Israeli ambassador speaks at UK university despite pressure to cancel

University of Edinburgh rejects calls from a radical anti-Israel group Ron Prosor's visit.

ron prosor 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ron prosor 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The University of Edinburgh has rejected calls from a radical anti-Israel group to cancel the visit of Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, to the university on Tuesday. Speaking on "The Middle East Today: Regional Challenges, Global Implications," Prosor addressed a packed lecture hall of more than 350 students at the school. The ambassador was scheduled to speak at the university in March but the talk was canceled. The university cited logistical reasons but distanced itself from a claim that a threatened protest by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a radical offshoot of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was behind the decision to cancel. Under the heading "Ambassador of crime in Edinburgh, Israeli ethnic cleansing continues, Israeli ambassador not welcome," the solidarity campaign sent e-mails and published on its Web site the contact details of university staff. The group told people to contact the university and ask why it was hosting "the ambassador of the rogue state of Israel." When the event was canceled, the group claimed victory. On its Web site it said: "The ambassador of child murder, ethnic cleansing and threats of 'Holocaust' on Gaza has called off his planned talk. Prosor cites security concerns but in reality he, and Edinburgh University, realized that the planned protests would have channeled some of the fury that millions now feel at Israel's never-ending crimes against the Palestinian people." A university spokesman told the The Jerusalem Post at the time: "During the normal planning processes it became clear that logistical problems meant it would not be possible for the lecture to go ahead without disrupting lectures and seminars scheduled for the building at that time. The university hopes to be able to rearrange this event at a venue which does not give rise to practical difficulties of this nature." When the talk was rescheduled, the solidarity campaign again published the contact details of the university's principal, rector and secretary, telling people to contact them to demand they withdraw the invitation. "Israel's ambassador has again been invited by the University of Edinburgh so that he can continue his work to hide Israel's ongoing crimes against humanity, ongoing ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies," the group said. "Join us in protest of the decision to allow their institution to be used to promote a state involved in such crimes. Contact them to ask that they withdraw the invitation." The school said in a statement: "The university is committed to free speech and open debate, within the law. On that basis it has provided a forum for a wide range of speakers over the years, some of whom have espoused views with which others have strongly disagreed. The university sees no reason why the Israeli ambassador's lecture should not proceed in that context." Asked whether the school had received any threats or complaints, university secretary Melvyn Cornish told the Post that it had received as many messages of support as objections. "We have received a very small number of complaints about the event, and also expressions of support for proceeding. Whilst worded quite strongly in some cases, the complaints are not abusive." In a letter to Cornish, solidarity campaign secretary Sofiah MacLeod, said the Israeli government "has successfully recruited your office, and the university, to speak on their behalf." "You unashamedly allow Edinburgh University to be used to cover up for continuing ethnic cleansing, illegal occupation, apartheid and genocide... By allowing Ron Prosor to use the university to defend crimes against humanity you and the university are complicit in Israel's continuing violations of international and human rights law. It is not too late for the university to withdraw the PR platform from Israel's Ron Prosor," MacLeod said. In January 2006, the solidarity campaign commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day by staging the play Perdition, which uses the Kastner affair to try to show Zionist complicity in the Holocaust. In November of that year it hosted Gilad Atzmon, an alleged Holocaust-denier and anti-Semitic musician, at its fund-raiser. Atzmon has written: "To regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook." In another article he wrote: "I would suggest that perhaps we should face it once and for all: The Jews were responsible for the killing of Jesus." A leading solidarity campaign activist, John Wight, has also employed anti-Semitic rhetoric. "The State of Israel is a hydra-headed monster, comprising Zionist ethnic cleansers, US imperialists and Arab collaborationist regimes," Wright said. "Arrayed against this monster are the forces of human progress." "As soon as the scales fall from the eyes of international Jewry with regard to the racist and fascist ideology that is Zionism, the world will begin to emerge from the iron heel of war and brutality in the Middle East," he continued. Lior Ben-Dor, spokesman at Israel's London embassy, said: "The ambassador is not deterred by the loud minority of hostile voices. Instead, he is determined to carry Israel's message to audiences throughout the UK. Tuesday's event proves that there are a number of students interested in hearing the facts about Israel's true colors and the challenges we face."