Envoy attack sparks fear for Israelis' safety

Ambassador and community groups warn of campus extremism

By Marcus Dysch, May 6, 2010
Protesters at the Manchester campus trying to smash their way into the van holding Israel’s deputy ambassador

Protesters at the Manchester campus trying to smash their way into the van holding Israel’s deputy ambassador

Concerns have been raised for the safety of Israelis speaking to university students in Britain after its deputy ambassador fled to a security office as protesters attempted to attack her on a campus.

Talya Lador-Fresher feared she would be assaulted when demonstrators climbed on the bonnet of her car to try to smash the windscreen.

She had been speaking to members of Manchester University's Politics Society last Wednesday evening. Around 40 demonstrators, not believed to be students, gathered at the venue.

Ambassador Ron Prosor said the situation on campuses was "shocking. Extremism is not just running through these places of education, it is galloping." He called on university bosses to condemn the violence.

There has been widespread condemnation of the attack from Jewish communal organisations.

I believed they wanted to hurt me physically

The Zionist Federation said the "abject failure of university vice-chancellors" had "fuelled this kind of hateful action". The Board of Deputies said it served as "a stark reminder that campus extremism is alive and well".

A Community Security Trust spokesman said its relations with university security bodies were "fast improving". He added: "We hope that they will hear our concerns as to what resources they, and the police, need in order to prevent these scenes from ever recurring."

In response, Universities UK, which has set up a working group to tackle campus extremism, said: "Any activity on campus which is against the law is dealt with.

"We have said repeatedly that violence, or the incitement to violence, has no place on a university campus."

A Manchester
University spokesman said no concerns were raised by the Israeli Embassy's security team before or after the protest.

He said: "We took all reasonable action to put appropriate security measures in place for this meeting, including a complete lockdown of the building, a high-level security presence, ID checks at the door and ticket-only arrangements."

Ms Lador-Fresher had been asked back to the university after a previous arrangement to address students in February was cancelled over security concerns. She said she was shocked when demonstrators began running towards her as she left the event.

The deputy ambassador was eventually escorted through a back door to a security vehicle. But the demonstrators discovered the evacuation plan and surrounded the car.

Ms Lador-Fresher said: "They were screaming and shouting. Two of them were on the bonnet trying to break the windscreen. It was very unpleasant.

"I genuinely believed they wanted to hurt me physically. If I had not had the security team, I would have been beaten up. No foreign diplomat should have to go through what I went through."

Security guards eventually moved her to their nearby office for her own safety. She was later picked up by her embassy driver.

Ms Lador-Fresher praised the efforts of university staff and Jewish students and said she would be happy to return to Manchester.

A Manchester JSoc spokesman said: "We condemn the attack, but we want to emphasise the positive experience for the 45 Jewish students inside the venue, who were able to engage with, and listen to, a high-profile Israeli diplomat in a safe, calm environment."

Last updated: 1:55pm, May 6 2010