Israel has good reason to be wary of Gary Spedding

Morning View
Morning View

The deportation of Belfast man Gary Spedding after he was stopped at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday has received considerable media coverage.

Much has focused on the allegation — denied by Israel — that the Alliance Party member and pro-Palestinian activist was stopped from entering the country because of his campaigning on the social media website Twitter.

Yesterday’s statement from the Israeli Embassy in London tells a very different side to the story, linking its actions to Mr Spedding’s leading role in a 2011 protest which turned violent (though he had no part in the violence and condemned it) against Israeli academic Solon Solomon.

That episode at Queen’s University, in which the law lecturer was shouted at by Mr Spedding before the heckling of others halted the lecture, brought shame on Northern Ireland’s premier academic institution.

It should therefore hardly have come as a surprise to Mr Spedding, who went out of his way to ensure that an Israeli academic was not welcomed in Belfast, that Israel decided not to welcome him with open arms.

There are many in Northern Ireland who genuinely care about the plight of Palestinians who face daily struggles unimaginable to anyone in Northern Ireland where, despite decades of violence, most people lead materially comfortable lives.

But support for worthy pro-Palestinian causes can easily be hijacked by extreme anti-democratic elements and the reports of a baying mob attempting to attack Mr Solomon could be interpreted as having worrying anti-Semitic undertones.

Mr Spedding condemned the violent aspect of that incident, but the fact is he was linked to a protest that over-stepped the boundaries of protest, and so he came on to Israel’s radar.

A country widely hated and much maligned, despite being a democracy and a thriving civilisation surrounded by dictatorships, Israel faces a huge security threat.

It is understandably wary of whoever enters its territory.