Several weeks ago, I was emailed an invitation to speak alongside Noam Chomsky in Cardiff, in March. The organisers also asked if I would give a talk at Cardiff University the following day; I happily agreed to both proposals.
Yesterday, I got call from Ghaith Jayousi, who had invited me to Cardiff, to inform me that his University had refused to host the event, due to “security concerns coming from higher channels”.
“Most room bookings for public events at Cardiff University usually take 24 hours to be confirmed,” Ghaith told me. “We submitted a room booking request for your talk on March 13th, in Cardiff University Main Building, Large Shandon Theatre. The response was delayed for a few weeks before we were told that the University would not host the event. The reasons presented to us initially were that there were security concerns coming from ‘higher channels’ that the University couldn’t do anything about. When pressuring them they said they could hold the event in the main building, but we would have to pay a fee to fund security arrangements. When we agreed to doing that, they said it would not be possible even if we paid the money.”
Apparently, the problems do not end there. When inviting Professor Chomsky to speak at the university, organisers were informed by the Student Union Manager that the MI5, the MI6 and the police would be contacted to monitor Chomsky’s lecture and its guests. They were also told that if the event was open to the public, security would have to monitor the identities of every single attendee.
Organising events has not always been such a hassle at Cardiff University. When Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UK, and former commander of the IDF’s artillery division, was invited to speak in April 2010, the university agreed to host the event with no cost to the organisers. How I am bigger ‘security threat’ than a former IDF commander, the same IDF who stand accused by the United Nations of committing “actions amounting to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” in Gaza, is beyond me.
This is hypocrisy of epic proportions, and an attack on legitimate freedom of speech. Universities should be home to political debate and discussion, not war propagandists. It’s a shame that the authorities at Cardiff University are failing to recognise that.
Nevertheless, I will be speaking in Cardiff on March 13th, university or no university. Everyone is welcome to come along, even Mr. Prosor if he wishes.