Around 60 people have gathered outside the Union this evening to protest the Union’s speaker event with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub.
Holding Palestinian flags, banners and handing out leaflets, the protesters chanted “Israel, War Crimes” and “Israel, Terrorist.” They had been there since 6pm.
Several security guards had been at the union since this morning, and metal fences had been erected around the whole building.
Approximately 10-15 police were also there, with a police van. The protesters have been peaceful.
Security outside the Union. Photo credit: Colm Murphy
The Cambridge Palestine Forum, which includes the Cambridge University Palestine Society, had organised the demonstration. In an email to members, the Society said “The Union's decision to invite the Israeli ambassador is deeply insensitive given that it comes in the wake of Israel's recent brutal assault on the Gaza strip in which over 2000 Palestinians were killed.”
“The Cambridge University Palestine Society – PalSoc considers hosting the Israeli Ambassador as a tacit endorsement of war crimes committed in Gaza.”
The Cambridge Student spoke to several protesters, both students and citizens of Cambridge. One, a member of Defend the Right to Protest, said “I am Jewish, and I am here to say not in my name. The Israeli Government and the Zionists are behaving totally imorally towards the Palestinian people, so I am here in solidarity”. He compared the Ambassador the BNP.
A medicine student said she was here to protest “what happened this year, where lots of children, and health professionals, were killed. Therefore the Ambassador has no right to come to the university.” When told he was a participant in the peace process, she was unconvinced. “If you were on the peace side, why would you defend Israel’s actions?”
A Cambridge resident passionately argued that “what Israel is doing is abominable, absolutely disgusting.” He actually supported the Israeli Ambassador having “his right to free speech”, but said he wasn’t a member of the Union and was here “to express his opinion on the conflict”.
However, another history student, who was attending the event, told TCS that “Firstly, I believe in freedom of speech…he is perfectly entitled to give his speech today. Secondly, I should say I believe he represents a murderous regime…I am not in solidarity with Israel. I believe he should be allowed to give his speech and then be grilled afterwards”.
Queue to get into the chamber. Photo credit: Colm Murphy
But a third year Philosophy student who was protesting disagreed. “The idea that a few Cambridge students posing the Israeli ambassador questions would make any difference to Israel or their actions is completely ridiculous…The protest is at least an attempt at a challenge, as opposed to a further offer of legitimacy.” A second year history student added “they never invite Palestine speakers to the Union.”
Last week, the Co-President of the Israel Society Joshua Gertner told TCS that “In an otherwise dark period of hostility towards Israel and Israeli students, we welcome with open arms His Excellency to shed some much needed light on campus.”
TCS Deputy News Editor Hesham Mashhour is at the talk and will report later on what happens in the chamber.