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U.S. Anti-Israel Activity  
Anti-Israel Activity on Campus: 2009 in Review RULE Confrontational Tactics

Posted: February 1, 2010

Confrontational Tactics
Boycott & Divestment Efforts Proliferate
Fundraising for Viva Palestina

In 2009, as in the past, students continued to reach out to university administrations in hopes of preventing or canceling pro-Israel events. In some cases, however, students and activists directly interfered with talks by Israeli speakers and sought to silence pro-Israel views. For example:


  • During former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's speech at Binghamton University in November 2009, students perceived as pro-Israel were prevented from asking questions during the Q&A and pro-Israel fliers that had been handed out by students from Hillel Jewish Student Union prior to the event were confiscated by organizers.

  • In October 2009, Ehud Olmert, former Israeli Prime Minister, was met by staged disruptions, organized protests and other confrontational tactics during a series of visits to campuses and other venues in the U.S.

During a speech at the University of Chicago (UC), more than 20 students and other activists disrupted Olmert's talk inside the lecture hall with profanities and calls for his execution. Outside the lecture hall, another 150 demonstrators gathered, some holding signs that called for condemnation of Israel's "genocide" in Gaza. The protest featured representatives from several anti-Israel groups, including Al-Awda, International Solidarity Movement, American Muslims for Palestine and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).


In advance of the event, a coalition of local and campus anti-Israel groups intent on preventing Olmert from reaching a UC audience had attempted to pressure UC's Harris School of Public Policy to cancel the event, citing Olmert's involvement in "war crimes."


Videos of the action inside the UC auditorium and the protest outside appeared online almost immediately, laying the groundwork for protesters elsewhere to model their own actions upon those at UC. Within days, Olmert's critics in the Bay Area were touting the Chicago efforts in promotional materials for a similar effort they were organizing in response to an upcoming Olmert speech hosted by the World Affairs Council in San Francisco.


During the San Francisco event, 22 individuals were forcibly removed and arrested after disrupting Olmert with accusations of war crimes and genocide. One shouted that Olmert "belongs in a cage, not on a stage!" Nearby, over 200 demonstrators gathered at Union Square, chanting "Olmert, Olmert, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide."


Olmert's visits prompted protests at other stops on his U.S. tour; among them the University of Kentucky, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and Tulane University in New Orleans, where students wearing fake-bloodied clothes staged a sit-in outside the auditorium.


Much of the opposition to Olmert's talks stemmed from his role in Israel's winter 2009 military operation in Gaza (charges of genocide and war crimes against Olmert and the Israeli military were common themes throughout hundreds of anti-Israel rallies organized at the time).


  • A large group of protesters from Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted a March speaking engagement at DePaul University by Jacob Shrybman of the Sderot Media Center, preventing him from doing Q&A session. One audience member stood up and called Shrybman a "dirty whore" in Arabic, while another expressed support for the firing of rockets into Israel. Shrybman, who had to be escorted by police and campus security to his car, reported afterward that a small group of audience members approached him toward the end of the talk and expressed their fear of speaking out. A few weeks earlier, flyers for an upcoming pro-Israel event at DePaul were found with swastikas painted on them.

  • A speech by Akiva Tor, Consul General of Israel for the Pacific Northwest Region, was disrupted at San Jose State University in February 2009. Tor was escorted out of the event by campus police 15 minutes before it was scheduled to end, due to confrontational behavior on the part of students who attended in protest against Israel. Some attendees booed and shouted at Tor, and held Palestinian flags with blood on them and signs declaring that Tor was not welcome on the campus.

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