KCL Israel Society forced to cancel event following death threats.

King’s College London Israel Society has been forced to cancel an event after an invited speaker received numerous death threats. 

King’s College London Israel Society describes itself as 

a community of Israeli students, students with a connection to Israel or anyone who wishes to learn more about Israel. 

It is a registered society with King’s College Students’ Union. The society organised an event titled “Conflict Resolution: The Israel Palestine Case”, at which a discussion on “how to approach conflict resolution in light of Israel-Gaza” was planned. A post on the society’s facebook page stated that “We welcome all input and opinions so long as they are communicated in a respectful and constructive manner” and invited all attendees to submit questions for speakers.  

Two speakers were invited to event, Ely Lassman and Kiyah Willis. Lassman is the founder of Prometheus on Campus, an educational charity which aims to promote “freedom and rational thought” in universities. Willis is a fellow at the Objective Standards Institute, which describes its mission as “to teach the rising generation about the importance of philosophy, the principles of Objectivism, and related ideas for living fully and advancing liberty”. Both speakers were reviewed and accepted by King’ College London Students’ Union.  

Following its announcement, the event was subject to a virulent campaign on social media. The primary two claims made against the event, and repeated on social media, were that Ely Lassman had committed war crimes, and that Kiyah Willis supports “genocide”. Lassman also received numerous death threats. 

Ely Lassman served in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) in 2017. CAF is not aware of any evidence that he committed war crimes during his service. The vast majority of posts on social media accusing Lassman of war crimes do not attempt to provide any evidence for these accusations beyond his previous IDF membership. One of the accounts that initially accused Lassman of war crimes has subsequently stated that the accusations it made were untrue. 

The accusations that Kiyah Willis supports genocide appear to relate to Willis’ support for the current Israeli invasion of Gaza in response to the Hamas attack on 7th October. 

On the 19th March, apparently in response to the death threats Lassman received, KCL Israel Society cancelled the event.  

Academic freedom extends to the right of student societies to invite and host controversial speakers. Some consider Willis’ views, which include support for the current Israeli invasion of Gaza, objectionable. This provides no ground for censorship. The accusation that Lassman committed war crimes appears to be baseless. Where an invited speaker to a student society receives such a volume of death threats that the society is forced to cancel the event, academic freedom is violated. The academic freedom of King’s College London Israel Society has been violated.