“I got called a Nazi tonight.” An LSE student’s first-hand account of anti-Semitism at LSE Palestine Society Event

The following was written by Vivienne, a student at LSE who attended Abdel Bari-Atwan‘s talk at the University on Monday, December 6th. Atwan is the editor-in chief of the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He was hosted by the LSE Palestine Society.

I got a called a Nazi tonight, well all of us Jews did! I had prepared myself for an anti-Israel sentiment but not out-right anti-Semitism.

When I was first accepted to LSE I was warned from all sides about how anti-Israel the University is and when I saw that Bari Atwan was lecturing there tonight, I wasn’t all that surprised. I am South African and newly Israeli, I know about democracy and understand free speech, so even though Mr. Atwan had proclaimed that he would dance on Trafalgar square if Israel was struck by a nuclear weapon, I was going to go hear what he had to say anyway.

Israel just like any other country should be open to criticism and dissenting voices.  While I did joke that nothing quite starts my week off like a little bit of Israel bashing, a little bit of Israel bashing I can handle. Anti-Semitism however, is an entirely different matter.

For the most part nothing that Atwan had to say surprised me. His talk was full of the usual hateful invectives. The Israeli lobby dictates all of the US decisions; Israelis are heartlessly killing Palestinian children, etc. These arguments are nothing new (bring me a cup of coffee I will happily sit and debate them with you). I also didn’t mind listening to some of his more dubious comments about how Hamas is a peaceful, democratic movement and how he wouldn’t possibly be able to trust any Arab who would make a peace deal with Israel.

So wait, Mr. Atwan, are you no proponent of peace then? Where Atwan did differ from the usual rant is his interchangeable use of the words, Zionism, Israelis and Jews. He managed to express his outright disgust at the fact that if one criticizes Israel they are immediately labeled an anti-Semite (and opened with a disclaimer that not all Jews love Israel), yet he himself failed to separate the Jews from Israel.

He referred consistently to “our Jewish neighbors” and “the Jewish lobby” and my personal favorite was when he pointed to a Jewish student and shouted “YOU bombed the children in Gaza”, an action he denied less than two minutes later.

The oh so very impartial chair had no interest in calling him out on any of this, in fact she seemed to be quite enjoying herself as she rolled her eyes at any challenging questions.

Atwan is a proponent of a onestate solution and the “right of return” for all Palestinian people, a move that would ultimately result in the loss of a Jewish majority in the land of Israel. So after 2000 years of yearning for a country and facing persecution in almost every area we settled, we once again would be left without a land to call our own. A safe haven.

Tonight proved the dangers of this. We may not be facing forced conversions or expulsion, we may not be locked up in concentration camps, but anti-Semitism is not dead. The myths of the protocols live on, and we need a country we can flee too, and an army to protect us.

When a speaker cannot separate Israel (the country) from the Jewish people, and a student in the audience screams that we [Jews] are all Nazis, they have simply proven our point for us. So I guess even though I was offended, as a Jew and as an Israeli, I owe you a thank-you after all, Mr. Atwan.

Editor’s Note: According to the Jewish Chronicle, London Police are currently investigating the allegations of anti-Semitism at the event.

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