On 4 April, students at Brandeis, the historically Jewish university in the Boston area of the United States, disrupted a speech by Avi Dichter, member of Knesset and former head of the Israeli General Security Services. As Dichter delivered his speech, several students stood up and called him a war criminal and a torturer, and demanded he be arrested for crimes against humanity.
In 2007, Dichter was sued in a US court for his role in dropping a one-ton bomb on a Palestinian family’s home in Gaza in 2002, killing 15 persons — including 9 children — and injuring more than 150 others. The judge dismissed the case under the guise of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) because, according to the Israeli government, Dichter was acting in the course of his official duties.
The website of Boston University’s Students for Justice in Palestine group reported that the students listed charges against Dichter, speaking in English and in Hebrew, and chanted “Don’t worry Avi Dicther, we’ll meet you in the Hague” (“Brandeis Students Disrupt Israeli MK Avi Dichter’s Speech, Call For His Arrest,” 4 April 2011).
Participant Paraska Tolan stated: “War criminals have a right to speak on our campus, but students also have the right to hold them publicly accountable for their crimes. This serves as a message that Dichter should not feel welcome, even at Brandeis University.”
The Brandeis student action comes amidst waves of disruptions and walk-outs of speeches by Israeli governmental and military representatives across the country. Similar actions have taken place across the United States and in Europe, on college campuses and in public venues, notably in Michigan, Massachusetts Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and in the UK, recently in Scotland and previously at Oxford University.
However, students who have disrupted speeches are facing attacks by university administrations and local law enforcement. Muslim students at the University of California at Irvine are facing criminal charges for the disruption of a speech by Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in February 2010.