Free speech violently shut down at Kings College London

Free speech violently shut down at Kings College London

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Ami Ayalon knows a thing or two about danger. A former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, he’s faced tough decisions and dangerous situations many times before. But he probably didn’t expect to be putting himself at risk by speaking at a British university.

The pro-peace group Yachad, together with King’s College London’s Israel Society, brought Mr Ayalon to speak to students on campus on 19 January, Since leaving the Shin Bet, he became a Knesset member for the Israeli Labour party and is now a peace activist and a critic of the current Israeli Government.

Of course, anti-Israel campaigners hate Israeli peace activists. Israeli peace activists want engagement, dialogue and peace talks with Palestinians, but anti-Israel campaigners want boycott and isolation. Israeli peace activists show Israel isn’t the one-dimensional caricature monster that anti-Israel activists like to paint it as.

And so the anti-Israel activists at King’s did what they often do when they see something they don’t like: they tried to shut it down. Violently.

While Mr Ayalon spoke to a packed room of students, activists from Action Palestine and other groups tried to storm the room. They threw chairs at the door and even broke a window trying to get in. They set off the fire alarm and one Jewish student reported being assaulted. Ultimately, the police were called and had to break up the violent demonstration.

While the incident was shameful, though, the horrified reaction of King’s College showed that they were taking it seriously. The College administration immediately announced an investigation which quickly concluded that the protesters had disrupted Mr Ayalon’s right to free speech. Professor Ed Byrne, the President and Principal of the College, invited Mr Ayalon back to speak again – an invitation he accepted.

This time, the extreme anti-Israel campaigners went too far and their violence and intimidation backfired. Whenever they try to shut

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