An invitation for the Israeli ambassador to address students at Queen’s University (QUB) on Tuesday has angered pro-Palestine groups and led to a call for the speech to be cancelled.
Mark Regev, the country’s chief diplomat in the UK, is due to address students on the subject of ‘conflict transformation and social justice’.
On Monday, QUB Students’ Union issued an eleventh hour plea for the university to withdraw Mr Regev’s invitation, saying it serves to “normalise the actions of the Israeli government” against the Palestinian people.
SU president Connor Veighey said his union “recognises the continued suffering of the Palestinian people” and supports student efforts “to highlight the injustices inflicted upon them by Israeli occupation.”
He added: “This event highlights a blatant disregard of the university’s commitment to equality and social justice.”
Robert Murtagh, the SU vice-president said: “Mark Regev’s political presence contributes nothing to academic understanding of Israeli government actions.
“The university should not allow its academic reputation to be exploited by the Israeli government as they attempt to validate their brutal and repressive actions.”
A protest against the visit has been organised by the Belfast Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
In a Facebook post, the organiser said: “This is a terrible breach of the academic boycott called for by Palestinian civil society.
“We call on all solidarity activists and all trade unions to demonstrate against this violation of the call for BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions).”
A QUB spokeswoman said an invitation had also been sent to the Palestinian ambassador to speak at a later date.
‘Universities play an important role in society as places of debate and discussion where ideas can be tested without fear of control, where students learn to challenge ideas and think for themselves, and where rationality underpins the pursuit of knowledge,” she said.
“Queen’s permits freedom of thought and expression, within a framework of respect for the rights of other persons, and academic freedom is enshrined as a guiding principle in the University’s Charter and Statutes.
“In accordance with these principles, invitations were issued to both the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors to the UK to visit the university and attend separate events for the benefit of Masters students who study subjects related to politics and conflict resolution.”
The spokeswoman added: “The workshops will provide students the opportunity to directly engage with the ambassadors, stimulate debate and discussion and enrich the learning experience.”