The angry heckling that accompanied Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California-Irvine on Tuesday is nothing new on some US campuses, and should not be blown out of proportion, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Wednesday.

Palmor said at some US campuses – such as UC-Irvine – a handful of radical left-wing and Arab students can be counted upon to attend and disrupt events that feature Israeli officials.

“What is new this time is that cellular phones can film it, and then it can be uploaded to YouTube, where it gets much more attention,” Palmor said, adding that the Israeli media “added to the hysteria” Tuesday by featuring the heckling incident prominently on the television news.

“What you have are the usual suspects, [only now they] are more motivated, more radicalized and communicate better,” he said. “But I don’t think three people screaming with a keffiyeh are going to influence American public opinion.”

Palmor said there were no special consultations inside the ministry Wednesday following what happened to Oren, or the heckling and verbal abuse directed at Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during a speech Tuesday at Oxford, nor were any new directives issued about how to deal with these types of incidents.

Realistically, one diplomatic source said, there is not much Israel can do to prevent a group of pro-Palestinian students from trying to shout down speakers.

“What the speakers need to do is show calm and continue speaking. The protestors will either leave or be kicked out. If a kid gets into a room, curses at you and gives you the finger, what are you going to do, give him the finger back?”


The official said that although there was concern that these types of events could have a long-term, cumulative effect, and that if a small number of people shout “apartheid state” and “war criminals” long enough it will gain resonance, the way to combat it is not by saying “no we are not an apartheid state,” but rather by creating positive identification with Israel, so that when people hear Israel they don’t think war criminals but rather “aid to Haiti,” “creativity,” and “reusable energy.”

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