Retired British Col. Richard Kemp Accuses Anti-Israel Protesters of Racism, Antisemitism
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Retired British Army colonel Richard Kemp told The Algemeiner that protesters displayed blatant antisemitism when they interrupted his recent lecture at the University of Sydney and shouted anti-Israel remarks.
“This is nothing other than antisemitism,” said the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan. “Some of the screams and chants of the protesters were against the State of Israel. Because such people are afraid of the consequences of open antisemitic abuse, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist comments are often used by them as a proxy for their antisemitism.”
“It is no more than a thin disguise for their true racism,” he added.
At least a dozen anti-Israel demonstrators disrupted Kemp’s speech on March 11 and began chanting “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide.” Kemp, who was in Israel during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, has previously said he believes the Israeli Defense Forces did everything possible to minimize civilian casualties during their strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
The protesters stood on chairs, pushed students and shouted at those who objected to their actions, The Australian Jewish News reported. The protesters were greeted by booing from some students in the audience and a few of the rioters wrestled with campus security guards before they were removed from the room.
Kemp’s lecture was about the ethical dilemmas of war and combating non-state armed groups. He told The Algemeiner he was an invited and approved visiting speaker at the university, and he continued his remarks once the anti-Israel protesters were removed by security guards. He said although the students tried to “intimidate” him as well as the audience members, which included Jewish students, he did not feel personally threatened.
“I have faced considerably greater dangers and threats than could possibly be presented or even contemplated by such people,” he said. “However, many of the audience members undoubtedly felt threatened and intimidated by the naked aggression shown to them by these students.”
Kemp believes the protesters knew there were Jewish students in the audience and they aimed to deliberately intimidate Jews. He said he was was offended by the demonstrators’ claims and found their remarks, “abusive and insulting.”
“I have never supported a genocide nor the killing of civilians of which I was also accused by the protesters,” he explained. “In fact I have devoted my entire working life as a British soldier to defending my country and the countries of friends and allies; to preventing killing, terrorism and ethnic cleansing; to peace-keeping and to humanitarian operations. I have frequently risked my own life to do so.”
The retired Army colonel said he supports “peaceful and reasonable” demonstrations that include the handing out of leaflets, chanting differing views or holding signs with messages of opposition. Kemp was greeted with such a protest outside as he was entering the room for his lecture. He said he was offered and read a leaflet, and briefly spoke with a protester.
Kemp wrote to authorities at the University of Sydney and asked them to take strong action against the protesters who interrupted his lecture. He also addressed members of the faculty who “seemed to incite and encourage the protesters’ action,” and noted that they have an obligation to ensure students and visitors can debate on university grounds without fear or concern for their safety. He also pointed out their responsibility to act in response to the antisemitic nature of the protest.
“I have told them that they must take firm action whenever and wherever antisemitism occurs, because only through such action can the rising evil of antisemitism be arrested,” he said. “This incident presents the University of Sydney with an opportunity to set an example to other universities that lack the moral courage to face up to the scourge of antisemitism. I hope they will do what is right.”
Two days after the incident, the University of Sydney released a statement saying it was investigating the protest.
Watch a video of the anti-Israel protesters storm Kemp’s lecture in the video below: