Staff and students urge SOAS to cancel Israeli ambassador speech

SOAS University in London

Staff and students at SOAS University in London have urged its director to cancel a meeting and speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.

Regev is due to speak on Thursday at SOAS but Lady Valerie Amos has received letters from 32 SOAS student societies and from over 100 of the college’s academic staff asking her to intervene to stop the meeting.

Palestinian students at SOAS have also written asking her whether their names will be supplied to Israeli security for vetting prior to the meeting. They have expressed concern that attending and voicing criticism at the meeting will expose them to retaliation from Israeli officials when they return home or go to Israel or Palestine to conduct research.

In the letter they say: “Mark Regev is a well known former spokesperson for the Israeli state who came to international prominence through his defence of the brutal and repeated attacks on the Gaza Strip, including the many violations of human rights and international law carried out throughout these operations.

Mark Regev

“We are extremely concerned that the decision to host the Ambassador of Israel did not take into account our safety and concerns. The Ambassador will be accompanied by armed Embassy security personnel (whether the arms are concealed or carried openly), and we genuinely fear for our safety given their presence on campus. These security personnel report to the Embassy security officer rather than to our School. There is nothing stopping them from collecting intelligence on us (or any other student or staff member) or even using violence or threatening violence against us.

“By allowing the Israeli Ambassador to speak without making adequate arrangements will result in the School failing to uphold its basic duty of care towards its students, particularly those of Palestinian origin.”

Moreover, 52 senior academic figures from across the UK have also written to the Director echoing these concerns, and deploring the failure to halt the meeting.

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The signatories expressed concern that the format of the meeting allows for no effective challenge to the Ambassador’s views. They say SOAS should not offer a propaganda opportunity on behalf of state that is in defiance of multiple UN resolutions, and responsible for the systematic violation of human rights.

The letter states: “The format of this meeting does not permit Regev’s case, such as it is, to be subjected to any scrutiny. More importantly, there is Regev himself. He is the official representative of a Government that is in violation of countless United Nations resolutions, and which routinely and for 50 years has denied human rights, including that of national self-determination, to the Palestinians. He is notorious as the public face of that Government, defending with chilling sophistry the indefensible murder of thousands of Palestinians in repeated assaults on Gaza.”

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