BME Network calls on UoB Tories to cancel talk by Israeli General
BME Network say event is ‘legitimising Islamaphobia and racism’
Bristol SU BME Network have condemned tonight's Conservative Association event saying it legitimises "Islamaphobia and racism."
They are also calling for students to sign an open letter requesting the event's cancellation.
Over 280 students, academics and workers have now signed the open letter.
Academics, students, workers, we need your support!@BristolSUBME @BristolUni are yet again legitimising Islamophobia and racism by allowing two racists Col. Richard Kemp and Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser (IDF) speak on campus.
Sign this open letter:https://t.co/8Fc3KoYM9O
— Bristol SU BME Network (@BristolSUBME) February 7, 2020
Along with other groups, Bristol SU BME Network are also hosting a protest prior to the event.
The event will consider the military alliance between the U.K. and Israel.
Speaking at the event are Former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp CBE, and former chief of the research division of the Israeli Defence Forces's Military Intelligence, Yossi Kuperwasser.
The open letter asserts that both key speakers are "racists", saying: “An event of this calibre is deeply concerning and inflammatory to all anti-racists on campus, and most importantly Muslim and Palestinian students who are targeted by this event.”
The letter adds: “We do not understand how this event managed to pass a risk assessment.
"By allowing these racists a platform to speak on campus, the University is perpetuating Islamophobia and neglecting their duty of care to Muslim and Palestinian students, the SU is contradicting its own policy by ignoring the adopted APPG definition [of islamaphobia], and both are legitimising and glorifying Israeli and British war crimes in the Middle East.”
Bristol University Conservative association were keen to defend the event.
A spokesperson for the student-run society said: "BUCA sought and received approval for Colonel Kemp CBE and General Kuperwasser to speak at the University of Bristol.
"At all times it respected and obeyed the policies of both the Student Union and the University of Bristol.
"The Conservative Party has long supported Israel’s right to defend itself and the close bilateral relationship between our states has saved numerous lives through intelligence cooperation.
"The results of the 2019 General Election demonstrate that this is a relationship a majority of Britons would like to be maintained.
"To suggest any link between Colonel Kemp and the Trump Peace Deal or white nationalist posters appearing on campus is completely false.
"We will not take lectures on Israel from individuals who have called for Israel to “cease to exist” and hosted inflammatory speakers."
Questions surrounding free speech on university campus have become increasingly prevalent.
Just last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson outlined his view that universities should do more to protect free speech on campus.
In an article published in The Times, Williamson writes: "The right to civil and non-violent protest is sacrosanct.
"However, intimidation, violence or threats of violence are crimes.
"Universities must make clear that intimidation is unacceptable and show a zero-tolerance approach to the perpetrators, applying strong sanctions and working with police where appropriate to secure prosecutions."
Although free speech is something unis are keen to uphold, the open letter adds: “Racism, hate-speech and xenophobic rhetoric should never masquerade as free speech.”
A spokesperson for Bristol SU said: "We are aware of the event being held with Colonel Richard Kemp and Yossi Kuperwasser by The Bristol University Conservative Association.
"As a charity we are bound to uphold the law and allow freedom of expression, even where our views may differ from the speakers.
"The views of the speakers invited are not those of Bristol SU.
"We have made the society aware of our concerns and instructed them to take steps to ensure the event runs safely.
"Bristol SU's societies are bound by our code of conduct and we have reminded them of their obligations.”