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Pro-Israel student howled down at Cardiff students’ union meeting

28 Nov 2023 6 minute read
A screenshot of Cardiff University Students’ Union’s annual general meeting

Martin Shipton

A right wing social media account with more than 800,000 followers has posted a video showing how a Cardiff University student who defended Israel’s right to defend itself following the October 7 Hamas terror attack was howled down at a students’ union meeting.

Visegrad 24 is based in Poland and named after the Hungarian town where Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic), Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia signed an agreement in 1991 to advance co-operation in military, economic, cultural and energy affairs. In recent years the Visegrad group of countries within the EU have been seen as forming a right wing, populist caucus.

The video posted on Visegrad 24’s X account is taken from a live stream of Cardiff University Students’ Union’s annual general meeting held on November 23.

It shows a student called Jake at the podium being told he has four minutes to speak. After introducing himself, he is immediately booed by some of the students present. He then speaks nervously, saying: “We all have different perspectives on the Israel – Palestine conflict. It’s a complex and challenging issue that affects the lives of many individuals in the region. Today I present my perspective on the motion for a ceasefire.”

Barracking

“When he says: “It is important to defend Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, a recognised terrorist organisation,” he comes in for further barracking. He continues: ”Hamas has shown a lack of consideration for peaceful settlements by developing their military operations in civilian areas, and refusing to recognise the possibility of a two-state solution. The horrors of Hamas extend beyond their attacks, on free speech, targeting political dissidents and suppressing the rights of women and LGBTQ individuals.”

At this point the noise of heckling grows, but Jake tries to continue, saying: “These actions contribute to suffering and the terrorist threat …” He is then howled down, with one student shouting out: “Can Jimmy Savile defend himself against the kids he raped?” A chant of “Free Free Palestine” then drowns out Jake’s words and he is escorted away from the podium.

Above the posted video is a comment from Visegrad 24 which says: “People don’t understand the scale of intimidation at Western universities against students supporting Israel … A student speaks against an anti-Israeli motion. He’s threatened off the stage.”

A Cardiff University source said: “The event was live streamed and the video shared is an edited version of the live stream. It does not necessarily represent the entire sequence of events. After a brief pause, the speaker continued to speak and individual(s) in the audience were asked to leave and, as I understand it, left.”

Cardiff University Students’ Union was invited to comment but has not done so.

Respect

Cardiff University did not wish to comment specifically on the incident, but pointed us to a statement issued last week to all students and staff which was headed: “Deputy Vice-Chancellor Damian Walford Davies emphasises the importance, at this time when tension and concern are running high, of treating one another with dignity and respect”.

The statement said: “One of the greatest strengths of our university community is its diversity. With that diversity come different views, different beliefs and different perspectives.

“This has been at the forefront of my mind as I, like many of you, watch the tragic events still unfolding in the Middle East, against a wider background of conflict around the globe. Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Wendy Larner has already written to you in relation to the distressing events of, and following, October 7. We are fully aware, and understand, the worries and concerns of our staff and students as the violence in Gaza continues.

“In this context, I wanted to remind our community – since that is precisely what it is and needs to be – of the absolute need to behave with dignity and respect to all. Our university must be a safe space. We will – all of us – adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to harassment and discrimination of all kinds. Some, no doubt, would wish the university to take up a clear position in relation to the conflict. It is out of principle that our emphasis is placed, in such communications as this, on the things that bind us together: staff and student safety and denouncing harassment and incitement in all its forms.

“It is Islamophobia Awareness Month, to which we rightly draw attention; at the same time, we make no distinction between one month and the other eleven, or between one form of discrimination and another. This includes antisemitism. We will call out and act on such behaviour when we see it.

“It is right, at the same time, that our commitment to freedom of speech within the law remains steadfast. Should you experience any harassment or discrimination, we strongly encourage you to report it immediately.”

Freedom of speech

A spokesperson for Cardiff University Students’ Union said: “The Students’ Union Annual General Meeting (AGM) is one of the largest student democratic meetings in the UK, with nearly 1,000 students in attendance to discuss key issues and debate topics put forward by the student community.

