Monday, 25 November 2013

Sheffield University students protest visit of high-profile Israeli diplomat

About 30 students of the University of Sheffield's Palestinian Society protested against Israel's Deputy Ambassador to Britain when he visited the University on the 15th of November, 2013.

Alon Roth-Snir had come to Sheffield to give a talk to student's during the University's model United Nations summit at Firth Court but found himself on the receiving end of a protest that had been organised by the Palestinian Society just that morning.

File photo: Deputy Ambassador of Israel, seen on the right here, at a function hosted by the British-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. Image courtesy The Jewish Chronicle


Originally, the visit of Mr. Roth-Snir had been kept under wraps in anticipation of such a protest, but this information was leaked to the Society that very morning.

Its members then tried via social media, phone and email to get as many people as possible to come down to Firth Court and protest against the ambassador 'justifying the existence of the Zionist State' according to Oliver Clay, a society member.

By the time Mr. Roth-Snir had arrived for his scheduled speech at 1:30 pm, students had already taken up positions in front of the building. 

"Four students were able to evade security guards and get into the same lecture theatre," says Oliver.

"The (society's) former president Abdi-Aziz Suleiman gave a speech in which he highlighted the crimes of the Zionist state in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Those who were unable to get inside gave a noisy demonstration outside which succeeded in repeatedly forcing the deputy ambassador to stop his speech," he added. "The chants could be clearly heard by the attendees inside.

"[We] also managed to build awareness of the occupation and hand out a great deal of literature to students and other passers-by."

The Deputy Ambassador was held up by protesters who were blocking his car's exit route on his way out of the premises.

Similar protests

This however is not the first time Mr. Roth-Snir has been faced with protests. Similar demonstrations were targeted at him when he had arranged to speak at both the University of York and the University of Essex.

Sam Rae, Sheffield University's Education Officer, had been in favour of the protests. Five days after the incident, a petition requesting a vote of no confidence was circulated, asking him to step down as Education Officer.

"Mr Rae humiliated not just himself, but the name of our University and I am ashamed to consider him a representative of my Students' Union,"  wrote Matt Brown, who proposed this petition. 

"I therefore call upon fellow Union members to sign this petition to mark their vote of no confidence in our Education Officer and to support a referendum to remove him from office," he continued.

The motion was voted against overwhelmingly.

The Palestinian Society in Sheffield was formed five years ago, and actively campaigns against the existence of Israel via film screenings, demonstrations and campaigns in favour of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

So far, says Oliver, the University has not sanctioned the students who took part in the demonstrations. In addition, he says the Society's actions have received an outpouring of praise from other campuses in Britain and on social media.

Related Reading: An Insight into the Life of a Student Protester

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