Sensual security, passionate protests and muzzled media: Welcome Israeli ambassador
The Israeli ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, visited the Union last night to speak about his perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Describing the peace process as a “series of small miracles”, Taub reiterated the need for trust and the importance of leaving room for a narrative from both sides.
He added that his experiences as a negotiator have left him believing a vital facet of negotiation involves individuals finding a balance between past antagonisms and future hope.
Taub spoke further about the security dimension to talks, leaving members to ponder whether one should go ahead with negotiations following terrorist attacks, for fear of appearing insensitive to victims.`
He warned of new forms of terrorism emerging from the Middle East and the importance of international groups taking the region seriously.
He reiterated the complexity of the conflict throughout the evening, insisting that one can be both Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian without there being a contradiction.
Reflecting on the event, Israel Society said:
“The Ambassador left us all with a very important message; that it is more productive to be inside the room than out. We hope that this commitment to collaboration and engagement will be shared on campus and that such positivity may lead to a peaceful solution.”
However, on a Facebook event, the Cambridge University Palestine Society- PalSoc- said “hosting the Israeli Amabassador (acts) as a tacit endorsement of war crimes committed during the recent aggression on Gaza two months ago.”
Union President Tim Squirrell pointed out during the talk that PalSoc had been offered the opportunity to enter the Chamber to grill the ambassador, but had declined in favour of holding a protest outside the Union building.
Approximately 40 people turned up to protest the Union’s decision to invite the Israeli Ambassador to speak.
After the talk, PalSoc released a statement thanking all those who protested the visit and added that they believed the Union’s invitation was “prompted over our legal right to protest.”
Speaking to The Tab, one protester said:
“They (the students) have nothing to learn from him. We’re essentially justifying his governments actions by giving him the platform to justify it himself”
“We are here to protest against the union for inviting the Israeli ambassador. We are here to show support for Palestinians. We are not here in protest against Israel, but Zionism and their war crimes.”
However, Jesus fresher Jonathan hit back at these claims:
“This protest goes against the principles of the union – such as free speech etc. These protesters are more concerned with their hatred, than solving the problem.”
Of greatest frustration to most was the overwhelming amount of security. 24 internal security men, along with local police, were tasked with controlling the ruckus of Cambridge students.
Even Union president Tim Squirrell told press he was stopped by police and embarrassingly had to phone officials to allow him entry.
Attendees were locked in the bar for quarter of an hour while the ambassador made a quick getaway.
A strict policy of no laptops or phones, along with full body searches, left students frustrated and slowed down the entire process of letting people into the Chamber.
Sadly, many were turned away as a result and the Chamber was left almost half empty.
As if security was not enough, there was a total live media blackout, with the livestream being cancelled just moments before the ambassador was due to speak.
Burly embassy bouncers initially barred journalists from taking pens to interview because they could “cause harm.” Even members of the press were banned from taking phones or laptops into the chamber.
But The Tab saw several Union officials using their phones to take photos of the protests outside.
Additionally, one Union official is now under investigation for allegedly saying the tight security arrangements were “an easy way of telling who’s Jewish or not.”
When asked what his role was, he reportedly replied he was “someone who shouldn’t have been saying that.”
Tim Squirrell told The Tab he was taking the situation “extremely seriously.”
The talk ended with the ambassador admitting his quiet confidence that increasing commonalities across the Middle East would ensure improved conditions both for Palestinians and Israelis.
Additional reporting by Vica Germanova, Jack Lewy, James Wells, Georgia Turner, Jack Parham and Francesca Ebel.