Censorship battle and an antisemitic charge cause anger

Source: The Guardian

We write to express our deep concern at the actions of senior figures within the University of Manchester in relation to an event organised by the student Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign earlier this year (UK university censors Holocaust survivor’s speech criticising Israel, theguardian.com, 29 September). While the event went ahead, the speech of a Jewish Holocaust survivor was arrogantly censored and labelled antisemitic, the right to superintend the meeting by university academic staff was usurped by institutional appointees, restrictions were placed on advertising the event, and the whole thing was filmed in what amounted to an implicit threat of potential further action.

As if such serious infringements of the right to freedom of speech on campus were not bad enough, it is now revealed by a student freedom of information request that the university’s actions were taken after representations from, and in deference to, the very regime whose lamentable human rights record was being condemned at the event. We are appalled that the university appeared to take instruction from Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, who, in his former capacity as spokesperson to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justified to the world successive military assaults on Gaza that resulted in the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children in attacks on hospitals, homes and places of work using both high-precision weaponry and imprecise and indiscriminate materiel, including white phosphorous bombs.

We ask the university to apologise to the students whose campaign it has maligned, and to the censored speaker, Marika Sherwood, whom it has defamed. It should further make clear that it defends the principles of free speech and assembly against attempts to inhibit them by foreign states and other powerful external parties.

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