Last week, the London School of Economics hosted a talk on the Middle East conflict by Richard Falk. In case you don’t know Richard Falk’s past, he has suggested that “Tel Aviv” was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.
He endorsed in glowing terms a book by notorious anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon which claimed the Jews were “the only people who managed to maintain and sustain a racially orientated, expansionist and genocidal national identity that is not at all different from Nazi ethnic ideology”, describing Atzmon as a man whose story was told with “unflinching integrity”.
He has refused to remove comments left on his blog page saying that the notorious Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was “an uncannily accurate description of what is happening right now”. And this is not all.
Falk was strongly condemned by then Prime Minister David Cameron for posting on his blog a cartoon showing a dog wearing a kippah and urinating on a statue of justice.
The LSE certainly did know who Richard Falk was and they were also aware of what he had written and endorsed about Jews.
We know this because we sent them a detailed dossier of the anti-Semitism he has uttered or supported.
We sent the same dossier to Middlesex University and to the University of East London, where Falk was also due to speak.
Both those universities were so shocked by what they read that they cancelled the scheduled Falk events. In stark contrast, the LSE decided to offer hospitality to Falk.
It did so knowing the unease and hurt this would cause to Jewish students on campus and the risk of his appearance acting as a magnet for antisemites to attend.
This is exactly what happened – Atzmon came and abused Jewish students, telling them to read Holocaust denial literature and informing them that “Jews had been expelled from Germany for misbehaving”.
Following Falk’s appearance, the Union of Jewish Students said that “the university failed in their duty of care to Jewish students”.
Jewish students were left feeling unsafe and insecure on their own campus.
These students will have to go lectures this week with the knowledge that those responsible for their education will tolerate anti-Semitism and give a platform to those who whose aim is to promote it.
This is the reason that I recommended that Jewish students should, for the moment, look elsewhere.
If a university in this country cannot make its campus a safe place for Jewish students, how could we recommend it as a place for Jewish students to study?
We need to be absolutely clear that there is and should not be any campus which is a ‘no go’ area for Jews.
However, not only did LSE fail in its duty of care. It made a decision to ignore the concerns put to them by their own students. That is not just negligence. It is a wilful choice to utterly disregard the voice of Jewish students.
I expect to have discussions with the LSE in the near future at which I will put my concerns to them directly.
I will explain to them exactly why Jewish students have been hurt and offended by Falk’s presence and I would hope that the university would pledge to act on these concerns in the future.
There can be no room for complacency on this matter. If the LSE wishes to be seen as a welcoming place to students of all races and religions it must ban racism from its campus.
This is the minimum we should expect.