The distressing news that Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UK had been attacked by violent ‘pro-Palestinian’ protestors on April 28th at the University of Manchester came as no surprise to me: it is an event which has been in the making for a long time, the build-up to which I watched unfold with my own eyes during the time I worked on that campus.
Throughout Operation Cast Lead and for several weeks following it, the atmosphere on campus was one of aggression and menace as students staged demonstrations and occupied part of the university. Working in a building close to the Students Union, I found myself having to listen to hours of hostile chants through a megaphone and obliged to negotiate anti-Israeli posters, placards and demonstrations just to get out of the building and to the bus stop. On several occasions I was accosted by activists handing out of leaflets or soliciting donations. When I declined to contribute, a torrent of verbal abuse followed which became even uglier when the Star of David I wear was spotted. In February 2009 the Student Union newspaper reported that a Jewish SU leader had threatening graffiti scrawled on his door. Make no mistake; these protests were anti-Israeli, not pro-Palestinian.
Much of the activism at Manchester and other British universities is organised by a group called ‘Action Palestine’ which works together with organisations which will be familiar to many readers such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, ICAHD UK, Friends of Al Aqsa, Machsom Watch, The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, BRICUP and the Stop the War Coalition. Among these organisations, Machsom Watch and ICAHD at least have received EU funding which they use to promote the delegitimisation of Israel. ICAHD UK advocates a boycott of Israeli goods based upon what it calls ‘the Manchester model’. In other words, the harassment of Israeli and Jewish students and staff at British universities is being aided by organizations receiving funding from British tax payers via the EU.
In December 2009, BRICUP organised a tour of several British universities including Manchester by the notorious South African trade union leader Bongani Masuku, together with Ronnie Kasrils and Omar Barghouti. At the time, my objections to the university hosting such promoters of hatred were dismissed on the basis of ‘academic freedom of expression’. In February 2010 an exhibition of Israeli science and technology at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry was the target of a campaign by assorted pro-Palestinian groups whose letter of objection to the exhibition was published in the then Guardian Media Group owned Manchester Evening News as well as in the Guardian itself. Also in February, Ms. Lador–Fresher was forced to cancel her planned talk at the University of Manchester due to a campaign by Action Palestine which included demonstrations and the statement that “we are calling a Protest against Israeli War Crimes in Palestine at 2 pm outside the Students Union steps before the Pol Soc meeting on the 18th to show Mrs Talya Lador-Fresher that neither she or the state she represents are welcome on the premises of our democratically run Union that prides itself on being a student-run establishment which does not endorse nor fund apartheid regimes responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. “
Despite this, Ms Lador-Fresher bravely tried once more to exercise her right to speak at the university’s Political Society this week. The intimidation she suffered as a result gives out a very clear message: the basic rights of Israelis to free speech and personal safety are being deliberately suppressed by these activists. There is to be no opportunity for debate, no exchange of ideas and no respect for differing points of view. This is a generation of students which is not only being raised to believe that Israel is an illegitimate, apartheid state, but which is being denied the opportunity to discover any differing point of view on the subject. This is also a generation which is being raised with warped ideas of democracy in which the rule of intimidation and menace prevents the expression of ideas and beliefs deemed unacceptable to those who promote their political agenda by shouting down others. It is a generation for whom the concept of the human rights of one minority group- Jews- to freedom of expression and self determination are already foreign, and it would be a mistake to believe that such disregard will begin and end with Jews. Worryingly, it is also the generation from which Britain’s future leaders will spring, and that should be cause for concern to every right-thinking person in British society today.