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Israel bars our academics; why should we welcome Regev? Open in fullscreen

Amira Sakalla

Israel bars our academics; why should we welcome Regev?

Israel's UK ambassador Mark Regev spoke at SOAS on April 27 [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2017

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Blog: No more normalisation, no more circular debates. Israeli ambassador Mark Regev is not welcome at the School of Oriental and African Studies, writes Amira Sakalla.
The SOAS community, represented by over 40 student societies and 150 staff members, as well as supporters of Palestinian dignity and freedom from across London gathered in opposition against the visit of the Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev on Thursday. 

Following the announcement of Regev's visit to the London university, over 150 faculty members issued statements in opposition.

Mark Regev, previously the official spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is well known for his justification of war crimes in Gaza during the Occupation's onslaughts in 2009 and 2014.

"SOAS as a community completely rejects the use of our campus to host such an abhorrent individual to speak on behalf of a state that is enforcing a brutal military occupation, and engaged in forcible population transfer, colonialism and apartheid," the SOAS Community Statement read.

As Regev spoke at SOAS on Thursday evening, over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners continued their eleventh day of hunger strike.

Across the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians also went on strike in solidarity with their family members, friends, and fellow Palestinians inside Israeli prisons.

Proponents of Regev's presence at SOAS argue that "if we disagree on certain issues, we debate it, challenge it" and maintain open dialogue.

No more circular debates and no more normalisation.

The vote of over 70 percent for the academic boycott in 2015 is only one of many examples of how the SOAS community deals with anti-oppressive values.

My question is how long should we debate about a people's right to existence? Some of us do not have the privilege of time to waste.

The SOAS community has made it clear a number of times that there is no place for apologists for apartheid on our campus. It is very shameful that the vote for academic boycott, along with numerous statements from within the SOAS community have been ignored.

Additionally, the very repression of critical voices, Palestinian voices in particular, by the Israeli state has led to one of SOAS's very own scholars being banned from entering Palestine.

How ironic that Mark Regev was invited to our campus for an "academic discussion" when some of SOAS's own academics are excluded from free speech and students are at risk of being denied entry into Palestine under Israel's "BDS travel ban." 

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