Minneapolis, MN - Over 50 supporters of Palestine shut down a Nov. 3 lecture by Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal, a co-author of the Israeli military code of ethics, entitled “Protecting Civilians: Moral Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare.” Organized by the MN Anti-War Committee and endorsed by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP UMN), the protesters prevented Halbertal from presenting his defense of IDF conduct in last summer’s Gaza War. Three of the protesters were arrested, as police tried to maintain what they called “decorum.”
First, protesters filled the halls outside the lecture hall with signs denouncing Israel, Halbertal and the university’s violation of the international boycott of Israel. Dozens took seats inside, prepared to take on Halbertal, a professional apologist for Israeli war crimes. Before the moderator got three words out, the first interruption came, demanding challenging the University of Minnesota Law School for paying a $5000 honorarium to Halbertal, while contract negotiations are stalled with frontline union workers, hundreds of whom make less than $15 an hour.
As soon as one protester was ushered out of the lecture hall, another stood, demanding, “Why is the Law School spending $5000 for a war crimes apologist to defend Israel, while University students can’t afford tuition rates that have doubled in ten years? Why is the university flagrantly violating its commitment to human rights by refusing to honor the academic boycott of Israel, hosting a speaker that gives legal cover to apartheid?” This speaker was also pressed to leave, but the crowd joined in chants of “Free, free Palestine!” as she exited.
Speakers rose from the audience, one after another, making it impossible for Halbertal’s talk to proceed. Some 20 people intervened in the event, challenging Halbertal on Israeli war crimes in Gaza last summer, and the current violations of international law and human rights in the West Bank. Most ended their remarks with chants, such as “These are massacres, not mistakes! These are war crimes! Free, free Palestine!” and “Occupation is a crime, free, free Palestine!” Many in the audience joined in and some Palestine supporters were removed simply for showing visible support to the protesters. Observers were troubled to see police used disproportionate force in removing Palestinian and other Black and brown protesters.
The lecture was scheduled for one hour, but most of that time was taken up by interruptions. Even after being ejected from the lecture hall by campus police, the protesters continued to disrupt the event from the hallway, as Sabry Wazwaz, of the Anti-War Committee, led a rally which was audible from inside the auditorium for 30 more minutes.
Anti-War Committee member Sophia Hansen-Day was one of three arrested at the event. She told Fight Back!, “Currently, Palestinians are engaged in another wave of popular resistance against Israeli apartheid, military occupation and settler colonialism. With thousands injured and at least 73 Palestinians killed in October alone, the urgency of standing in solidarity with Palestine cannot be understated. This means demanding the university support the academic boycott of Israel, which it is flagrantly violating by hosting Halbertal, and stating emphatically that apartheid apologists are not welcome here!”
After three arrests, police cleared the protesters from the halls of the Law School. Charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, the three are expected to be released on bail tonight.
The Anti-War Committee call for the protest stated, “Halbertal must be held accountable for providing legal cover to Israeli war crimes. Halbertal distorts the language of international law to justify the apartheid wall, the military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the horrific conduct of the Israeli military in repeated massacres of Palestinians living in Gaza. In summer 2014, Israel killed 2257 Palestinians in a 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip, including at least 551 children. The UN documented a total of 140 families in Gaza partially or completely obliterated in Israeli attacks. Halbertal has attempted to justify and explain away such atrocities with statements such as ‘war is messy’ and ‘mistakes were made but only sporadically.’”
Today, this apologist for Zionist war crimes spoke only sporadically, as his lies were interrupted again and again by protesters who refused to listen to his anti-Palestinian hate speech.