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Issue 1849 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London


Keep the Cat Free


Imperial bans anti-Zionist slogans

Decision comes after complaints about ‘Siamo Tutti Antisionisti’ plaque on Gaza solidarity encampment.

Encampment Slogans Photo: Jamie John for Felix

News

in Issue 1849

Representatives of the Queen’s Lawn encampment on Imperial’s South Kensington campus questioned the university’s commitment to freedom of speech after they were banned from using slogans containing references to Zionism.

Activists at the encampment were told on Thursday that they would not be allowed to display signs containing ‘the word(s) “Zionist”, “Zionism”, “Zio” and alternative spellings’.

A member of Imperial’s security team informed campers that they would have to remove a plaque that read ‘Siamo Tutti Antisionisti’ (‘We are all anti-Zionists’). The slogan has been used in pro-Palestinian protests in Italy and references an older catchphrase used in the country – ‘Siamo Tutti Antifascisti’ (‘We are all anti-fascists’).

The security officer said that Imperial’s legal department had ordered the plaque’s removal, after complaints were sent to Imperial President Hugh Brady.

A written instruction supplied to the officer said: ‘We have received several complaints from members of staff and others who consider the use of these words to be antisemitic, harassing and upsetting. The University has therefore decided that the banners using this language must be removed and must not be replaced.’

Encampment activists were given half an hour to remove the plaque, but upon the security officer’s return, had created replica plaques in several other languages including Tamil and Mandarin.

The officer informed students that their actions would be reported to the College, and that they could face disciplinary action.

The encampment representatives accused Imperial of conducting “damage control” in its response rather than following a set of procedures. They said that the encampment had displayed signs expressing their opposition to Zionism for several months, but that it was only on Thursday that they had been asked to remove them.

“[Imperial] only cared after they got a complaint, so they’re not doing anything based on a set framework. If they’re opposed to our politics, they can say so, but they aren’t even willing to do that.”

Students pitched tents on Queen’s Lawn two weeks ago after a meeting with Imperial failed to yield the commitments they had asked of the university.

A day later, a group of students stood nearby on Queen’s Lawn and waved the flag of Israel.

They said that pro-Palestinian activists were discriminating by “singling out of the Jewish state for boycott” – a charge strongly rejected by protestors at Imperial.

Activists at the encampment have called Zionism ‘a political movement that to this day employs policies of apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, colonialism, and genocide.’

The group IC Action for Palestine, which helped establish the encampment, has called for the ‘full exclusion of Zionists on campus.’

The flag-bearers rejected such descriptions of Zionism. One said: “For many Jewish students, Zionism is Jewish nationalism, it’s the hope to be in our homeland, it’s the thing we pray about three times a day.”

On 7th October, Hamas launched attacks on Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking a further 252 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

Over 36,000 people have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory attacks in Gaza since then, according to Palestinian officials from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The university did not respond to a request for comment.

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