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Harvard students walkout of Israel envoy talk

Over 100 students staged a walkout during Israeli envoy Dani Dayan's talk at Harvard

November 15, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Israeli Consul General to New York Dani Dayan was left shocked as at least a hundred students staged a walkout during a talk he was about to give at the US’ Harvard Law School on Wednesday.

Just as Dayan was due to start his talk on “The Legal Strategy of Israeli Settlements” in occupied Palestine, students who had filled the lecture theatre stood up, lifted placards reading “Settlements are a war crime” and walked out of the room in silence.

The gesture reportedly made a significant impact on Dayan as he was heard muttering “I remember doing this in kindergarten” while the auditorium emptied. He was then left to continue with his speech to the few audience members who remained.

The impact of the incident, however, resulted in a spark of awareness on the issue and made a huge impression. One of the organisers of the protest, Samer Hjouj, told the UK-based media outlet Middle East Eye that “To have 100 people standing up all at once and silently, did leave an impact.” Hjouj detailed the process through which it was organised, saying that “As soon as we found out about the event, we planned and it took a lot of time but we had a team at every school in Harvard, finding people to help us make it happen.”

Dayan is a key advocate for the establishment and maintenance of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. He served as the Chairman of the Yesha Council, an alliance of the illegal Israeli settlements, from 2007 to 2013. He was subsequently appointed as the council’s Chief Foreign Envoy – the only official representative of the illegal settlement movement to the international community.

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This is not the first time that the invitation of Israeli officials or pro-Israeli figures to events at universities have been condemned by students and activists. With some facing such protests accusing demonstrators of repressing free speech.

In May last year, the former strongly pro-Israel US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had her speech at the University of Houston interrupted by protestors screaming “Nikki Haley, the blood is on your hands!”

Despite Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory being in violation of international law as well as considered a war crime, the settlements have continued to be built and expanded, with around 650,000 Israelis currently living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This comes at the cost of Palestinian homes, villages and entire neighbourhoods being either evacuated and occupied or destroyed and replaced, leaving their legal owners destitute.

NOTE: This article was updated at 00.55 UTC on 16 November 2019. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Israeli envoy as Danny Danon, instead of Dani Dayan.