Video has emerged showing supporters of Israel being violent, aggressive and abusive during student protests against a speech by a former Israeli army officer at University College London (UCL) on Thursday evening.
At the start of one video, filmed by student journalists and published on The Independent newspaper’s website, pro-Israel organizer Elliot Miller can clearly be seen shoving another man into a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstrator, whose arm is then grabbed by a security guard.
Student Rights published its own report on the event claiming that supporters of Israel had been “surrounded by assaults and racist chants” and had to be “escorted by the Metropolitan Police for our very physical safety.”
Miller himself claims protesters were “aggressive and violent.” A number of media outlets, including The Daily Telegraph and Jewish News, echoed this characterization and reported that police have received at least one allegation of assault.
But Miller’s portrayal of events may not be accurate. (It would not be the first time: the BBC previously upheld a complaint of inaccuracy about a story fed to it by Student Rights, which has a record of smearing Palestine solidarity activism).
There is no evidence of violence from pro-Palestinian demonstrators. In contrast, another video also documents aggression against Palestine solidarity activists:
In the footage, two young men can be seen lying down in protest inside the room where former Israeli army officer Hen Mazzig was due to speak.
A woman orders the pair to “stand up,” calling them “cowards.” She can then be seen stamping near one of the men’s heads before making a grab for his neck.
A UCL student involved in the protest told The Electronic Intifada: “The pro-Israel protesters were throwing all kinds of racial slurs at us, telling us to ‘go back to Syria’ and ‘go back to Gaza.’”
“Although the media are slating us as ‘violent,’ our protest was peaceful,” the student said. “If you look at the footage you can see who actually instigated violence.”
He categorically denied media claims that anyone was “trapped” and stated that “UCL students overwhelmingly protested the event while most of those supporting Israel were not students.”
In a third video posted on Facebook by Sussex Friends of Israel, Zionist activist Simon Cobbs can be heard being abusive to students, calling one a “fascist” and telling another, “you heard your führer.”
Further footage emerged showing students chanting “free, free Palestine” and a supporter of Israel repeatedly responding “from Arabs.”
Miller formerly studied at UCL and, according to his LinkedIn page, previously worked for the Israeli foreign ministry.
Another video appears to show him shouting at a person of color wearing a Palestine T-shirt and peacefully protesting: “the Home Office should follow you up! You’re at risk of radicalization!” In another version of that film another Israel supporter can be heard telling students “get out of our country.”
On Saturday, Middle East Monitor published this video showing Miller in an anti-Muslim outburst:
Miller can be seen shouting in the faces of protestors, “You treat them like shit. You don’t respect women. You don’t respect gays … It’s a violent religion. It’s a violent religion.”
The Board of Deputies alleged that there had been “aggressive and intimidating” protests, by “a hate-filled mob supporting the worst kind of extremism,” but unlike Miller’s group Student Rights, it did not use the word “violence.”
The Board of Deputies vowed to raise the issue with the UK government.
A statement issued by some of the protesters said: “Yesterday evening, 70 students gathered on UCL campus in nonviolent protest of an event organized by the UCLU Friends of Israel society to host former Israeli soldier Hen Mazzig. This was a peaceful protest. Everything was documented and there is no evidence of any violence.”
Although UCL Friends of Palestine society did not organize the protest, it separately issued a statement pointing out that Mazzig worked for COGAT, the Israeli army body that controls the lives of millions of Palestinians under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
COGAT is responsible for “grave violations of international law” including coordinating “demolition of Palestinian homes, forced displacement [and] restrictions of movement,” Friends of Palestine said, adding that “it is reasonable for students to protest an event at which these crimes are whitewashed and defended.”
“We support the protest which took place for these reasons. We also believe that all groups reserve the right to free expression as long as they abide by the UCL code of practice on freedom of speech and remain within the law,” the group added. “UCL security and police, confirmed that the protest ended safely, and there are hours of footage live from the protest suggesting that it was peaceful.”
This article has been updated with new information since initial publication.
Editor’s note: A video (by student outlet Pi Media) of Miller shouting at protesters “the Home Office should follow you up” incorrectly subtitles the line as “lock you up.” This has now been corrected in this article.