Palestinian Academic Azzam Tamimi, Supporter Of Israel Suicide Bombings, Provokes Student Outrage

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Azzam Tamimi
Azzam Tamimi

A Palestinian academic who has publicly backed suicide bombings in Israel has provoked student outrage ahead of a speech at a London university.

Azzam Tamimi, who is also a supporter of extremist group Hamas, is to deliver a speech at Queen Mary University (QMU) at an event hosted by the university's Palestine Solidarity Society on 28 February.

In 2004 he told the BBC: "You see, sacrificing myself for Palestine is a noble cause. It is the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity."

Student campaign group Student Rights have blasted the university's decision to host the talk, saying it was "laughable".

"Not only will there be no balance to [Tamimi's] hate filled views, but that the panel he will speak alongside have all declared outspoken opposition to Israel in the past."

"We have frequently called for panels at events like this to be balanced yet student societies continue to load their panels to suit their own opinions," the group added.

Tamimi is to speak alongside Baroness Tonge and Professor Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli academic. Both have previously criticised Israel.

But QMU continues to stick by its decision to let the event go ahead, citing freedom of speech as a defence.

"Freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas and beliefs are at the heart of Queen Mary’s ethos and we have a very clear policy and mechanisms to support this."

Groups from the students' union have to submit an application if they wish to invite external speakers to the university's campus.

"Where no previous record of illegal activity is identified, and the College believes it is possible to ensure that its campus remains a place of safety for its students, staff and visitors, an event will proceed with conditions attached to it that the College believes are appropriate."

Student Rights has posted a statement from Dominic Bell, the university's vice president of student activities, which says the union "highlighted the lack of balance on the panel of speakers".

"However, the Students’ Union does not have a ‘no platform’ policy and both the Principal and the Union believe in freedom of speech. We don’t have the right to block the event unless it’s for health and safety reasons."

Tamimi has previously spoken at the University of Cambridge, as well delivering a speech to Birmingham students, despite widespread opposition.

The university's statement comes days after Jewish students at the London School of Economics were involved in a violent clash with Palestinian protestors.

Members of the LSE's Palestine society were attacked after they stopped students from entering a university building and asked for "papers".