Protesters prevent Israeli deputy ambassador to UK from addressing selected Essex University audience

Israeli deputy ambassador to the UK Alon Roth-Snir was forced to abandon a talk at the University of Essex today after angry International Relations students voiced opposition to his presence.

Students said that Roth-Snir had been due to speak to a selected group in the Government Department, but was forced by protesters in the room to abandon his talk after only five minutes.

Nathan Bolton, the president of the Students’ Union, told The Electronic Intifada that a protest outside was attended by around 200-250 students, despite being organized with only two days notice.

An additional 20-30 students who had been issued with invitations disrupted the deputy ambassador’s talk inside the hall.

Not brainwashed

One member of staff present in the room told me that Roth-Snir had just started saying hello and thank you when he was interrupted by a student protesting: “we are not here to be brainwashed.”

The staff member told me students were “passionate and very measured.”

A Palestinian member of the Palestine solidarity society told me that the room was “90 percent pro-Palestine.” Students read from a prepared statement, calling Roth-Snir a war criminal.

Other students chimed in, all the while explaining why they were opposed to the presence of a representative of a human rights abuser like Israel on campus.

Bolton says that police were called and Roth-Snir was “rushed away” by security guards.

A further attempt to give his talk on “The state and terrorism” to an even smaller group of students also had to be abandoned after 10 minutes.

The deputy ambassador reportedly invited the smaller group to the embassy, but few wanted to give their names.

He then had to leave campus in his embassy car.


Bolton said the talk was the initiative of the Israeli embassy itself and had been hosted by Thomas Scotto, the Associate Dean of the Graduate School.

Scotto allegedly threatened students in the room with punishment over the disruption, leaving some students reluctant to let their names appear in public.

The professor of government is now “quite a pariah” within the department according to Bolton, and other faculty members had been against the visit. Students were only told about the visit on Monday, said Bolton.

The Palestinian student said that six or seven lecturers had put up “Not Wanted” posters of Roth-Snir on their office doors.

The Electronic Intifada has seen an email to students from one member of the department stating “the Government Department did not invite the speaker.”

In a statement posted on Facebook quoting student union policy, Bolton explained the students’ opposition to Roth-Snir’s presence on campus:

Israel in its complete disregard of the human rights of the Palestinians and in its illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is in breach of over 30 UN resolutions…

the invitation of a representative of the state of Israel calls into question the ethical practices of the University as an institution and I feel, with the passage of time will reflect badly on the University. My question is – would we have invited a representative of the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s?

We should be proud that University of Essex Students’ Union has policy to boycott Israeli goods and also to be part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), but policy alone is not enough.


Scotto could not be reached by phone. He replied to an emailed request for comment saying he was “not yet in possession of all the facts,” referring me onto the communications department.

University of Essex Head of Communications Jenny Grinter said it was “a noisy but peaceful protest” and there had been no arrests.

She confirmed that the “event did not follow the original program because of disruption caused by students protesting … it is disappointing that some students prevented those wishing to engage in this way from being able to do so more fully.”

She dismissed the unattributed claim by one Jewish Chronicle journalist that protesters had tried to “attack” the deputy ambassador as “an exaggeration.”

This Israeli strategy of trying to “explain” away war crimes to increasingly unreceptive student audiences has a precedent.

Roth-Snir spoke at Kings College, London in December. But in October last year, Scottish students disrupted a speech by ambassador Daniel Taub at Edinburgh university.

Brand Israel” was not welcome today at Essex University, it seems.

Update, 22 February:

The above A video was uploaded to YouTube last night and shows the student action that led to the abandonment of the Israeli deputy ambassador’s Essex University talk on Thursday.

It shows vocal opposition to the university’s hosting of Alon Roth-Snir, with many in the room chanting slogans like “free, free Palestine” and “shame on you.” The centerpiece of the action was one student repeatedly reading from a prepared statement to effectively filibuster the event.

It also shows (at 04:36) departmental host Thomas Scotto approaching the students, promising repercussions: “I know about five of you. If you continue, you will be brought up on charges against university ordinances which prohibit disruption of a lecture.”

