UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has warned City University London that it acted illegally in failing to take steps to secure a meeting of its Israel Society to be addressed by Israel’s Ambassador, Mark Regev, and by refusing permission for a meeting of its Jewish Society to be addressed by another Israeli speaker.
UKLFI has demanded a public admission by the University that it acted illegally and an undertaking to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure freedom of speech at meetings of its Israel and Jewish Societies, as well as exemplary damages to be donated to charity.
UKLFI has written to Professor Sir Paul Curran, President of City University of London, setting out its concerns. The letter also refers to an earlier occasion in which a lecture by Professor Yoram Dinstein, a leading Israeli expert on international law, was cancelled on a pretext of “scheduling difficulties”.
The meeting with Mark Regev was cancelled on Police advice when the University refused to allow those wishing to attend to be checked with a hand-held scanner for weapons. The University had earlier endorsed its student union’s refusal to hand over a list of ticket holders so that they could be vetted, on the ground that this would contravene data protection law.
UKLFI’s letter disputes the data protection point, referring to exceptions in Article 6(1)(d) and 6(1)(f) of the GDPR that permit transfer of personal data necessary to protect vital or legitimate interests.
However, even if the University was right on this point, UKLFI observes that the scanning of those wishing to attend was a reasonably practicable step which the University was legally obliged to take in order to ensure that freedom of speech was secured for the visiting speaker, as required by section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986.
The University refused permission for the meeting of the Jewish Society with Israeli speaker, Charlotte Korchak, on the ground that it was too close to the high profile meeting with the Ambassador. UKLFI’s letter maintains that this was no justification at all for preventing freedom of speech for this speaker.