Amid hostile chants of “Intifada! Intifada! Long live intifada!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” dozens of anti-Israel protesters disrupted a lecture from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at San Francisco State University on Wednesday.
Waving a Palestinian flag, the activists denounced Israel as a “terrorist” and “apartheid” state, and demanded an end to the “Israeli occupation,” and that Barkat leave the campus.
Barkat, who recently joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and is rumored to be considering a run for the premiership, is on a US campus lecture tour to discuss Jerusalem and Israel’s policies, security, and coexistence with Palestinian citizens.
Undeterred by the hecklers, the mayor attempted to continue his speech and engage his student audience by answering their questions, the Jerusalem Municipality said in a statement on Thursday, which was accompanied by a 22-second video of the disruption.
“Anyone who thinks that calls for violence and incitement will be able to silence us or divert us from our position is mistaken,” Barkat said in response to the incident.
“We will continue to build, develop and strengthen the State of Israel, and within it a united Jerusalem, and we will continue to voice our opinions and our legitimacy when we are invited to do so, even in places where they try to stop us.”
Barkat added that he spoke about the protesters’ “shameful conduct” with both the university’s president, Leslie E. Wong, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
“I told them that they must not allow dangerous incitement like this in a democratic country in general, and on campuses in particular,” said Barkat, who is scheduled to speak on Thursday at New York’s Columbia University.
Hillel International’s vice president and general council, Tracy Turoff, said on Thursday that San Francisco State University abdicated its responsibility to allow freedom of speech and ensure a civil and safe environment for Barkat and the students who attended his lecture.
“The students and the faculty who came to hear Nir Barkat last night had a right to expect that their rights of free speech and academic freedom would be protected,” Turoff said by phone.
“The school had an obligation to also ensure academic responsibility, and they failed to do so. The university did not follow its own policy, and we insist they take action and the necessary steps to deal with the perpetrators because the priority for Hillel is that students have a safe and respected environment for open conversation.”
Turoff added that Hillel International and its chapter at San Francisco State University have sent a formal letter to Wong addressing the matter.
A representative of the university could not be reached for comment.