A violent riot by anti-Israel activists at a leading London university has left Jewish students shocked and concerned about their safety on campus, and ended in at least one Jewish student being physically assaulted.
Police were called to Kings College London University on Tuesday night, after a speech by former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon was attacked with shocking violence by pro-Palestinian groups. Ironically, Ayalon - who was brought to London by the controversial liberal Jewish group Yachad - is an ardent left-wing campaigner and advocate of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.
Security was already tight in anticipation of protests and hecklers - which commonly target pro-Israel events at London university campuses - but organizers say they were completely unprepared for the level of violence and intimidation they faced.
Anti-Israel activists from Kings' "Action Palestine" student group, as well as activists from other London universities, hurled chairs at people attending and set off fire alarms in the building more than a dozen times in order to disrupt the event.
After eventually being forced to leave the room, the extremists then proceeded to chant loudly and bang on the windows of the venue, smashing one and leaving many of those present visibly terrified.
One student, Esther Endfield, has submitted a criminal complaint after being physically assaulted. In a Facebook post, she described "crying hysterically for over half an hour because I was so terrified."
The event was hosted by Kings' Israel Society, and was jointly organized with the Israel Society at the London School of Economics (LSE).
LSE Israel Society co-chair David Tamman described the "violent intimidation" in a Facebook post accompanying footage from the event, which shows Ayalon forging on with his speech as fire alarms blare, while anti-Israel activists thump on the door and chant outside.
Click on the image below to view video:
Another video, from outside, showed protesters hitting the windows - one of which had clearly been broken.
Tamman described his "bitter feelings of frustration and upset" at the attack, which he said illustrated both the extremism of pro-Palestinian groups, as well as the lack of the kind of "safe space" for Jews who support Israel as is afforded to other students.
Of the roughly 200 people who turned up to attend, only a few dozen were able to fit into the small room granted to the Israel Society for "security reasons." Among those left outside were more than a dozen anti-Israel activists; Tamman described what happened next:
Confronted with this, violent protesters set off multiple fire alarms to interrupt the talk. They also banged on windows, threw chairs and screamed to the top of their voices. Attendees inside felt the walls and windows shake as they were struggling to hear the talk, looking genuinely scared for their security. Indeed they had reason to. It got violent as a few managed to push their way into the building, brake a glass window and physically assault a friend of mine (and co-organiser Esther Endfield, KCL Israel society President).
This came along with a tirade of verbal abuse inches from the faces of many jewish students. It got to a stage where the police felt the need to call in around 15 police officers and two vans. 2 female friends of mine cried from the fear and abuse and I stood there staring at a poster on the door declaring Kings College London to be a 'safe space' and thought - what a lie.
The truth is, universities across the UK are not safe spaces (if you happen to be a Zionist Jew). It shocks me how universities and students seem to obsess on the provision of 'safe spaces' when a few students are offended by an old statue in Oxford (Cecil Rhodes), whilst there is a total disregard for Israel supporting Jews who are intimidated on a constant basis (in this case even assaulted).
After prolonged violence and despite the protesters being distanced from the building by police, the event was forced to end half an hour early due to security concerns.
"Protecting the free speech of violent protesters violated the free speech of Ami, a man who merely wanted to engage in dialogue with a receptive audience. This is a sad state of affairs. What about his freedom to speak? What about our freedom to listen?"
"I've genuinely had enough," he continued. "Enough with the intimidation. Enough with the alarms. Enough with the long wasted hours of organising events that get ruined by hateful extremists. Enough with university apathy towards their Jewish minority.
"But silence is not the answer. We will continue because giving up is exactly what these hate-filled, extremist cretins desire. Jewish and Israeli students will not be silenced. My co Jamie and I are already planning our next event (and hoping to get some university work done amongst all this madness)."
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Tamman described the incident as "genuinely scary."
"No one in that room felt safe last night - and no one was safe. People sitting near the window for example... there was a real threat they could get hit by shattered glass," he said.
He noted that while the incident in question was particularly severe, it is part of a clear pattern of disruptions by anti-Israel groups, aimed at forcefully stifling pro-Israel voices on campus. In some cases, for example, organized gangs of extremists ensure that those who set off fire alarms are not students at the university in question, to avoid the administration taking disciplinary action.
By staging such disruptions, anti-Israel activists forced pro-Israel student groups to foot the bill for extra security, which is often far too high. "That means that very often we can't host speakers because it's out of our budget," Tamman said.
"Our freedom, our right to freedom of speech is being violated... ironically, the protection of freedom of speech on one side is violating the freedom of speech on the other."
But he vowed that far from deterring him and his fellow activists, the violence only spurred them on to defy it, and emphasized that while the narrative harbored by such extremists was certainly "dangerous," they were only a "loud minority."
"The truth is that most other people are much more moderate," he said, cautioning supporters of Israel not to resign themselves to the false notion that "the whole world hates us." Many of those who turned up for the speech for example were neither Jewish nor involved in pro-Israel activism, and were left with a clear impression of "who the real bigots are."
"It really shows the true colors of these so-called 'human rights' activists, and what they're all about; that they aren't really interested in any peace with Israel, they're not critical of Israeli government policy. What they're essentially opposed to is the existence of the State of Israel in and of itself... so there's no room for discussion with them."