Last night, activists from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Edinburgh University disrupted a lecture by the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub. He was met by a lively crowd of 200 protesters outside. There were also protests inside, despite heavy security restrictions.
In the days preceding the talk, student union representatives had written to the Politics Society, who organised the event, urging them to cancel it. They cited Israel’s human rights record and occupation of Palestinian land.
“Taub was here to defend the racist policies of the state of Israel,” said Pete Ramand, Edinburgh University Students Association’s (EUSA) BME Officer. “and it is an unacceptable situation when someone with such abhorrent and dangerous views can be brought on to campus. It is threatening to students from a Palestinian or Arab background, who are then treated like criminals for attempting to voice their justified opposition to it.”
Protesters were met at Bristo Square with what was described as the “largest campus police presence seen in years”. Over 100 police officers surrounded students who were chanting “Zionism is a crime, Free Free Palestine” and “Boycott Israel”.
The location of the talk was kept secret and access was restricted, allegedly at the request of University security. Despite this, around 15 activists managed to gain entry to the event and interrupted the talk at a regular intervals, calling Taub a ‘defender of war crimes’ and ‘ambassador for apartheid’.
“I was there to show solidarity with the Palestinian people who live under a brutal occupation,” said one of the protesters who got inside. “They are denied their basic human rights by the Israeli state. SJP supports the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law. We feel we have a moral duty to protest against a state which commits war crimes and has been ethnically cleansing Palestine for over 64 years”
As the ambassador left, he was forced to flee to his car by a large group of protesting students.
Edinburgh University students have been noted in recent years for their support of the Palestinian cause. In 2010, a motion to boycott Israeli goods overwhelmingly passed at a student union AGM, whilst only last month a referendum to boycott G4S on campus due to their involvement in the occupation of Palestine was won.