An organisation campaigning for peace in the Middle East was forced to call for GUU security as angry hecklers disrupted speakers at an event hosted by the union.
The meeting, organised by the Glasgow University chapter of OneVoice and held in the GUU Debates Chamber, involved visitors from Israel and Palestine speaking to an audience about their experiences and their desire for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.
The event descended into open argument after a small number of pro-Palestinian audience members repeatedly interrupted those on stage — the same way in which the event was targeted last year.
As a result of the persistent heckling, Anthony Silkoff, the head of the Glasgow chapter, was forced to call for GUU security to regain control of the event.
Speaking afterwards, OneVoice Glasgow Publicity Officer David Campbell condemned the way those involved had acted.
He said: “There were people who were definitely very, very forward in their views, and were restricting other people from the question board. I think [the evening] could have gone better; the people who came over from Israel and Palestine should not have been aggressively shouted at, and made to feel as if they were lesser people. Both of them were very brave to have come over.”
In addition to the youth representatives from Palestine and Israel, Dina Jaber and Beata Krants, the event was attended by Ann McKechin, MSP for Glasgow North, and Chaplain to the University Reverend Stuart D. MacQuarrie, both of whom contributed introductory speeches to the event.
Whilst McKechin was the first to speak, and took to the stage amidst booing and shouts of “rubbish” from one crowd member, it was Israeli representative Beata Krants who received the brunt of the heckling.
John Lyndon, Executive Director of OneVoice Europe, told Guardian that it was the strongest vitriol he had ever experienced.
He explained: “It’s the worst we have ever had. There will always be some heated discussion, people sometimes wouldn’t accept just one question and will want to ask a follow-up, but I have never had to handle a situation like that before.”
He continued: “What we’re trying to do is provide an avenue for them to get what they want as quickly as possible, and that’s a two-state solution; sovereignty, independence, nationhood, so that they don’t have to live with the occupation.”
Despite the heckling, OneVoice is currently enjoying a high level of popularity at the University, having recently received the signatures of 500 students in Freshers’ Week alone.
It has amassed over 650,000 signatories worldwide including over 600,000 from Israel and Palestine, split almost equally between the two countries.
Anthony Silkoff believes that the event was a success, despite the actions of the hecklers.
He said: “There was a time where we weren’t able to progress with our event because every word we said they were shouting at, and so at that point I asked someone to go to the janitor’s office and get security. When I said that, they quietened down and we were able to have a much more interesting debate.”