University to act after Israeli diplomat 'mob riot'

February 10, 2011
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Ishmael Khaldi (centre, blue shirt) is surrounded by shouting pro-Palestinian activists in Edinburgh

Ishmael Khaldi (centre, blue shirt) is surrounded by shouting pro-Palestinian activists in Edinburgh

A university has pledged to take action after the Israeli Foreign Ministry's most senior Muslim diplomat faced a student mob which shouted him down and called him a Nazi.

Ishmael Khaldi had to be surrounded by security guards as he began to speak at Edinburgh University last week.

Protesters marched towards him screaming "Viva, Viva Palestina" and "boycott Israel" as they unfurled Palestinian flags.

At one stage the mic was ripped from his lectern and a demonstrator shouted: "We don't discuss with the Ku Klux Klan, why should we discuss with this thug?"

Mr Khaldi, a Galilee Bedouin who serves as an adviser to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was back in Israel this week. He did not want to discuss the incident in detail, but said: "There's no other humiliating, insulting and hurtful experience like this."

Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the UK, said: "Ishmael Khaldi reflects the tolerant, open, Israel of 2011. These attempts to suppress his freedom of speech come as no surprise - we know our enemies hate our democratic ideals. Extremism is running riot through British universities."

Mr Khaldi was surrounded by members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) as protesters also verbally abused Rabbi Garry Wayland, university chaplain for Scotland.

The lecture was held up for an hour before Mr Khaldi abandoned the event.

Tim Abraham, Edinburgh JSoc president, said: "Protesters called Mr Khaldi a Nazi and other provocative names, showing middle fingers and attacking the JSoc as a 'religious club that supports violence and unjust behaviour'.

"This has created an environment in which Jewish students feel intimidated on campus, and might even feel the need to hide their identity."

After the Board of Deputies' senior vice-president Jonathan Arkush intervened, University Secretary Kim Waldron pledged to put measures in place to avoid future disturbances.

Mr Arkush said: "Dr Waldron said to me 'we can never let what happened, happen again'.

"Edinburgh is now working on ways to prevent incidents like this happening in the future. The Board, and UJS, will play an important role in this process."

Mr Abraham and JSoc members also held a meeting with student union representatives and the university's chief chaplain to voice their concerns.

Professor Lorraine Waterhouse, university vice-principal for diversity and equality, said the university disapproved of the demonstrators' actions.

Last updated: 12:44pm, February 10 2011