Israel's deputy ambassador forced to flee Essex University lecture

Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain was forced to flee from a university campus after protesters caused a lecture on the Middle East to be abandoned.

Alon Roth-Snir was speaking at Essex University in Colchester on Wednesday when 40 students disrupted the meeting.

The university’s student union has a series of anti-Israel policies in place and had actively campaigned against the invitation to Mr Roth-Snir to speak to the government department.

After attempts to calm the situation failed, university officials split the students into two groups and took Mr Roth-Snir to a smaller room to continue his discussions with those not involved in the protests.

But the disruption from the main lecture theatre was so substantial that security officers decided to evacuate the deputy ambassador.

It is understood that two students accompanied Mr Roth-Snir and his entourage back to a local railway station.

Nathan Bolton, president of the student union, had supported the university’s Palestine Solidarity Group and the Socialist Worker Student Society in calling for Mr Roth-Snir to be banned from the campus.

Mr Bolton said the invitation “beggared belief” because of what he said were Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. The student union boycotts Israeli goods and is officially linked to the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

After the deputy ambassador was forced to flee, Mr Bolton tweeted that it had been “a great day – free Palestine!”.

A university spokeswoman said that although the university did not believe there had been a threat of violence to Mr Roth-Snir, a decision had been taken “quickly” to move him from the campus as the protests escalated.

Around 100 students attended the lecture, with another 80 students protesting outside.

The spokeswoman said the university would consider taking disciplinary action against any students who had broken university rules on the right to peaceful protest.

An Israeli embassy spokesman said: “These students make a mockery of the very foundations of freedom of speech, a pillar of the academic world. Their actions shame Essex University and British academia, and damage a long tradition of positive academic exchange.

“Such behaviour should be strongly condemned by all those who cherish democratic values.”

Last updated: 10:15am, February 21 2013