Campus security enter, and soon after a minority (who had countered the protest with chants of “let him speak”) walk out with the deputy ambassador, as his address is abandoned.

Update, 5 March

This video from inside the lecture has since been removed from public viewing, likely because of threats made by the university last week to “discipline” students involved (in an internal email, copies of which I have seen).




Academia is about the free exchange of ideas. You move people and issues by hearing the points of view articulated by all sides, and learn to know which arguments are convincing and which are dross. The attitude of the students who made the ambassador's talk impossible stinks to high heaven of totalitarianism, not to mention adolescent idiocy.


Aye, and what about the everyday experience of ordinary Palestinians in their cities at the checkpoints and in their homes as the IDF smashes it's way in, wrecks their lives, and frequently carries off their sons? Is that not totalitarianism on a scale not seen since the 1930s?


I fear for your future. You have clearly been brainwashed.


Yes he/she has clearly been brainwashed by the truth.


And what about the lecturers who are regularly blacklisted or denied tenure (eg. Norman Finkelstein) because of adopting pro-Palestinian views. Where is academic freedom of speech in that instance? Or how about attempts by Israeli groups to prevent Palestinian student groups from airing their views on an allegedly (and entirely nebulous) accusation of antisemitism? I hope you protest against that as well and far more vociferously.


To use the expression "stinks to high heaven of totalitarianism" is laughable when one considers the barbarity of the Israeli policies of apartheid towards Palestinians, their hypocrisy in advocating war against Iran while they have a stockpile of unsupervised nuclear weapons and the countless UN resolutions concerning illegal settlement building which are completely ignored.

Under Netanyahu Israel has become a rogue pariah state and he and other members of former terrorist organisation Likud will eventually be brought to trial for war crimes;

"One thing is clear and that is the abundant evidence of war crime and atrocity which supports and underpins the extensive detail of the Goldstone Report. This, in turn, underpins the necessity for us to retain universal jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute those war criminals from the Israeli state who come to the United Kingdom. If we do not do so, we will find ourselves colluding in what we as Europeans have so dramatically placed before us. Nothing prepares you for it but what we can do is prepare for the justice that it must bring."

Bob Marshall-Andrews QC


The student's protest at Essex University is bold and brave and demonstrates that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians violates fundamental universal moral codes that applies to any religion. Zionism is not a religion but rather a brutal and inhumane colonial project that is inherently evil and can not endure except by force. It is a state established by ethnic cleansing, genocide, and now apartheid. It is built on a dung hill of sin.
Let us all intensify our efforts to Free Palestine so that the poor people can live with dignity and their children can grow up in safety.


"The student's protest at Essex University is bold and brave and demonstrates that the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians violates fundamental universal moral codes that applies to any religion."

How right you are, even non Zionist Jews are becoming appalled at the atrocities.

“In Knowing Too Much, Norman Finkelstein offers these incidents in support of his argument that both American Jews and the American public more generally are moving away from uncritical support for Israel......Other analysts concur that there is growing disillusionment with Israel among American Jews, due to the increasingly reactionary policies pursued by Israel itself, and knowledge of Israel’s crimes has become so widespread that it is no longer possible for US Jews to reconcile support for Israeli policies with the liberal values that most of them embrace.”
Zionists and supporters of Netanyahu's Israel will come to be regarded as supporters of South African apartheid were !


I don't see what's bold and brave about censoring someone who wants to make a point. Your view on freedom of speech is scary.


the only problem with this comment is that the government of Israel has clearly proven throughout the entire Oslo 'peace' process that it is not interested in an exchange of ideas, but rather in imposing its extreme views of a 'resolution', none of which are in accord with either international law or internationally accepted human rights conventions. So what would be the purpose of a charade exchange? It's time to take the 'exchange' to the next level, as these students so bravely did.


"the government of Israel has clearly proven throughout the entire Oslo 'peace' process that it is not interested in an exchange of ideas,"

Indeed, Netanyahu is on you tube conforming your point.

