Israeli ambassador and TCD

 

Sir, – The members of Academics for Palestine have read with incredulity “Trinity condemns ‘unacceptable attack’ on free speech” (February 21st). The declarations of Israeli ambassador Ze’ev Boker, whose speech at Trinity College Dublin was cancelled after a student protest, and those of Trinity provost Patrick Prendergast, are a striking reversal of reality.

Students for Justice in Palestine, which organised the protest, objected that Mr Boker was the sole speaker at the event, with no opposing views being put forward and in solidarity with the Palestinian boycott call – making the event effectively a normalisation of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. The Israeli embassy called this objection “disingenuous”, conveniently overlooking the many instances where it has opposed events critical of Israel precisely for lack of such “balance”.

But then one notes that Israel often objects to balanced debate. In 2005, the embassy wrote to TCD objecting to a student debate on the academic boycott of Israeli universities. At that time, as reported in The Irish Times, the TCD One World Society accused the embassy of attempting “to bully and intimidate college officials”, while then-provost John Hegarty said that “student societies are autonomous units” and that “any interference in [their] freedom would be counter-productive”.

This time, sadly, the provost, Prof Prendergast, has aligned himself with the embassy and against TCD students who were engaged in peaceful protest, and who have been viciously vilified by Israel and its supporters. All week long on its Facebook page, the Israeli embassy has smeared the students, accusing them of, among other things, chanting “genocidal refrains”. It is most disappointing that Prof Prendergast has not defended his students from such damaging slurs

In one of its slightly more temperate attacks, the embassy accused the protestors of not being interested in any dialogue to achieve peace or the wellbeing of Palestinians. Given that the Israeli government has recently moved to set impossible preconditions on negotiations with Palestinians, this is a classic rhetorical deflection – leaving aside the dubious notion of Israel’s concern for Palestinian wellbeing.

As for the embassy’s concern about “students’ rights to pursue their interests and career goals”, these rights appear to be extended only to non-Palestinian students. The illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, including the siege of Gaza, in fact, keeps thousands of students of all ages from continuing their education by restricting their freedom of movement and by systematically and regularly raiding universities. – Yours, etc,

CONOR McCARTHY,

Acting Chairman,

Academics for Palestine,

Monkstown,

Co Dublin.