Edinburgh in the eighteenth century was the epicentre of the “Scottish Enlightenment” – and well-dubbed “The Athens of the North”. It’s a beautiful city that I know rather well, having spent many enjoyable trips there, to research in its historical archives.
However, it’s also become a centre of a singularly unenlightened campaign – the demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel, and I’ve seen some of the consequences myself, from teams of intimidatory BDS fanatics attempting to cajole shoppers into boycotting Marks and Spencer’s on Princes Street, to ugly marches of screaming activists with their repellent slogans. Some of the churches have driven such activity, and needless to say there is a flourishing Palestine Solidarity Campaign there as well as anti-Israel activism at the ancient university.
A couple of days ago Ishmael Khaldi (pictured), an Israeli Bedouin, Muslim, and diplomat, who had been invited by the Edinburgh University Jewish Society to speak on the topic “Is Israel a Racist State?” arrived as scheduled.
The university’s International Relations Society had refused to hold the event under its auspices – “We came to the conclusion that providing a platform for a representative of the Israeli state would be at the expense of the millions of Palestinians who live under Apartheid,” said its president, Ledys Sanjuan – and the talk went ahead at a later time than planned.
But not for long.
For there were some 40 to 70 (accounts differ) anti-Israel activists in the audience, including members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and local Palestinians, and no sooner had proceedings started than a member of the group Students for Justice in Palestine yelled "Where is the freedom of speech for the 1,500 massacred in Gaza? Where is the freedom of speech for the Palestinian students in Israeli dungeons?" The platform was taken over by the activists, and a cacophony of cries including "From Cairo to Ramallah, globalise the Intifada", "Boycott Israel" and "From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free" drowned out Mr Khaldi.
In the words of one of the activists: “University security soon arrived but the peaceful demonstration – there were some 40 to 50 – continued unabated for a further 45 minutes until Khaldi finally got the message that he was not welcome and left the lecture theatre. The majority of the people present in the lecture theatre had made it clear that they were not interested in listening to Israeli propaganda.”
And said Liam O’Hare, president of the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine group – which had earlier in the day hosted (uninterrupted, naturally) a talk by the American anti-Western, anti-Israel Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner – enthused:
"We sent a clear message today that those who come to our University to represent an Apartheid state and to defend the dropping of white phosphorous on children are absolutely not welcome. Khaldi works for the openly racist Avigdor Lieberman, a man who has called for the execution of Arab members of the Knesset ... The recent leak of the 'Palestine Papers' has proven beyond any doubt that Israel does not seek peace and that it is purely a colonial settler state which seeks to indefinitely oppress the indigenous Palestinian population. We will continue to protest events where representatives of a racist state are present and fully support the global campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel until it abides by international law’".Brays the Scottish PSC on its website – note the ignorant misconceptions and distortions of history, by the way :
‘Students made it clear that with over 60 years of Israel boycotting the human and national rights of the Palestinians, Israeli apologists for murder and ethnic cleansing did not deserve the right to free speech that they denied the Palestinians.
The students pointed out that Israel wants nothing more than continued "dialogue"; the kind of dialogue that expects everything of the indigenous Palestinians, and nothing from the racist colonising state – the Palestine Papers make this abundantly clear.
Like Mubarak, Ishmael Khaldi has had better days. After more than an hour of hiding behind his bodyguards, Khaldi gave up, leaving the room to chants of "Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio."
Israel has had its chance to "dialogue" and it abused it.
When Palestine is free, perhaps Edinburgh University's Psychology Society can invite Khaldi to explain what was going through his mind when he practiced and promoted Apartheid.
Until then, no university society should tarnish its reputation by providing a platform to Khaldi or any other ambassadors of crime.
Well done to Edinburgh University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for organising a fantastic protest at very short notice.’So much for enlightenment, so much for free and reasoned debate, so much for higher learning and the mutual exchange of ideas in a respectful and tolerant atmosphere.
So much, indeed, for “The Athens of the North”.
University security officers were called to protect the most senior Muslim in the Israeli Foreign Ministry when pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted his appearance at a British campus.
Diplomat Ismail Khaldi, a Galilee Bedouin, had just started to speak at Edinburgh University on Wednesday evening when demonstrators began chanting and surrounded him.
The university’s International Relations Society had earlier pulled out of the event, saying the invitation to Mr Khaldi was “unjust to the Palestinian people who live under an apartheid regime”.
A security team encircled Mr Khaldi as the gang chanted “shame on you” and accused Israel of ethnic cleansing.
The lecture was held up for around an hour before the speaker abandoned the event.Yes - an Israeli Arab/Muslim who has a senior position in an Israeli government ministry - whose very existence is proof that there is no "apartheid" in Israel - is stopped from speaking by people who are screaming "apartheid!"
I forget - which side of this incident demonstrated liberal values? It is so confusing nowadays to keep it straight.