LSE students interrupt lecture and call for ‘racist’ Israeli historian to be kicked off campus

Benny Morris said ‘I’d rather be a racist than a bore’ after students protested in his lecture last week

LSE students disrupted a lecture by the Israeli historian Benny Morris last week, calling for his removal from the campus.

Invited by the LSE Law Department, Morris delivered a public lecture on “Rethinking 1948 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” on 4th March, which was met with protesting students both within the lecture and outside the building where it took place.

Several protesters interrupted Morris during the speaking engagement, accusing him of racism and citing his previous comments on Palestine, to which he responded: “I’d rather be a racist than a bore”, Daily Mail reports.

During the lecture, several students also heckled Morris and challenged his views, with one student saying: “You are violating the discrimination, harassment and bullying policy of this school. You are in violation. You are endangering your Palestinian students.”

In a video shared on X, a student can be seen stood up and directing speech towards Morris, claiming he called Arabs a “time bomb”. Morris can be heard replying to the anonymous student saying: “You’re boring. You’re actually quite boring.”

As the student continues to read claims aloud, another student says to Morris: “You are actually quite racist” to which Morris responds: “I’d rather be a racist than a bore.”

Multiple students interrupted the lecture to quote Morris’ previous claims and explain their disappointment in LSE’s Dean David Kershaw, saying “you have failed your students” and calling for “hate speech” and “racism off campus”.

Following Morris’ rebuttal to their criticism, protesters took up new chants of “he’d rather be a racist than a bore” and “shame”, disrupting the event multiple times by and banging on desks. Several students were asked to leave and removed from the lecture theatre by David Kershaw.

In addition to protests inside the lecture theatre, pro-Palestinian students staged a protest outside the building, banging drums and chanting “Free, free Palestine” and “Apartheid off campus. Benny Morris off campus.”

This is not the first time that Morris’ speaking engagements have caused controversy. His previous guest invitation to LSE in 2011 also sparked protests on the streets of London by human rights activists.

Morris has previously made controversial comments regarding his views on Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, including “there are times in history that justify ethnic cleansing”.  He has also claimed that in Islam, “human life doesn’t have the same value”, and described Palestinian people as “wild animals”.

More recently, Morris’ scheduled lecture at the University of Cambridge was cancelled over concerns expressed by the Islamic and Pakistan Societies that he is a “islamophobic hate speaker.”

Several parties at LSE had criticised the university’s decision to platform the academic last week.

A representative from LSE’s Palestine Society expressed concern at the Law School’s invitation of Morris.

They said: “Morris’ unapologetic statements about Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims clearly constitute hate speech, and by platforming him, the Law School and the LSE as a whole are failing in their duty of care towards students and staff vulnerable to racism and Islamophobia.”

The LSE branch of the Universities College Union, which represents academic staff at the university, had also challenged Morris’ invitation to speak.

It sent a letter to senior management “to raise concerns about the advertised Law School event hosting Benny Morris on March 4th 2024, given his ethically unacceptable positions on ethnic cleansing, and virulent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments.”

In an email sent to students, Dean David Kershaw defended the decision to host Morris and to eject protesting students from the lecture.

He described his pride in the department for having “convened a balanced discussion on the current political conflict”, describing his role as “creat(ing) a space for everyone from all sides to speak.”

LSE defended the Law School’s hosting of Benny Morris, citing their commitment to free speech.

A spokesperson said: “On Monday 4th March, the LSE Law School hosted the historian and academic Benny Morris on ‘Rethinking 1949 and the Israeli Palestinian conflict.’

“Despite some protests, the event took place as planned with Dr Morris speaking and taking questions from the LSE audience.

“Free speech and freedom of expression underpins everything we do at LSE. Students, staff and visitors are strongly encouraged to discuss and debate the most pressing issues around the world, but this must be in a mutually respectful manner.Despite calls for the event to be withdrawn, our staff worked hard to ensure the discussion could take place safely and in full.”

Benny Morris has been contacted for comment. 

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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons