In their rush to reject all things Israeli, anti-Israel hate groups have embraced the intolerance, violence and anti-democratic methods more characteristic of most Arab countries.
The anti-Israel groups have done it again. Last night, at Trinity College in Dublin, the Israeli ambassador, His Excellency Ze’ev Boker was to be a guest of the college’s Society For International Affairs (SOFIA) for an open discussion on the Middle East. However, a group of 40 people calling themselves Students for Justice in Palestine took over the second floor of the Arts Building where the discussion was to be held. Such was their intimidatory behaviour that the Gardai felt they had no option but to force the cancellation of the event to safeguard the ambassador.
There are deep and verifiable differences between the manner in which pro-Israel and anti-Israel groups conduct themselves. It’s about a lot more than the colour of the flags being waved. Pro-Israel groups like Irish4Israel don’t burn flags, we don’t call for any country to be wiped off the map and we pointedly avoid anything that could be construed as disrespectful to any nationality. We don’t turn up to prevent other groups from exercising their right to free speech and assembly and we don’t engage in violent or intimidatory behaviour.
To do so in support of Israel would not only be very wrong and against the values on which the Irish state is founded; it would also be very counterproductive. How could we credibly claim to be defending what is by far the most tolerant and democratic country in the Middle East by adopting such intolerant and anti-democratic methods?
By contrast, anti-Israel groups and activists have a long and ignoble history of using bullying and vandalism to “promote” their cause. Whether it’s shouting down speakers they don’t agree with, targeting children’s events, harassing shoppers, shopping staff and cinema-goers, or even – ridiculously – turning up to protest at a football match (!), anti-Israel groups seem to be enraged at the prospect of anyone anywhere doing something they don’t approve of.
However, there’s another more subtle point to be made. While pro-Israel groups adhere to values of western democracies such as Israel and Ireland, it seems that anti-Israel groups are adopting standards that are a feature of intolerant, anti-democratic and frequently violent regimes that still plague much of the Middle East. It seems that – in their wish to reject all things Israeli – these groups are hell-bent on embracing values that are utterly alien to Israel, Ireland and western countries in general.
The Trinity protesters look young and hopefully, they will in time read a few books, grow up, get some sense and look back with some embarrassment on their antics. For now, the message needs to be stated loudly and clearly by academics and politicians that while people have the right to protest, they don’t have the right to infringe on the rights of others to assembly and free speech. And if these “Students for Justice in Palestine” have a problem with that, there’s no shortage of countries in North Africa and the Middle East that they’ll find more in keeping with their ethos.
Indeed, if recent reports on human rights abuses by Fatah and Hamas are anything to go by, “Students for Justice in Palestine” will find lots to occupy them in that part of the world. Don’t hurry back, folks.
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