Protesters disrupting a King’s College London lecture by former Shin Bet head and left-wing politician and peace activist Ami Ayalon smashed windows, threw chairs, assaulted one of the organizers, and had to be distanced from the scene by police, who were called in to restore order.
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A video taken by co-organizer David Tamman shows Ayalon attempting to speak, while being drowned out by shouts, drumming and the wail of a fire alarm, which was set off from multiple locations in the building more than 15 times.
Tamman, who heads the Israel Society at the London School of Economics, which co-sponsored the event with King’s College London, told Haaretz that the room for event had been too small - the room’s capacity was 56 and more than 100 turned out - and, as a result, many attendees, including protesters who had hoped to disrupt the talk by Ayalon from within the room were not able to enter, after security guards and Tamman stood at the door.
As soon as Ayalon began speaking, the angry protesters outside the room, led by Kings College London Action Palestine, began shouting and banging on chairs and windows, and the fire alarms began sounding.
Ayalon is the former head of the Shin Bet internal security service, a former minister and MK for the Labor Party, and former commander of Israel’s Navy, who is currently a senior fellow at the Israeli Democracy Institute.
Tamman praised the reaction of both Ayalon and the audience inside the room listening to him to the frightening disruptions. “Ami did a fantastic job given the circumstances, he really persisted. He didn’t have a microphone but he made an effort to be as loud as he could. People in the back felt very intimidated, worried that the windows behind them might smash and feeling everything shake. Everyone felt quite scared, but it was extraordinary how they were really determined to focus on Ami and what he had to say despite the intimidation. ”
The event’s co-organizer, Esther Endfield, president of the King’s College London Israel Society, posted her account of the violence on Facebook. She said that she had been physically assaulted by one of the protesters, and that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.
She wrote that she had known some protest by Palestinian activists “was inevitable, but it was never inevitable that it would turn violent.” She said that the event had to be stopped earlier than planned and the building evacuated because police “were so scared that (the protesters) would light a real fire and that we wouldn’t know because of the false alarms.”
Tamman, who has been co-president of the LSE Israel Society for two years, said the situation had reached the point where any Israeli speaker - from the right or the left - could expect this treatment from protesters like those who disrupted Ayalon’s speech.
“I think this really showed the true colors of the people who cause such a fuss and demonize Israel. It’s not Israel’s policy, it is with Israel itself. They see Israel as a colonial illegitimate power that needs to be dismantled completely. Even Ami Ayalon is considered by these supposed human right activists to be a target anyone who has any sort of Zionist position is considered something completely illegitimate.”
He said that the fear and intimidation students identified with Israel were feeling gave the lie to the popular concept of “safe space” in modern academia.
During the protests Tuesday night “I stood there staring at a poster on the door declaring King’s 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.”