Members of LSE protest during and following Benny Morris speaker event

By Solomon Westmancott

The LSE community responded to an event held by the LSE Law Department, demonstrating against the arrival of Israeli historian Benny Morris. On Tuesday 5 March, LSE students gathered in front of the Cheng Kin Ku (CKK) building in protest. Organised primarily by the LSESU Palestine Society, the demonstration spoke out against Morris’s views on Zionism, Islam, and the Arab World; attendees expressed their disappointment that the event had been allowed to go ahead.

According to a representative of The Beaver, around 200 protestors arrived at 5:15 pm. The organisers distributed face masks and shared advice on staying safe as a group in light of the recent tightening of protest laws. There were a variety of chants during the demonstration, calling for a “free Palestine” and “ceasefire”, alongside two drummers. 

Chants were also directed at Morris, whom the protesters accused of being complicit in genocide. Between the chants, speakers expressed their anger at Morris, the LSE Law Department, and the LSE funds team, calling out their direct and indirect involvement in the Israeli occupation, as observed by a representative of The Beaver

A representative of The Beaver described the mood amongst protesters as bittersweet: organisers and protesters stated they felt proud of the numbers and passion of the protesters, but were disappointed that the event was necessary. 

The Beaver representative spoke to several attendees of the protest. One protester described Morris as a “horrible, disgusting man”, and another said that his presence made them “feel threatened”. Another said that the timing of the event – in reference to the current conflict – felt “intentional”, and that it seemed like LSE was “making a statement”. 

One protester described this as an “obsession with anti-wokeness,” critiquing the LSE Law Department’s labelling of the event as “academic freedom”. Another felt that the event went past academic freedom, stating that the rights for “the existence of humans should not be debated”.

During the event, Morris responded to an attendee calling him a “racist” by stating that he would “rather be a racist than a bore”, causing cries of discontent from the audience, as well as an improvised chant based on his response. A video of this was shared by Middle East Eye, gaining over 100,000 likes and over 3000 comments. The event and protest were also covered by The Daily Mail Online and The Tab.

Concern around the event was not limited to the student body; the LSE UCU branch “sent a letter to the SMC to raise concerns about the advertised Law School hosting Benny Morris”, citing “ethically unacceptable positions on ethnic cleansing, and virulent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments”. This was supported by LSE Law Professor Conor Gearty, who stated he was “strongly opposed to this visit by this person”.

Benny Morris spoke previously at LSE in 2011, shortly after he had been denied the same right at Cambridge University for being Islamophobic, and students not wanting to “give racism a platform”. He also faced protests in 2011; he described several members of the ”mob” as having “newly acquired English”.

An LSE spokesperson has responded to the controversy surrounding the event, stating: “Free speech and freedom of expression underpin everything we do at LSE. Students, staff and visitors are strongly encouraged to discuss and debate the most pressing issues around the world.

LSE has clear policies in place to ensure the facilitation of debates and enable all members of our community to refute ideas lawfully, and to protect individual’s rights to freedom of expression within the law. This is formalised in our Code of Practice on Free Speech and in our Ethics Code.”

Solomon reports on the protest for the arrival of controversial Israeli historian Benny Morris


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