Netanyahu: This is how I broke the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians


I wonder if you would say the same about the blatantly racist and islamophobic antics pulled by pro-Israel demonstrators at every publicized event featuring Palestinian speakers talking about their experiences?


Academic freedom is important. Unpopular speakers, including racists and advocates of increased tuition fees etc. should not be denied access to
a speaking venue, if invited by University department heads, or student societies.
Once the speech starts any people who wish to disrupt the speech or open the discussion to a wider audience should remember that they may appear on mobile phone footage and aim to make a memorable video sample for you-tube or any other distributor. There should be certain artistic standards. Students should try to make their protests poetic.


He was not invited!
He offered to come and speak to the Politics of the Middle East students and the department said ok.
No freedom of speech for bullies!


Apartheid in South Africa eventually came to an end after a long campaign which included boycotts and noisy protests by students. Israel is guilty of war crimes which is why it tried to stop Palestinian admittance to the UN a few months ago. The world is slowly waking up the the hypocrisy and obscenity of Israeli policies and actions towards Palestinians.


"We are not here to be brainwashed"

I think it's a little bit too late for it. It's really quite sad, that university youth can't remain civil, regardless of topic discussed. Really sad.


Yeah, it's also unfortunate that the israeli occupation forces can't be civil when they arrest Palestinian children in their own homes and imprison them without charges!


It's more than 'just sad' when settlers steal Palestinian land and smash Palestinian businesses. Do you write to them saying; "It's really quite sad, that you can't remain civil"


Well apparently you have not seen the antics of advocates for Israel on university campuses.
I can tell you, Zionists who talk about "academic freedom" and "hearing both sides of the issue" are hypocrites of the worst and most contemptuous degree.


I think you all forget that freedom of speech also means the freedom to protest against someone speaking. The students at the University of Essex PEACEFULLY stopped a war criminal from speaking, there was nothing totalitarian about it, there was no violence unless banging pots and blowing whistles count as violence? The genocide apologists here make me cry with shame.


Your definition of freedom of speech is a bit off. One's freedom ends where the other begins. You can call it what you like, but it certainly wouldn't be classed as freedom of speech to deny it to another, whatever their own beliefs. If we can read Mein Kampf in school and discuss Nazi ideology by watching videos, why can't we have a discussion led by a 'war criminal', live and in the flesh? Ahmadinajad was allowed to give a lecture in Columbia University in New York, despite America's less than kind view of Iran's government.


What You call "America's view" is the view of US government and that not necessarily reflects views of American People. If international laws should be taken seriously whole lot of war criminals in US and Israeli governments would be now in the jails.
I don't think Ahmadinejad is one of them "despite America's less than kind view of Iran's government."


It's quite petty of you to knit-pick from my argument and dismiss my larger point about freedom of speech.


This young woman was courageous to risk her future at this university. She spoke up for a greater cause than herself. This video is a great lesson in activism. One need not wait for a leader to show up. Each and every person can raise his voice to oppose tyranny and human rights abuses anywhere and everywhere in the world. Courage is catching. Find 3 friends and try it for yourself. It is a very empowering experience. After a while it is not so frightening; it is, in fact, the only thing you feel you can do in the face of relentless injustice. Speak up now for your cause. Don't let one day pass without telling someone, anyone, about injustice. Be an activist. Change the world.


" Each and every person can raise his voice to oppose tyranny and human rights abuses anywhere and everywhere in the world."

How right you are and everybody can also collect their own information to counter the lies of Zionism and pass it on.

"Jonathan Cook: Pictures speak volumes in Oscar-nominated Israeli films"


"Israelis have been reveling in the prospect of an Oscar night triumph next week, with two Israeli-financed films among the five in the running for Best Documentary. But the country’s right-wing government is reported to be quietly fuming that the films, both of which portray Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in a critical light, have garnered so much attention following their nominations."


same way the right honourable gentlemen hitler, bLiar and bush did. Quiet easy really if u feel ur survival depends deception and murder

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).