Hen Mazzig, a former IDF commander, had been invited to speak by UCL Friends of Israel about his humanitarian work in the West Bank, building medical facilities, school, roads and water infrastructure.
What he and the many Jewish and non-Jewish students in attendance did not expect was the spite and vitriol of anti-Israel protesters who attempted to make a name for themselves at their expense.
What began as an important talk resulted in dozens of police officers called to the reputed university to stifle the unnerving protest which left Jewish students barricaded in a room, after being told their safety could not be guaranteed if they were left alone.
Here I speak exclusively with Mazzig, detailing his thoughts on exactly what transpired, what motivates BDS advocates such as these in general and why universities around the world seem to have a very specific problem with anti-Israel rhetoric and support for such protests.
UCL seems to have viewed the protest of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators as “not violent” — do you take offense at such a lax response? Do you think UCL has protected Jewish students’ rights of free speech?
Yes, the UCL statement was poor and indeed offensive. I recommend that instead of covering up a horrific event and dismissing it away as irrelevant, that the university take steps to prevent it. The police reaction was weak as well, instead of stopping the violent protests they just locked the Jewish students and myself inside the room. It seems like there is no “safe space” for Jewish students on a UCL campus.
According to FOA which organised the protest it was “a peaceful protest in which smiling pro-Palestine supporters handed out leaflets and shared information with the Friends of Israel”
How do you respond to this?
It was anything but a peaceful protest, I’m not even going to respond to this nonsense in a serious manner, the videos online are reflecting exactly what it was. I live-stream just 10 minutes in the room and you can see how they behaved. Not civil, not like students, but like a fanatic mob.
There are of course long term activists who abhor the mere idea of Jewish existence and the Jewish state but why
Do you think other students are being sucked in so easily to side with these BDS activists?
I think that the anti-Israel propaganda that is spread around by BDS is the reason so many fall to this side. BDS is playing an emotional card, appropriating different minorities’ narrative as their own. They want to be perceived as the underdog. We all want to support the underdog, especially when the case is presented by only one side and you can’t see the whole picture. That’s why they didn’t want me to speak, the 100 people trying to present themselves as “underdogs” while attacking less than 25 Jewish students.
Whether it is you as a former IDF lieutenant or Ami Ayalon (formerly of the Shin Bet) at Kings College London, do you think these protestors are simply willingly blind and dumb to the humanitarian work you all have done since your service and during it? For instance, you were at UCL to speak about your humanitarian work in the West Bank, building medical facilities, school, roads and water infrastructure.
I don’t think that they’re blind, I think that the leadership of these students group are well aware. That’s why they protested my event. My whole story is countering their lies, every part of my story proved them wrong. So I think that the most important thing for them was to stop me from speaking. They had to fight to make sure the truth will not be heard. Once I do speak, even to Palestinian groups, I can build bridges, like in Bristol, that after this event some called me the “Miracle Man”. It’s not being Miracle Man, it’s just about speaking truth to power.
In a larger context do you feel anti-Israeli propaganda has a particular home within university campuses more than other places, if so why? And do you think Great Britain has a particular challenge to face with it?
We see how BDS is growing mostly on college campuses and the reasons are clear. Young students seem to be less knowledgeable, more open for crazy ideas. Many radical movements grew inside college campuses, so I’m not surprised. I think that in the West, in top leading universities, many students feel “privileged” and they are being told that they mostly act for a higher goal, to prove their morality. So what is a better goal than joining a “movement” that gives you such emotional rewards: “Hi! I boycotted Israel today!” they think to themselves; No effort, no real understanding and instead they are being accepted by a group of students that hate Israel too.
Every visit I had in the UK comes with massive protest, at KCL in 2014 and now in UCL. There’s a serious problem, and I suggest that universities and UK officials start thinking of how to solve the problem instead of explaining why it’s not a big deal. Jewish students locked in a room by the police while an angry mob is calling for “Intifada” (violent uprising in Arabic), in 2016, is a real problem.