A statement issued by the Union of Jewish Students said: “We are deeply disappointed that UCL Union and UCL have allowed an event hosting Miko Peled and Dr Azzam Tamimi to take place despite the valid concerns that we, UCL J-Soc and UCL Friends of Israel Society have raised. By providing a platform for these openly hostile speakers, UCL Union is not only failing to uphold their own speaker guidelines, which explicitly prohibit speakers that espouse hate speech or incite acts of violence and terror, but is also neglecting the welfare and wellbeing of its Jewish students.”
On 10 November 2017, the UCL Friends of Palestine will host an event with Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian academic, in conjunction with student Palestine societies at Westminster, Queen Mary, KCL, City University, and Imperial College.
The talk, which is entitled ‘Segregated and Unequal: Palestinian Life In Apartheid Israel’, asks audience members to consider whether “Zionist equal[s] Settler” and whether “Genocide in Palestine [can] be attributed to the actions of the Israeli government”.
Tamimi will speak alongside anti-Israel activist Miko Peled. At this year’s Labour Party conference, Peled told delegates they should have the freedom to debate whether the Holocaust actually happened, “yes or no”, and that “there should be no limits on the discussion”.
Tamimi is a former director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought (IIPT), whose board of advisors included Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Islamist cleric who has defended suicide bombing and promoted the murder of Americans, Shias, Jews, homosexuals and apostates.
Tamimi formerly represented the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), and is currently a presenter on the Arabic language station Al-Hiwar TV.
In a 2009 episode of his programme, Tamimi interviewed anti-Semitic hate preacher Raed Salah, who has espoused blood-libel and been barred from entering the UK. Tamimi laughed when Salah told him that a student in his class drew a swastika on the blackboard in the presence of a Jewish schoolteacher.
In other television appearances, Tamimi has said that “Hitler collaborated with Zionism”, and claimed that Europeans are “wretched people”. He has also called for Israel to “come to an end” and told Israeli Jews to “go back to Germany. That’s justice”.
Tamimi has been named by Andrew Gilligan of the Daily Telegraph as the UK ‘Special Envoy’ of the proscribed Palestinian terrorist organisation Hamas. He has a history of support for suicide bombing and terrorism.
In 2004, when he was questioned over his support for suicide bombings in an interview for the BBC programme Hardtalk, he declared that “if I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it”. He went on to justify martyrdom as “sacrificing yourself for a noble cause” and said that it was “the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity”.
Following the 2005 London bombings, Tamimi claimed on Saudi TV that “the political context” to the attacks included “Britain’s entanglement in an oppressive and unjust war against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples” as well as “Britain’s involvement, along with the U.S., in the arrest and persecution of a large group of Muslims”.
Tamimi’s support for terrorist groups is well-documented. He was filmed at an Al Quds Day event declaring his gratitude for “the late Imam [Ayatollah] Khomeini”, “the great jihad of Hezbollah”, and “the great jihad of Hamas and Islamic Jihad”.
He has also supported Hamas at events held on university campuses. Tamimi was investigated by the police in 2010 after he delivered a lecture at SOAS in which he said:
“Today Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation because that’s what the Americans and Israelis and cowardly politicians of Europe want, but what is so terrorist about it?”
He also told students: “You shouldn’t be afraid of being labelled extreme, radical or terrorist. If fighting for your home land is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist. The Koran tells me if I die for my homeland, I’m a martyr and I long to be a martyr”.
At another student event held at Queen Mary in 2012, Tamimi said: “I’d be a martyr for my country, of course”, adding that “if you’re not prepared to die for your country, then you are not a patriot”. He openly declared his affiliation with Hamas, claiming that “I have a great honour to be close to Hamas” and that “all the leaders of Hamas are my friends”.
Given the extent of Tamimi’s support for Hamas, his use of anti-Semitic tropes and his endorsement of violent extremism, it is highly disturbing that he is being given an unbalanced platform to spread his hateful views on campus.
As it stands, the event does not provide a satisfactory forum for challenging extremism or safeguarding the welfare of students. Moreover, with the event due to occur on Friday night, it will be impossible for observant Jewish students to attend and challenge the speakers’ incendiary rhetoric.
University authorities should intervene so that the event can take place with an independent moderator, a balanced panel, and university and/ or student union staff present. The event should be postponed if these conditions cannot be met.
Update 02/11/2017: In response to criticism of the event going ahead, a UCL spokesperson has told The Algemeiner that the university “supports freedom of speech provided it stays within the law”. “Our main concern is to ensure that events like this pass off smoothly and peacefully for students and staff”, he added. “Our procedures and protocols for such events have been instituted in order to achieve this”.
Update 08/11/2017: A letter protesting at the presence of the two speakers was sent to UCL authorities by the joint presidents of UCL Jewish Society and the president of UCL Friends of Israel Society. They claimed that organisers of the event had scheduled the event for Friday night “in order to deprive the vast majority of Jewish students of the opportunity to challenge hatred likely directed against them”.