A retired Israeli soldier who helped thousands of Syrians receive treatment in Israel was met with noisy protests during talks at King’s College London and Warwick University on Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Eyal Dror was being hosted by the prestigious university’s Israel Society and co-hosted by Israel advocacy organisation Stand With Us.
Dror set up the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) humanitarian mission Operation Good Neighbour in the Golan Heights, bringing injured Syrians over the border for treatment in Israeli hospitals. The mission ended in 2018.
StandWithUs UK said the protesters “hijacked” Dror’s presentation, tweeting videos of the chanting and adding: “Protesting help for Syria, sickening.” The group’s executive director Michael Dickson described protesters as “a mob”.
Dror said: “My message to the UK is one of cooperation across people of all faiths for the benefit of people in need – Christians, Muslims and Jews working side by side to deliver hope to a generation of Syrian civilians who were victims of a tragic, bloody war. This message has the power to combat prejudice.”
Raphael Wein from StandWithUs said it was a “disgrace” that protesters were “not willing to show support for such a worthy cause. Dror’s message was that of shared humanity and coexistence.”
BREAKING: A presentation by amazing humanitarian, Israeli @EyalDror4 who led an effort to treat 1,400 Syrian children & deliver tonnes of aid into an enemy country is being hijacked at Warwick Uni by pro-Palestinian activists. Protesting help for Syria, sickening. pic.twitter.com/Al9gF7lhcw
— StandWithUsUK (@StandWithUsUK) November 19, 2019
Hours earlier, Dror spoke at the University of Warwick, where hundreds of students had earlier signed an online petition protesting against it, saying: “In the same week that over 34 Palestinians have been massacred by the IDF, the University has chosen to allow a colonel from that same force to speak on campus.”
The Warwick’s Students’ Union acknowledged “considerable unease surrounding a talk on campus today” and said its involvement was “limited to the processing of speaker applications, then liaising with the University to look at the associated risks”.
Citing the “potential discomfort caused to marginalised communities,” the SU asked “all student societies, particularly those with political interests, to think carefully about who they invite onto campus, and to consider the potential impact this has on our diverse range of communities here at Warwick”.
It added: “It is all too easy to forget that abstract concepts often have real-world consequences, or that the presence of certain individuals on our campus may be threatening to others.”