Video: Israeli envoy disrupted at Austria university

Palestine solidarity activists disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador at the University of Graz in Austria on 19 October.

This video of the protest was published by BDS Austria, an activist group that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Soon after the ambassador, Talya Lador-Fresher, begins to speak, BDS Austria’s Marco Van Jura stands up and says, “I’m not sorry for interrupting you, but you are a representative of the Israeli apartheid regime.”

Van Jura calls it a “shame on this university and this country” that an Israeli official is being given the “red carpet” treatment.

“What I’m showing you here now is the report of the United Nations blaming Israel [for] racist apartheid policies and crimes against humanity,” Van Jura says as he waves a sheaf of papers.

This is a reference to the landmark report published by a UN agency in March that found that Israel operates a system of apartheid over the entire Palestinian people, including using “demographic engineering, in order to establish and maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Israel.”

Islamophobia

After Van Jura is escorted out by police, another BDS Austria member stands up and makes statements condemning Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. “I can’t tolerate this injustice anymore,” she says.

This prompts an Islamophobic outburst from another member of the audience, who cries, “Be quiet! These liberal Muslims are everywhere” and “you represent political Islam.”

The protester, who is wearing a headscarf, is roughly led out by officials.

There has been a wave of Islamophobia in Austria in recent years, in particular the passage of a “burqa ban” law targeting Muslim women.

At the country’s general election last week, the anti-Muslim, pro-Israel far-right Freedom Party won enough seats to join the next government.

The third protester heard in the video – activist Ronnie Barkan – addresses the ambassador in Hebrew and English, calling her “an illegitimate representative of an apartheid regime.”

Barkan too is forced out of the room as he speaks about the UN report.

“Talya should have known better [than to come to the university] after the disruption of minister Shaked,” Barkan calls out to the ambassador.

In February, BDS Austria activists disrupted an appearance at the University of Vienna by Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli justice minister who in 2014 published a call for genocide of the Palestinian people, including the slaughter of mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

A fourth protester addresses the ambassador, reminding her that Palestinian students are frequently unable to travel abroad to universities like Graz because of Israeli restrictions and abuses. He too is forced out of the room.

Repression and ostracism

As in other European countries, Palestine solidarity activists in Austria face official ostracism and have seen events on Palestinian human rights canceled due to pressure from the country’s Israel lobby.

Earlier this month, Austria’s national students union passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement and smearing it as anti-Semitic.

The resolution urges that the movement not be given space and support on campuses.

It also endorses the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

“We won’t be intimidated”

A primary tactic of Israel and its lobby groups has been to urge institutions and governments to adopt the contested IHRA definition which misleadingly includes criticism of Israel and its Zionist state ideology as forms of anti-Semitism.

BDS Austria’s Van Jura told The Electronic Intifada that his group will not be deterred by the efforts to silence support for Palestinian rights.

On 24 October, he and fellow activists will set up a BDS information table at the University of Vienna, to “show that we won’t be intimidated.”

Van Jura said that his group would welcome an opportunity to talk to members of the student union who smeared them as anti-Semites and that he hopes activists will be able to reach out to open-minded students on campus.

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Comments

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Kudos to the brave souls who stood up and spoke out at this event. The day is approaching when apologists for apartheid will have an entirely free schedule- no one will invite them to turn up and spout their lies. Free Palestine.

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What a disgrace. Talya Lador-Fresher a representative of an apartheid, racist, white supremacist state, Israel, is permitted to speak at Graz University, but those representing the Palestinian cause of justice and freedom are silenced!
The fact that Ayalet Shaked, a justice minister no less, was allowed to speak at Vienna University this past February is absolutely appalling. This is a woman who has declared for the genocide of the Palestinian people and has advocated the murdering of Palestinian mothers so that they cannot give birth to "little snakes", i.e. children.
My congratulations to all those who spoke out during this farce at Ganz University. They are very courageous indeed!

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Tribute to those people who have risen against oppressors and criminals. Those are the brave people with a conscience! Hopefully, these rasists and child murderers will not be invited anymore to proclaim their crafty lies and hazbara an will be "WANTED" as war criminals by civilized states, where Justice and International LAW applies.

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I support free speech, I support the Palestinians. I wonder should the ambassador have been allowed to make her speech and then be questioned on her statements? To me this might have been a fairer way to handle the protest.
If anyone is interested there is a very good documentary about the West Bank and Gaza called 'This Is Palestine' by the Irish Aid Agency, Trocaire. https://youtu.be/_jYL2kGN5Zk
This Is Palestine is a new documentary that follows Riverdance founder John McColgan on a journey through Gaza and the West Bank. The film features powerful interviews with people who have lost their homes, land or family members as a result of the ongoing conflict, as well as inspiring footage of the Israeli and Palestinian activists working together for a just peace.

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As an American living in Austria for over eleven years, and a part-time activist for Palestinian rights with Women in Black-Austria, I have identified one tragic thing about the position toward Israel usually taken by Germans and Austrians due to their historical role in perpetrating the Holocaust against the Jewish people. Instead of learning the real lesson of the Holocaust, which should be that NO ONE should EVER commit a crime of genocide of ANY degree, as defined by the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, people in the two countries have generally been brainwashed to think that they can make up for their role in the persecution of the Jewish people by simply giving Israel a free rein and a blank check in its ethnic cleansing of and genocidal tendencies (see UN Convention definition) toward Palestinians. This would explain the stance taken by the Austrian national students' union. Sadly, the real lesson of the Holocaust has not been learned in either Austria or in Germany. The true underlying principle has evaded their comprehension.

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There is NOTHING we need to hear from the representatives of the terrorist state; NOTHING!
The university should represent the humanity; not killers, thieves and terrorist. Israel has no room to send its ambassadors of Apartheid to the universities.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.