This event should have been an opportunity to hear a different narrative to the one so often peddled at the SOAS campus in Central London. But that was not what a number of anti-Israel SOAS students wanted. They wanted to silence freedom of speech and to encourage censorship on their campus. It was not to be a discussion of opinions and theories; it was to be an opportunity to silence the UK’s representative of Israel.
Having heard about this planned demonstration, and following discussions with SOAS Jewish society and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the Zionist Federation worked behind the scenes to ensure that this anti-Israel voice of hate was not the only voice that would be heard in the forecourt of SOAS. We mobilised activists including many student activists to attend and hold banners proclaiming “censorship off campus!” and “Freedom of Speech is Power”. The ZF was proud to stand alongside activists from Israel Advocacy Movement, Sussex Friends of Israel, Essex Friends of Israel, students from across London, and many SOAS students and alumni in supporting the right to have freedom of speech on British Campuses. We were also joined by “Legal Observers” from Jewish Human Rights Watch to ensure that any breech of law was able to be filmed to be used by the police later.
Thankfully, the demonstration on both sides was held in a remarkably amicable environment. Although there was no separation between the two “sides”, and there was much intermingling of flag wavers and chant leaders, there was thankfully no violence. Many supporters were able to have conversations with those who hold opposing views and the entire demonstration was a true show of support for Israel in all it’s forms.
We would like to thank all those who attended, who helped to bring some balance to a campus that is so often lacking on that front. We would also like to thank those organisations who came out with us in support, and of course SOAS Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students. As always we would like to of course thank the Police and CST for doing such a remarkable job in keeping us safe.
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