UK universities spark free speech row after halting pro-Palestinian events

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‘Universities have been accused of undermining freedom of speech on campus after cancelling events organised by students as part of an annual pro-Palestinian event called Israel Apartheid Week (IAW).

The University of Exeter and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) intervened to cancel student-run events this week, aimed at raising awareness about Palestinian human rights. An event called Quad Under Occupation at University College London was also cancelled because organisers failed to get the necessary approval in time.

At Exeter, the Friends of Palestine Society were furious after the university banned students from staging a street theatre performance called Mock Checkpoint, in which some participants were to dress up as Israeli soldiers while others performed the roles of Palestinians.

The event, which had been approved by the students’ guild – the university’s student union – as part of an international week of talks and activities on campuses around the world, was banned for “safety and security reasons” less than 48 hours before it was due to take place on Monday. An appeal against the decision was refused.’

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