Yachad has brought Ami Ayalon, former director of the Shin Bet, to the UK for a series of events this week. Every public event in a Jewish communal space has been full to capacity with excellent discussions. Yesterday (Tuesday) evening, Yachad held an event in partnership with Kings and LSE Israel Societies. The event took place at the Kings College Building on the Strand. Whilst some of what happened at the event has already been documented on social media, some important details have been left out.
Ami arrived at the venue 30 minutes before it was due to take place, where a queue of over 50 people were waiting to get into the room where the event was taking place. By the start of the event the hallway outside was a surging mass of people who had come to hear him speak. Many were very disappointed at being unable to join the discussion as our numbers were capped at around 60 due to the size of the room.
Within minutes of the event starting, protesting began outside. People banged on the windows and doors shouting ‘Free Free Palestine’ and ran around the building continually setting off fire alarms to try to disrupt the event. The front door of the building was smashed as a result of those trying to disrupt the event pushing against it. There has been a report that an Israel society student was pushed in the process of people pushing at the doors outside the event. Students who were outside of the room, unable to attend the event as it was at capacity, reported that there were roughly 20 protesters outside.
Inside the event itself, Ami stood in front of a room of approximately 60 students – Jewish and non-Jewish – who wanted to hear him speak and shouted over the noise allowing the event to continue. Ami was loudly applauded and people across the room had questions for him, allowing for a fruitful discussion to take place despite the disturbance outside. The event was cut short as a result of the protestors.
These 20 something protesters were incredibly small in number, yet managed to ruin what was a very interesting and well attended event. We condemn their actions in the strongest possible terms – attempting to shut down debate and dialogue runs contrary to the values of Yachad. What we must not forget is that we had a room filled with people from across the political spectrum, who came to hear from the former Head of the Shin Bet, and a huge queue of people outside who were disappointed that they couldn’t join them. In November 2015 Yachad ran a similar event at LSE with Itamaar Ya’ar, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, who served in the Israeli Defence Forces for 28 years. Over 80 people attended the event and engaged in a robust debate with no disruption.
In spite of the people who tried to disrupt our event, we had an incredibly fruitful discussion with those who are inside the room and we refuse to bow to the extremists who wish to curtail Israel debate on campus.