Mark Regev Mark Regev. Photo: Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office

As Mark Regev prepares to speak at SOAS later this month, students have called a protest against his proposed visit

Palestinian students and student societies across SOAS have called a protest on 27 April in response to the proposed visit of Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. Many staff and students are particularly incensed that management has entered direct negotiations with the Embassy, despite the fact that the visit was initially proposed by two students societies: the UN Society and the Jewish Society.
SOAS management has also agreed to have the Israeli Embassy control security for the event, including allowing the Embassy to take details of everyone entering the meeting. Palestinian students wrote a letter to management outlining their concerns over free speech and safety, which was ignored.
Over one hundred staff members have signed a letter to management strongly opposing the event, and any event that takes place on campus and seeks to normalise the actions of the Israeli state or any other repressive regime. The letter also affirms solidarity with the Palestinian people and in the fight for justice. Here we reprint the statement prepared by student societies at SOAS, and support the call to protest on 27 April at 4pm opposing the presence of Mark Regev on campus.

It has come to our attention that the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, will be coming to SOAS on the 27th of April at 19:00. Mr 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 besieged Gaza Strip, including the many violations of human rights and international law carried out throughout these operations.   

Firstly, Mr Regev will be speaking at our University as an official representative of the Israeli state, not in a personal capacity. He is being given the cover of an academic setting to put forward official state positions on the on-going expansion of illegal settlements, the siege of Gaza, land thefts, and discriminatory laws imposed on Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is not an academic debate, informed by fact and reason, it is an official exercise in state propaganda.  

This comes flying in the face of a landslide (73%) SOAS vote that included the entire SOAS community, contract staff, academic staff and students, in favour of endorsing the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) guidelines, explicitly state the refusal to host official representatives of the Israeli state.   

The response to the announcement of the event only confirms the SOAS community’s stance. For example, over 100 members of the academic staff have already signed a statement rejecting Mr Regev’s presence on campus. 

Secondly, through allowing this event to take place, the school is failing to uphold its basic duty of care to staff and students, Palestinians in particular. Israel’s latest “anti-boycott law” stipulates that individuals (both foreign nationals and Palestinians who hold foreign passports) who publicly support the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) for justice and equality, can be banned entry into the country.   

This law is a blatant breach of free speech and academic freedom. It puts SOAS community in an extremely precarious situation, especially since a number of current staff and students have been denied entry into Israel/Palestine. This is despite the repeated efforts by the school to address these questions of academic freedom. Additionally, this law is yet another example of many attempts to dehumanise Palestinian narratives and criminalise movements and individuals striving to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law and human rights. 

The environment created by this event is unsafe for Palestinian students, many of whom have suffered directly at the hands of the Israeli security services. The Ambassador will be accompanied by  armed  embassy  security  personnel (whether the arms are concealed or carried openly). Many students fear for their safety with Israeli security personnel roaming our campus. Palestinian staff and students would be subject to the same questioning and searching they suffered living under military occupation in Palestine should they attend a public event.

Thirdly, SOAS management cannot guarantee that this event will take place within the acceptable boundaries of academic freedom and free speech, free from intimidation of all participants. The School has ignored a letter of concern by Palestinian students who asked how the School proposes to guarantee that information about attendees will not be passed on to the embassy through the ticketing mechanism, and how the School proposes to deal with the presence of armed security personnel on  campus. It is completely abhorrent that SOAS administration has stated that this visit can go ahead without consulting Palestinian students and staff as part of the risk assessment for the event. Effectively excluding Palestinians from this event.  

Indeed, in their latest correspondence to staff, SOAS management claims to be upholding the right to free speech while also taking into account the concerns of all those affected by the event. It is clear that this is not the case as SOAS administration has effectively ignored letters from staff and Palestinian students and refused to engage with Palestinian students especially.

In response, the SOAS community calls on all students, trade unionists, and concerned individuals who believe in the importance of democracy, the right to academic freedom, educational environments free from intimidation and physical threats, and justice for the Palestinian people to join the ‘Apartheid Off Campus’ day on the 27th April in the afternoon at SOAS. A day where the SOAS community will celebrate its diversity and struggles with teach-outs on resistance movements, the situation in Palestine and their relevance in the UK today from 16:00.   

Signed:  •  SOAS Decolonising Our Minds Society •  SOAS Justice For Cleaners •  SOAS Fractionals For Fair Pay •  SOAS Labour Society •  NUS Black Student Campaign  •  SOAS LGBTQ Society •  SOAS Syria Society •  SOAS Palestine Society •  SOAS Israel Society •  SOAS Islamic Society  •  SOAS Iraqi Society •  SOAS Ahlubayt Islamic Society •  SOAS Transnational Diplomacy Association •  SOAS Men’s Football Club •  SOAS Against Human Trafficking •  SOAS Canadian Society •  SOAS Kashmir Solidarity Movement •  SOAS Afghan Society •  SOAS Teach First Society •  SOAS Albanian Society •  SOAS Martial Arts Society •  SOAS Spoken Word Society •  SOAS Kurdish Society •  SOAS MENA Society •  SOAS Goes to Calais •  SOAS Ceilidh Band •  SOAS Herb Society •  SOAS Origami society •  SOAS Shia Theology Society •  SOAS East Africa Network •  SOAS Yemen society •  SOAS India Society •  SOAS Mehfil e Urdu