“We take our responsibility to uphold freedom of speech very seriously and in preparation for the AGM many actions were undertaken to ensure students were aware of their role in ensuring that the meeting could be conducted respectfully. However, as students were informed freedom of speech is not absolute and we are committed to act against any behaviours that lead to hate or discrimination, whether in our democratic meetings or in wider SU activity.

“During the meeting, some students gave emotive speeches during some of the motion debates. We recognise the strength of feeling and sensitivities surrounding some of the topics discussed and the Chair of the meeting set out to ensure that all speakers were heard as well as encouraging the crowd to be respectful and listen to speakers.

“It is important to clarify that the clip from the meeting does not present an accurate account of the evening as a whole. The Chair asked the speaker to step away from the microphone for a short period of time to protect the speakers’ allotted time whilst the meeting was brought back to order, they were then permitted to resume their speech.

“The Students’ Union will continue to work to ensure that the student community is a safe and welcome place for all and any student impacted by the AGM should reach out to SU’s Student Advice team.”


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
2 months ago

‘PEACEFUL settlements’? In many cases, these settlements were built after the bulldozing of Palestinian homes often with the occupants inside them. I am way more than just a little bit tired of these actions of ethnic cleansing being defended and legitimised by speakers like this.

Catherine
Catherine
2 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

…I agree… I have also noticed how the issue of “Free Speech” and “Diversity of Opinions” is only ever trotted out to defend The Right Wing of political discourse. Its sinister and extremely dangerous.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 months ago
Reply to  Catherine

Er you don’t have to be ‘right wing’ to condemn Hamas and their murderous actions in Israel on October 7th. As a matter of fact – with its hatred of women, LGBT+ people and socialists – Hamas’ is a extremely right wing organisation itself

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
2 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Had the IDF which is one of the most consistent military machines in the world been monitoring the Gaza Israel border then the actions of October 7th may not have happened.
Could it be that they were more preoccupied in assisting Zionist settler militia with the removal of Palestinian people from their own homes in The West Bank.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Not quite sure how israel itself can be blamed for the slaughter of over one thousand of its civilians by hamas terrorists on october 7th. But it’s perhaps telling that there’s no condemnation of hamas’ murderous actions in your post

Alun
Alun
2 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Both things can be true at the same time. No, absolutely nothing can justify the actions of the extreme right Hamas terrorists but the IDF and the Netanyahu government have utterly failed to provide the most basic protection for their citizens. And yes, their pre-occupation with making a Palestinian state unviable in the West Bank may well be the reason for that.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Nothing justifies the slaughter of over 1000 civilians in Israel by Hamas’ terrorists on October 7th.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
2 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Nothing I’ve said attempts to justify it. I suspect you have replied to the wrong person.

Riki
Riki
2 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Yep, “if I don’t steal it, someone else will”. The infamous words of a Zionist settler who demanded the house of a native Palestinian.

Erisian
Erisian
2 months ago

…. And had deduced the existance of income tax and rice pudding before all the memory circuits had been connected…

Duhhh.

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
2 months ago

He deserved a hearing and then be debated on his points (all of which I disagree with).
He didn’t seem an extremist. Just a bit one-eyed in his views.
I agree with the students in the audience, but you change more minds with reasoned debate than with barracking.
Not far right minds, which don’t care about truth, but maybe this guy’s.
Instead its just been used by a far right site to fuel the fash movement’s sense of eternal grievance. And the culture wars roll on.

Richard E
Richard E
2 months ago

It’s so sad these untra groups are using peoples genuine concern and feeling for the Gaza Residents nightmare and the ordinary Hebrew peoples wish to live their lives for their own agendas. The mixture of an extreme element in Israel’s coalition, their attempts to gag their own High Court and s PM facing criminal charges with the Terror attacks by a range of groups in Gaza just plays into the narrative of intolerance. The truth of the matter is of course the old imperialist states of England and France through their double dealing and Oil thirst set the groundwork for… Read more »

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