The Shameful Truth Of British Campuses

It started out like any other campus visit. Mr Alon Roth-Snir, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel to the Court of St James’s arrived yesterday to speak at Essex University on Israel and the Middle East. What happened next is precisely the sort of thing that has tarnished Britain’s reputation on the global academic map. Within five minutes of his opening remarks, loud protests inside and outside the room forced him to abandon his talk. He barely got past his “hello,” and “thank you for inviting me” when students started to shout him down calling him a war criminal. He made a further attempt to speak to another pre-planned smaller group of students but was again interrupted after ten minutes and forced to leave the campus.

Only two nights earlier I sat next to Mr Roth-Snir at a dinner we had a fascinating discussion about his role as Deputy Ambassador. I was impressed when he told me he had already visited more than thirty university campuses across the UK, engaging with students all sorts of backgrounds and of varied political persuasions. Our paths had already crossed on a few occasions prior in Brussels he held prominent positions in the European Parliament. He also served as Deputy Ambassador to Jordan he most likely never encountered the same sort of hostility as that in Essex U.
One staff member reportedly in the room, said after that the students were “passionate and very measured.” In other words, the students’ behaviour was acceptable. The University’s Head of Communications Jenny Grinter said it was “a noisy but peaceful protest” and dismissed the claims that protesters had tried to “attack” the deputy ambassador as “an exaggeration.” This notwithstanding the fact that the police were called and that Roth-Snir had to be escorted out by security guards. The picture here, which was circulated around the internet, doesn’t quite give a ‘non-threatening’ impression.

But perhaps most troubling was a statement put out by the University on Twitter in which they said that “we were happy for the students to have a voice and were aware the protest would be taking place today.” No attempt to protect a government appointed official’s right to speak at a meeting he was invited to address; No reprimanding those students that proved threatening; No statement of condemnation decrying such deplorable behaviour. Just sanctioning and whitewashing.

That students are passionate and somewhat volatile is understandable even if the behaviour – like that of yesterday – is sometimes inexcusable. But that the faculty endorse such behaviour is symptomatic of the deep-seeded anti-Israel sentiment that is rife in so many British Academic Institutions arguably more so than any else in the Western world. Not surprisingly, it is in the UK that proposals for an academic boycott had been initiated against Israeli universities and academics. These are the educators of society who are complicit in the stifling of debate denying the basic right for free speech.

Meanwhile, as can be seen in this video clip Member of Parliament George Galloway showed his typical racist colours at Oxford University yesterday after the student he was debating with, Aslan Levy, used the word “we,” when referencing Israel in his speech. This prompted Galloway to ask: “You said ‘we.’ Are you an Israeli?” When Levy confirmed this, Galloway stormed out of the debate declaring, “I don’t recognise Israel. I don’t debate with Israelis.” Welcome to UK campus life in the 21st century.