British-Palestinian activist Azzam Tamimi reiterated his strong connections to Hamas and his willingness to become a “martyr” at a student event on Tuesday night, which drew controversy due to his advertised appearance.
Tamimi, an academic who lives in London, sparked outrage when he said during a BBC interview in 2004 that sacrificing oneself was a "noble cause," adding that it was "the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity."
Student groups and Jewish activists had raised concerns over his appearance at the event One State or Two State Solution, hosted by Queen Mary’s University's Palestine Solidarity Society.
In response to a question from Haaretz over the opposition to his attendance, he insisted that the reason for the uproar was n attempt to silence his legitimate political views.
"I’d be a martyr for my country, of course," he said. "If you’re not prepared to die for your country then you are not a patriot."
Regarding his connections to Hamas, which is banned in the EU over its status as a terror organization, he said: “I have a great honor to be close to Hamas,” adding that it was only unfortunate that he himself did not have a leadership role within the group.
Having described Hamas chief Khaled Meshal as a close childhood friend, and saying that “all the leaders of Hamas are my friends,” Tamimi added: “I am not ashamed of my association with Hamas. Hamas, in my view, is the true representative of the Palestinian people.”
His words were met with a round of applause from the audience of around 30 people.
Earlier, a pro-Israel blogger, Richard Millett, was denied entry to the event, at which U.K. politician Jenny Tonge and academic Haim Bresheeth also spoke. An event organizer said that Millett was well-known as a disruptive influence.
The group Student Rights had previously expressed concerns over the make-up of the panel.
"It is bad enough that Tamimi, a supporter of an anti-Semitic terrorist group like Hamas, should be invited onto a campus to speak, as he was at Loughborough University last November," the group said in a statement on its website.
"However, what is worse is that not only will there be no balance to his hate filled views, but that the panel he will speak alongside have all declared outspoken opposition to Israel in the past,” it added.