In the past week, Israeli-Arab activist Yoseph Haddad has been giving lectures on life in Israel as an Arab to interested communities across London as part of a partnered venture with StandWithUs UK. Haddad’s tour has been met with enthusiasm from local Jewish communities despite a series of deplorable smear campaigns and protests by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) associations across London universities.
Earlier today, Yoseph Haddad’s event at University College London (UCL) featured a horde of anti-Israel students protesting outside one of the college’s Tottenham Court Road locations, as well as within the main campus. They followed the usual routine of Palestinian flags, keffiyehs, and incoherent strings of copy-pasted rhetoric blasted over cheap loudspeakers.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – an ideological statement which has long been criticized over its implicit call for a conclusive removal of Jews from their ancestral homeland – could be frequently heard during the protests. Despite clear attempts to physically intimidate students into abandoning the event, Haddad’s talk went ahead and was attended by over 50 people.
What was the justification for such demonstrations? According to an announcement made via Instagram by the SJP at UCL which was then reshared by other SJPs, Yoseph Haddad’s presence constituted a “normalization of apartheid and genocide-sympathetic sentiment on campus.”
Haddad was referred to as a “war criminal” in the post and in subsequent physical publications, a claim based on little evidence other than the knowledge that Haddad served in the IDF during the 2nd Intifada and the 2006 Lebanon War.
Alarmingly, the willingness of multiple SJP accounts to label Haddad a “traitor Zionist” demonstrates how pro-Palestinian societies on university campuses demand a unidimensional Arab perspective in order to function. Haddad’s status as an Arab, and the dissenting views he promotes, threaten the dangerous anti-Zionist sentiment which has been fostered by London universities, in particular UCL.
Accusing anyone of treason towards their ethnic or racial group for daring to hold a reasonable opinion which challenges the accepted cultural norm is an unequivocally racist and bigoted position. It is of utmost irony that those who claim to speak for Arab liberation have employed tremendous time and resources towards silencing an Arab.
It is not normal that Haddad was forced to have 5 bodyguards surrounding him at an event dedicated to showcasing the diversity of co-existence in Israel. It is not normal that Jewish and otherwise pro-Israel students continue to receive threats from London SJPs and their affiliates on campus. It is not normal that in countries which pride themselves on democracy and freedom of speech, intellectual institutions have allowed students to physically intimidate and harass those with a different opinion.
In conclusion, SJPs are deeply wrong when it comes to Yoseph Haddad. They have made no attempt to engage with the actual content of his lectures, and have instead resorted to cheap tactics designed to mislead and misinform the public. Valid criticism of Haddad’s views exists, but today’s events have shown that those who reject constructive dialogue will always be doomed to the ideological pitfalls of their own beliefs.