Protests against Israel on UK university campuses are growing: Dozens of students disrupted last week a speech by Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Britain Alon Roth-Snir at the Essex University, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.
A lecture scheduled to be given by Daniel Taub, the Ambassador to Britain, was also cancelled at the University of North Ireland, due to fear of disturbances.
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Roth-Snir’s speech was scheduled at the invitation of the University of Essex’s Middle East club. But before the deputy ambassador had begun speaking, dozens of Pro-Palestinian students besieged the hall in which the lecture was to take place. They were eventually pushed out by security personnel.
Yet as Roth-Snir began to speak, some 30 students began to call out against Israel, labeling it a “criminal apartheid state,” and preventing the Israeli official from getting a word in.
The students ignored requests of staff and other students that they allow the speech to continue. This regardless of the fact that among those requesting were students from Pro-Palestinian movements, who argued that Israel’s position must be heard, even if they did not agree with it.
Due to requests to continue the speech, the university moved Roth-Snir and some of the students to another hall, but dozens of protestors besieged the hall, banged in anger on the doors and windows and threatened to break in. University authorities who feared chaos, decided to end the lecture.
At the same time, Ambassador Taub was visiting in Northern Ireland, where he was set to speak to students at one of the province's universities. The institution’s administration, fearing student disturbances, changed the lecture format.
Instead of speaking before the large student audience that had been scheduled, the ambassador spoke in front of an audience of some 10 lecturers.
The two events join a long list of anti-Israel activity which has been occurring on British campuses, and reflect a consolidation of the movement to de-legitimize Israel in the UK.
In yet another incident, students from University of Oxford attempted to join the boycott against Israel.
And last week, British Parliament member George Galloway walked out of a discussion on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at Oxford, after learning that one of the participants was an Israeli student. "I don't debate with Israelis," Galloway said, got up hurriedly, got his coat, and stormed out.
Upon leaving he reiterated: "I don't recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis."
Sources in the UK Jewish community said the problem is not the provocations or the attempt to silence Israeli diplomats, but rather the disgraceful capitulation with which the university reacts. “This is a poor example of a university and of the freedom of expression in Britain.”
The ambassador in the UK added, “When a university, regardless of its desires, does not succeeded in holding a lecture because of a small minority – the problem is big.” Taud emphasized that none of these incidents would end the activity of the embassy on campuses. “We will only increase it,” he said.
Diplomatic sources in Israel said that the situation on UK campuses is “grim.” Yet this is in stark contrast to the claims of British Ambassador in Israel Matthew Gold, who plays down and discredits the phenomena of delegitimization of Israel that is sweeping through the country’s campuses.
Yaniv Halili contributed to this report
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