Barghouti at KCL: Open Letter to Ed Byrne

Dear Professor Byrne

I refer to the Palestine Solidarity Committee meeting with Omar Barghouti that is taking place at Kings College London at 6.30pm on Monday 27 January.

I had thought that among University Vice Chancellors you were one of the good guys, having been among the first Principals of institutions adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

But your appalling decision to allow a platform to Barghouti has caused me to completely revise that view. I will be writing to the Minister via my MP as well as to the Office for Students.

Let’s start with the flyer for the event. It accuses Israel of ‘apartheid’. This is an antisemitic lie. Apartheid is a legal system in which laws discriminate based on race or ethnicity. There is no dual system of law in Israel for Jewish and Muslim or Arab citizens. Arab Israelis are in the highest jobs eg as Judges on the Supreme Court and as Diplomats. The lie is antisemitic, see IHRA Definition WHICH KCL HAS ADOPTED! (‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such’).

Now let’s look at Omar Barghouti. He has expressed support for terrorism, promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories and regularly demonises Israel. He is excluded from the US and has been prevented from travelling to the UK.  He wants ‘One State’ which is antisemitic – to advocate the destruction of the world’s only Jewish State is obviously antisemitic.

Let’s look at your legal obligations shall we Dr Byrne.

Prevent

First you have to consider whether the views of a particular speaker constitute extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups. Barghouti supports terror and wants Israel destroyed as a Jewish state – a goal which can only be achieved by massive bloodshed.‘In these circumstances the event should not be allowed to proceed except where RHEBs are entirely convinced that such risk can be fully mitigated without cancellation of the event. This includes ensuring that, where any event is being allowed to proceed, speakers with extremist views that could draw people into terrorism are challenged with opposing views as part of that same event, rather than in a separate forum. Where RHEBs are in any doubt that the risk cannot be fully mitigated they should exercise caution and not allow the event to proceed.’So Dr Byrne where is the challenge to Barghouti’s obscene views at the meeting on Monday? And since there is none, why have you allowed the meeting to proceed? (I will be submitting an FOI to request your Risk Assessment which should make interesting reading).

Duty of Care

You have a Duty of Care to Jewish Students. Most Jewish students identify strongly with Israel. Many have family there. How is it consonant with your Duty of Care to them to have an extremist whipping up hate against Israel?

Equality Duty

You have a legal duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation. How on earth can hosting the extremist Barghouti contribute to fulfilling this Duty in regard to Jewish students?

Professor Byrne, remember what you said when KCL adopted IHRA in 2018? – “We have an absolute commitment for Jewish students not only to feel safe, but to feel welcomed.”

No doubt you will respond with a reference to your duty to uphold free speech and to expose students to controversial subjects.

Come off it Professor Byrne, to use the ‘free speech’ argument to defend an extremist who encourages people to hate and harm Jews is a nonsense. You know as well as I do the qualifications around the Article Ten Right of Free Speech.

If this meeting goes ahead tonight with Barghouti how can we ever believe anything you say again?