Following student efforts at the University of California, Berkeley to cancel a commencement address by comedian and vocal critic of jihadist Islam Bill Maher, pro-Palestinian students at the prestigious King’s College in London appealed to the student union to stop a former Israel Defense Forces officer from presenting his perspective on the Middle East conflict in a campus speech.
Hen Mazzig, 25, a former IDF lieutenant who is now Israel education director with the pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, told TheBlaze that critics of Israel tried to have his invitation by the campus pro-Israel society pulled by invoking the “Safe Space Policy” that dictates that invited speakers “must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law,” “are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism” and “must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups.”
Mazzig told TheBlaze by telephone from London Wednesday that he became aware of the efforts to silence him when he received an email detailing complaints to the student union that labeled him a “threat” and included the unfounded allegation that he was involved in murdering Palestinians.
“It was horrible to just read it,” Mazzig said. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading.”
Mazzig provided TheBlaze quotes from the complaints that were conveyed to him, including one that said: “Not only will Mazzig's presence on campus alienate and threaten our Palestinian students but it will also offend students adhering to pacifist beliefs."
Another warned that Mazzig would engage in a “subtle” attempt to promote the Israeli point of view: “Of course, I know this man isn't going to come in and declare his love of seeing the blood of Palestinians; it is much more subtle than that. It is a PR stunt that needs to be tempered with healthy debate so King's does not become a platform for false propaganda.”
“It really is unacceptable for someone who actively partook in the recent massacre (or any of the attacks on Palestinians) to be allowed to speak at our university,” another complaint read.
Mazzig served for five years in the IDF's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, which works with the Palestinian Authority and aid organizations on civilian issues in the West Bank and Gaza, including medical care for Palestinian patients and delivering materials to businesses.
Mazzig told TheBlaze that during the summer hostilities with Hamas, he served in the reserves with his IDF unit, specifically working with the U.N. and NGOs on humanitarian issues related to Gaza.
“Who has a right to speak — and does anyone not deserve this right? Does it count as free speech when someone shares their life story? And is it hate speech when a nation is demonized — while its national rights are consistently challenged by boycotts, propaganda and sheer lies?” Mazzig wrote in a blog post for the Times of Israel.
“These [pro-Israel] students specifically requested to share the story of an Israeli who worked to save lives of civilians from ‘the other side.’ But these students were attacked for that; attacked by bigotry and racism,” Mazzig wrote.
Mazzig pointed out the irony that King’s College is known for its Department of War Studies, yet “only the presence of an Israeli will ‘offend’ pacifists.”
This 25 year old Israeli — whose family were ethnically cleansed from Iraq and N. Africa in the 50’s for being Jewish — is a threat.
This young man — who at the age of 12, was almost blown up in an ice cream shop by a Palestinian terrorist — is a threat.
This 18 year old teenager — who chose to serve in the Humanitarian unit of the Israeli army (instead of combat unit), because he wanted to help bring peace closer– is a threat.
This 21 years young second Lt. who saved the life of a Palestinian kid from Gaza, (and even coordinated the reunion with his family in Ramallah), is a threat. […]
Not Hamas, the terror group, who bombarded his home and family with more than 20,000 rockets in 8 years. Not the tens of thousands of people marching down the streets of London calling to ‘bring down Israel.’ Not the BDS movement calling to boycott Israel based on lies and propaganda. Not the extremists who want to enforce a fundamentalist interpretation of sharia law across Britain (who by the way, often speak at King’s College). The Student Union in KCL is afraid of Hen Mazzig. They are afraid of me.
“I have never killed anyone — but my character has been assassinated by KCLSU [KCL student union]. I was found guilty of being Israeli,” Mazzig wrote. “For these bigoted students who seek to shut down free speech, my existence is a crime.”
“They have no idea about my beliefs, my experiences or what I plan to speak about — yet I am still guilty of whatever they accuse me of,” he added.
Mazzig told TheBlaze that after the complaints didn’t stop him from speaking, pro-Palestinian students tried to block his message another way. The activists arrived early Monday evening, filling about half the room.
“For them it was a way to make sure my story was not heard by other students who care,” he said.
Mazzig told TheBlaze that before he began speaking, college administrators took him aside to inform him that he not “say anything racist.”
“They had to brief me about what I wanted to say. That was ridiculous. I came to King’s College to share the story of my life there’s nothing racist or inflammatory about the story of my life,” Mazzig told TheBlaze.
As he was wrapping up his talk, several dozen students stood raising Palestinian flags and signs, some with tape over their mouths, and then began leaving the room.
Mazzig appealed to them to stay put and open a dialogue.
“Guys, if we won’t discuss those things we’ll never achieve peace. You don’t understand that you just push peace away?” he said, as seen in video of the event posted online by King's College pro-Palestinian group KCL Action Palestine.
KCL Action Palestine said in a statement following Mazzig’s speech that it would also work to ban U.S. military personnel from speaking on campus.
“As he spoke about rockets being launched into Israel during the latest massacre with a map on the background which did not even recognize the existence of the West Bank, students stood up with flags, keffiyehs and the names of families of those murdered in the summer and recently in the West Bank,” KCL Action Palestine wrote.
“In the same way that pro-Palestinian student activists at KCL staged this protest, similar actions would have been staged at a member of the U.S. Army speaking at KCL,” it wrote. “Members of the armed forces who have engaged in occupation and killings are highly controversial speakers that even organizations such as Amnesty International do not welcome in our campus.”
Mazzig last year detailed some of his experiences on U.S. campuses where he was once described by anti-Israel activists as a Nazi and a rapist, descriptions he called “absurd.”
Here are excerpts of the protest posted by the pro-Palestinian group: