Dublin college apologizes after protesters cancel speech by Israeli ambassador

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A college in Dublin said it “regrets” the cancellation of an appearance by the Israeli ambassador to Ireland following pro-Palestinian protests.

The question and answer session with Amb. Ze’ev Boker and the Society for International Affairs, or SOFIA, on the campus of Trinity College in Dublin had been scheduled for Monday night.

The event was cancelled after about 40 pro-Palestinian students carrying Palestinian flags and protest signs occupied the venue. Police and university security employees were unable to remove the protesters, leading to cancellation of the event.

“The university regards what happened as an unacceptable attack on free speech,” said the statement issued Tuesday by Trinity College. “The ambassador has been a regular and welcome visitor to Trinity since his appointment. He had dinner in the university earlier in the same evening and attended another event in Trinity last week,” the statement also said.

Trinity Provost Patrick Prendergast told the Israeli news website Ynet that he looked forward to welcoming Boker to campus again, under better circumstances.  “This was most unfortunate and represents the antithesis of what Trinity stands for. Universities should be able to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The protesters have violated that fundamental belief,” he told Ynet.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called on the college “to take the appropriate measures to deal with the instigators of last night’s protest,” and also said that “we expect the Irish authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure freedom of speech for Israel’s ambassador,” the Times of Israel reported.

The ministry also told the news website that it was “horrified by the vicious action of a group of protesters.” It said the protesters chanted “genocidal slogans calling for Israel’s destruction, while barring access to the lecture venue.

Meanwhile, Britain’s University of Central Lancashire cancelled an event which was due to take place as part of Israel Apartheid Week later this year, saying it contravened the definition of antisemitism adopted by the government and was “unlawful.”

The panel discussion was titled “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine” and was organized by the university’s Friends of Palestine group to look at the boycott of Israel.

“The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes antisemitism. We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests,” a university spokesman told the London-based Jewiosh Chronicle.

He added: “In this instance our procedures determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.”

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