Exclusive: KCL Israel society cancelled event tickets for safety reasons and deny any racism allegations
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A King's College London student society are accusing their peers of cancelling tickets 'on a racist basis.'
Last Sunday, King's Action Palestine Society posted a statement alleging that the Israel Society 'actively' discriminated against and racially profiled ticket holders with Muslim or racially marginalised names.
Whilst denying accusations of racism, a spokesperson for KCL's Israel Society told TNS that they did cancel tickets of those "likely to disrupt."
The event in question - discussing whether Israel ignores international humanitarian law - took place the following Monday with Colonel Eli Baron, the former Deputy Military Advocate General for the IDF as a guest speaker.
KCLAP described it as a 'very shallow attempt' at impartiality since Baron, the only external speaker present, has a 'vested interest in denying the abuse of Palestinian human rights.'
The group expressed their disappointment at King's for allowing the former general onto campus.
KCL Israel Society claimed on the email sent out to students that tickets to the event were cancelled 'due to an overcapacity issue.'
However, KCLAP refutes this statement, saying the Eventbrite page remained open for more bookings.
They published screenshots of the booking confirmation email received on the 22nd of February. A few days later on February 24th and 26th, KCL Israel Society advertised remaining spaces on their Facebook page.
Eight days later, cancellation emails were sent out to students citing overcapacity issues.
Members of KCLAP allegedly went on to successfully purchase additional tickets via the Eventbrite bookings page some sixteen minutes after the cancellation email was received.
In their statement, KCLAP accused the Israel Society of using "blatant racial profiling... to invalidate the tickets of predominantly Muslim and racially marginalised students, despite these students having booked their tickets long in advance and prior to others who have been allowed to attend.
"Simon Moos, President of KCL Israel Society, has stated that this is due to "an overcapacity issue," yet the Eventbrite page to book tickets remained open even after students had their tickets taken from them, with other students successfully being able to book tickets at this time.
"It is undeniably clear based on name alone, KCL Israel Society has chosen students that they do not want to participate in their event.
"This discriminatory practice has equated these names with criticisms of Israel that the society wishes to ignore, and has assumed that having a traditionally Muslim name is inherently synonymous with being an opponent of the society."
Speaking exclusively to TNS, Simon Moos denied accusations of racism but said he profiled social media pages of students and cancelled tickets of those he deemed “likely to disrupt."
He told TNS that some ticket holders “were Irish, some of them English, some of them were Asian. The vast majority of the people in the group we judged and were likely to disrupt were Arabs, but that is not our fault.
"I opened the ticket list and saw that many people started to buy tickets and many were from KCL Action Palestine. I knew that these people don’t even want their supporters to talk to us. They didn't take tickets to listen peacefully to the colonel of the IDF. I had to be a bit careful with this.
"I started to profile check every single attendee of the event through Facebook, looking at what pages every ticket-holder liked, to evaluate the preferences of every ticket holder. If they liked ‘Antifa’ group among other worrying things, I knew that people were going to disrupt from KCL Action Palestine. They were buying a lot of tickets.
"Many people bought tickets at the same time and that meant to me that there was a plan and the plan was not to listen peacefully to a colonel of the IDF but the plan was to disrupt the event.”
Simon says he made a list of every person he deemed 'problematic.' In total, close to 60 tickets were cancelled. A spokesperson for the Israel Society confirmed to TNS that King's security team allegedly 'recommended' that they cancel tickets.
Due to the apprehension of violence and hostility, the event location was not released beforehand. Ticket holders were informed of the location on the day of the event.
The relationship between the two societies remains strained because of past hostilities.
In 2015, police were called to a KCL Israel Society event after protestors broke windows and threw chairs.
The Israel Society discovered protest plans when Vice-President Albert Tamman attended an open meeting held by KCL Action for Palestine and was later added into the Whatsapp group chat.
He used his nickname Al at the door but insists that at no point did he 'lie to anyone to get into the groupchat or the meeting.'
Albert informed TNS that half an hour of the meeting was spent 'talking about tactics and strategies to disturb our event. When a student proposed engaging in a peaceful dialogue, the rest of the committee quickly silenced her idea.'
Messages on the Whatsapp group named KCLAP action 4th of March revealed plans to 'smuggle' people into the event and hand out leaflets.
Members asked each other whether anyone had 'links in SU' in order to find out which room KCL Israel Society had booked.
The group also discussed filing a discrimination claim against KCL Israel Society with one asking whether the society only cancelled holders with 'ethnic names.'
However, Simon categorically argues that 'there was no discrimination on the basis of names, there was only discrimination on the basis of the nature of their preferences, our personal experience and on their membership of a group that was meant to disrupt the event."
Responding to Simon's statement, KCLAP said it simply "sums up their point."
They told TNS that “considering the disproportionate amount of people of colour and Muslims who had tickets revoked it’s clear racial profiling was a factor, especially when we know for a fact that Muslims and people of colour who weren’t in our group chat also had their tickets cancelled.”
The KCL Action Palestine admitted the existence of the Whatsapp group and meeting, saying they “made it clear that disruption was specifically aimed at challenging the speaker,” with plans to quote human rights violations before walking out of the event.
They called the event “unacceptable” and an “insult” to Palestinian students.
“For the KCL Israel Society to imply that this question requires further discussion is shameful."
They said Muslim students who attended the event were made to feel unwelcome with one female attendee allegedly getting access “because her name on the ticket wasn’t indicative of her religion.”
Another attendee, who allegedly did not use her full name whilst booking the ticket, was allegedly asked to remove her Keffiyeh (a checkered cultural scarf) "for no apparent reason" according to KCLAP.
However, Simon claims that the event had a strict clothing policy specified in the email sent out to attendees.
Simon says hostile dialogue was encouraged and denied any racism, justifying ticket cancellations on the basis of past difficulties with the group.
“Unfortunately at King’s College, it is impossible to have a debate with a student-led society that represents the interest of the Palestinian Arab identity,” he said, adding he would like the current society to be dismantled and replaced.
KCL Israel Society's Vice-President said that whilst he knows 'that group of people can be violent' he still feels 'comfortable' on campus.
He believes the problem is that KCLAP's goal is to "disturb our events and you cannot base a society on this. Although I think it's important to have a society that helps the Palestinian cause, I don't think that removing KCLAP would be good."
Albert suggested that KCLAP should be "sanctioned" until they "stop disturbing and actually do proper events."
KCLAP, however, says they challenge the Israel Societies “problematic events” but don’t see the point in a relationship between the two.
Both societies have said they will or already have reported the other to the university.
A King’s College London spokesperson said:
‘We promote Freedom of Expression within the law as a university which is one of our core purposes even when debate and points of view are controversial.
‘This includes protecting the right to protest, but not to disrupt the ability of others to express a different view. Prior to the event the university received credible evidence of a plan to disrupt this event, and we consequently took the exceptional step of making the event a closed rather than public event, with final control over admittance delegated to the organising student society.
‘This was an exceptional measure but justified in the circumstances, in order to ensure that both the event and protests could take place in a safe and secure manner.’
Image credit: KCL Israel Society, KCL Action Palestine and Poppet with a Camera
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