A pro-Palestinian protest at Trinity College in Dublin on Monday night forced the cancellation of a talk by Ambassador to Ireland Ze’ev Boker.
The campus group Students for a Just Palestine held an hour-long protest prior to the event, in which they stood outside the lecture hall with signs and Palestinian flags chanting against the State of Israel.
Campus security and the Irish police were not able to disperse the protest and canceled the event for security reasons, Boker said. He had been scheduled to hold a question-and-answer session on Israel with the campus group Society for International Affairs.
The Foreign Ministry said that it was “horrified by the vicious actions of the group,” and accused the protesters of chanting “genocidal refrains, which call for Israel’s destruction, while barring access to the lecture theater.
“They obviously have no interest in helping efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather wish to ignite and inflame the situation.
It is a pity to see such a small and extreme group denying academic thought, exploration and discussion from an Irish audience, but unfortunately these are the bullying, intimidating tactics of the BDS movement.”
Boker said that on Tuesday afternoon he spoke with Trinity College’s provost, Patrick Prendergast, and by evening, the university put out a statement condemning the protest.
“The university regards what happened as an unacceptable attack on free speech,” the statement read.
“The ambassador has been a regular and welcome visitor to Trinity since his appointment. He had dinner in the university earlier the same evening and attended another event in Trinity last week.”
Prendergast said the protest “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. Trinity will remain a home for debate and we will do everything possible to make sure that efforts to suppress the free exchange of ideas do not succeed. I look forward to welcoming ambassador Boker back to Trinity to speak again in the near future,” he said.
The protest coincided with the start of Palestine Action week on campus. Another event at the college on Monday, which featured BDS speakers, went forward as planned.
On its Facebook page, Students for a Just Palestine touted its success in preventing Boker’s speech, stating that solidarity with “anti-apartheid movements should be at the core of academic life in any university.
“Unlike ambassador Boker, the SJP campaign recognizes the human rights and basic freedoms of the Palestinian people, and will proudly continue to respect their calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel in the future,” the group wrote.
SOFIA, the campus group that invited Boker to speak, wrote on its Facebook page that dialogue was important, even with those of differing viewpoints.
In the comments section on their page, however, someone wrote: “Unbelievable shortsightedness to side with Apartheid Israel today[.
It] would be the equivalent of siding with Hitler’s Nazis in 1939. Shame on you for not speaking out against the genocide of Palestinians.”