Attempts by an Israeli delegate to speak at events by both the European Society and the Dialectic society at the University of Glasgow were disrupted by pro-Palestine protesters this evening
Yiftah Curiel, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in London, was speaking at the European Society’s ‘Israel and Europe’ talk, before a protester interrupted him. The protester claimed that no government representatives of Israel would be welcomed or given a podium at Glasgow University.
Witnesses state that the members of the European Society attempted to calm the situation. The protester continued to shout, stopping Curiel from delivering his speech.
There was also a peaceful protest outside the Queen Margaret Union, where the Dialectic Society had organised a similar event, open only to members of the society. However, due to the disruption caused by the protester at the previous talk, the Israeli Embassy cancelled Curiel’s appearance at the event.
Protesters included Liam Hainey, Green Party Councillor for Langside and former QMU Honorary Secretary. He said: "It's important that where representatives of the Israeli State turn up to justify their brutality against the people of Palestine, that there is vocal opposition to their horrifying attacks."
John, Former Student Coordinator for Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supporter of the Glasgow Palestine Action group, who was involved in the organisation of the protest, spoke to the Glasgow Guardian: “We understand the nature of the Dialectic Society, but the parity of two sides of a debate don't apply here.
“If this is about academic freedom and objectivity, why are no other students allowed in and allowed to express dissent against the views of the Israeli speaker?
“Israel has broken more UN resolutions than any other country but has faced no sanctions, which is why it is up to civil society, including students, to implement the Palestinian call for boycott, divestments and sanctions.”
The Dialectic Society event page states that Yiftah Curiel would be speaking on “his take on the events in the middle east and what it is like being the press officer for one of the most complicated situations in the world.”
However, Wael Sawish, another protester outside the QMU stated: “The embassy will use any venue or event to spread propaganda about Palestine. We are not against freedom of speech but when they spread lies we must stand up to them. They actually have a group in Scotland to do that and we must stand up and spread the truth.
"The truth is that there is an occupation, there is oppression, which is developing a racist society. There is no opposition to balance the racists, so it is important for us in the West to balance the narrative and make sure there is a Palestinian voice and make sure when they are spreading lies in the West we stand up to it.”
When asked about the cancellation of the event, Marc Fryer, President of the Dialectic Society, expressed his disappointment. He said: “It’s unfortunate that it’s been cancelled, because as a society we promote debate and discussion. We don’t support ‘no platform’ policies; we support free speech and open dialogue.
“It’s also unfortunate that we won’t be able to ask tough questions at the end of the event, which was the plan. The event was going to be a half hour talk and then half an hour of Dialectic members asking questions.
“I don’t support things being shut down, but I think people have a right to protest over an event if they don’t agree with it.”
Yiftah Curiel wrote on Twitter after the incident: “Good dialogue with Glasgow Uni students tonight, despite sad attempt by thugs to abuse freedom of speech on campus."
Curiel later tweeted: "Sad attempt to hijack freedom of speech at Glasgow Uni; incitement & hate speech lead to violence." In this tweet, he linked to a photograph of an article in the Sun newspaper which described a chemical attack on a woman working for an Israeli cosmetics company by people they believed to be pro-Palestine. There was a complete lack of violence from protesters.