers of suicide bombers who came across to Israel before the protection barrier was built.  Dr. Meckled-Garcia responded that in the UK, if a soldier assaults a prisoner, we do not say that there’s a problem with not mentioning that they are prisoners. But that’s a false analogy. Azaria’s crime (for which he has been convicted) happened minutes after al-Sharif stabbed the soldier – and was obviously connected to that initial crime. As well as being a false analogy, Harvey’s question was directed at Salayma – not at the Chair!

Back to the Doctor. In the Q+A I challenged her about her promotion in 2014 of a vile antisemitic David Duke video entitled ‘CNN Goldman Sachs & the Zio Matrix’(watch the brainwashed students giggling as I read out hard core racist extracts from the video).

These extracts included the following obscenities from Duke:

‘…the Zionist Matrix of Power controls Media, Politics and Banking”

‘Globalist Zionist supremacism is the greatest single danger to the entire planet”.

Unfortunately the Doctor’s response is not clear (and very quiet) on the video. From what can be heard, she said she has seen the video but she can’t quite recall it. She has never heard that kind of ‘terminology’. Incredibly she ‘doesn’t think it’s entirely anti-Jewish’.

Take #2: Dr Ang Swee Chai doesn’t think that one of the most revolting examples of antisemitism that I have ever seen is “entirely anti-Jewish”. Physician, heal thyself!

She said she apologised. (Indeed she did — I wonder if she would have apologised if she had not been caught …)

La La Land is fiction (indeed it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay). Medieval-style traducing of Israeli Jews – and by implication the vast majority of Jews in the Diaspora who refuse to join the lynch mob – is unfortunately fact. It is to the shame of UCL that it was willing to produce this horror movie.

(Footage from UCLU Friends of Palestine Society).