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3 arrested at protest slamming Israeli war crimes apologist at University of MN

By Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
November 3, 2015
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University of MN police handcuffing pro Palestine protester
University of MN police handcuffing pro Palestine protester (Fight Back! News/Staff)

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.



Brandon Harris wrote 50 weeks 2 days ago

Frank, it was not mob

Frank, it was not mob thuggery. We will shut down hate speech anywhere it rears its ugly head. The protesters did a good job in disrupting his speech.

Brandon Harris wrote 50 weeks 2 days ago

Ron, no one is against the Jews

Ron, no one is against the Jews here. It is not about the Jews. It is about the occupation of lands that rightfully belong to the Palestinian people and it is about the right to move around freely and without being stopped at roadblocks and checkpoints for hours on end. How many Palestinians have had their homes bulldozed to the ground and then you had Gaza bombed to smitherines last year by war planes and rocket attacks from Israel. The majority of the Palestinians are unarmed and when you oppress a group of unarmed people and build a wall through their country and then force them to live in squalor in refugee camps because their homes and everything have been bulldozed to the ground then what do you expect? They are going to fight back and they have a right to fight back.

The airline hijackings carried out in the 1960's and 1970's were resistance movements and no passengers got hurt. It was also not terrorism, it was resistance. Justified resistance against imperialism and occupation of the Palestinian homeland. The PFLP was in the right to carry out these heroic acts of resistance.

What you need to realize is that these acts of resistance are not aimed against the Jewish people. It is aimed against imperialism and occupation and racism. Many working class Jews and Jewish people of color support the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). I support the PFLP and I always will support the PFLP. Many working class Jews and Jewish people of color have been oppressed by Israel also. I also want to point out that no Jewish synagogue has ever been targeted or attacked by the Palestinian resistance. What the Palestinian resistance is fighting for is a free, democratic, secular and socialist Palestine where all Jews, Christians, Muslims and Bahai's can live in real freedom and democracy and where each group will be allowed, and encouraged, to promote their own cultures.

Also, there are many Jewish people in the left and many Jews who support Palestine and support the BDS movement. I applaud the protesters who shut down the apologist for Israeli war crimes because no one should be given a podium to speak in support of racism and apartheid.

Brandon Harris wrote 50 weeks 2 days ago

My love and solidarity to the protesters.

My love and solidarity goes out to those who protested and shut down this apologist for Zionist war crimes.

To Ron, these people are not thugs. They are fighting against racism and apartheid and Zionism. The people who support Israel and claim it as the greatest democracy in the Middle East are the same people who supported Apartheid South Africa from the 1960's throughout the 1980's and said South Africa was a model for democracy in Africa when nothing could have been further from the truth.

Israel oppresses working class Jews and Jewish people of color from Ethiopia, Yemen, India and Eritrea and even migrants from Sudan and Eritrea who are non-Jewish. What the Palestinian struggle is about is freedom for all people from oppression. We do not need to listen to an apologist for Israeli war crimes. Moreover, the university should never have invited him to come and speak.

Resistance to imperialism, occupation, racism and apartheid is not terrorism. It is resistance. It is justified. To resist is to exist and we will not rest until every square inch of Palestine is free.

Joy wrote 50 weeks 6 days ago

Ron, you are wrong about the al Aqsa mosque

Palestinian concerns about a takeover of that space (with its two mosques, an Islamic museum, and with a large Muslim cemetery alongside the compound -- an active Muslim religious space for hundreds of years) are completely rational. When I was there a couple months ago I personally witnessed the provocative presence of a group of Jews surrounded by armed Israeli guards, parading around the compound. Netanyahu’s government has been funding the “Temple Mount Institute,” whose stated goal is to build a new Jewish temple there. Especially given that the US media refuses any reasonable reporting on this issue, this kind of protest is absolutely necessary.

Alison wrote 51 weeks 4 hours ago

This apologist for Zionist

This apologist for Zionist war crimes shouldn't be allowed to voice his approval of Israeli Zionists' war crimes in Palestine, but especially not in a centre of education! Well done the protesters!

Lucia wrote 51 weeks 6 hours ago

Shame on UMN for whitewashing war crimes

Some systems of oppression are so heinous that the only ethical response is disruption. Few of the commenters attacking the students here would have opposed a demonstration against someone paid $5000 to justify the horrific system of South African racial apartheid, yet numerous veterans of the struggle against South African apartheid have visited the Occupied Territories and described the Israeli system of apartheid as even more brutal and destructive than what they endured. The only reason most Americans don't know this is that high-paid apologists like Halbertal have an unlimited platform in the corporate media and the corporate University to spread propaganda that whitewashes that racist system and its war crimes. Opposing views are rarely heard (when was the last time the UMN offered a platform to a Palestinian speaker?) and to the extent they are heard at all it is only because people have raised their voices loud enough to *make* them heard. These students should be commended for standing with their brothers and sisters in Palestine.

KaitM17 wrote 51 weeks 9 hours ago

First, I want to send much

First, I want to send much love and solidarity to the folks who organized this action and particularly to those who were arrested. From the headquarters of weapons manufacturers to the halls of distinguished universities, I hope people in the US, where our government continues to fund Israeli apartheid and genocide, use every opportunity to confront and challenge Zionism & the occupation as well as speak out in support of the Palestinian people. In other words, may the struggle continue!

linden wrote 51 weeks 19 hours ago

Chants vs. bullets

Boo-stinking-hoo for the overpaid speaker and the pro-apartheid people at the university who paid him. Halbertal advocates for a regime that ends the livelihoods and lives of Palestinians. I applaud the protesters for shutting down his speech. It was just words in Minnesota against the bullets, checkpoints, and bulldozers being used against the people of Palestine. I hope that soon, we, the people of Minnesota and world, have the real power to shut down the apartheid state of Israel.

Craig Wood wrote 51 weeks 21 hours ago

Protesters thugs - really?

Good on those who protested at the university. Calling those people thugs is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

Netanyahu and his murderous gang of land-grabbers are the thugs and informed people who are not closed-minded know this. Israel was the biggest violator of human rights in the world last year according to the UN. They came in second for killing the most journalists (along with media support staff) according to Reporters without Borders and took third place for murdering the most kids during military operations.

Over 2,300 Palestinians were killed during Operation a Protective a Edge last summer - newly 800 were women and children and over a third of the kids were 12 years old or younger. Another 3,000 kids were injured about a 1,000 of them are now expected to be permanently disabled.
It's hard to measure the psychological damage apart from the skyrocketing incidence of bed wetting, apathy and deep fears of going to school or leaving the house among juveniles. No accurate numbers for kids who still tremble or cry uncontrollably when Israel conducts one of their mock incursions over Gaza.

In case you didn't know, Israel has the most powerful military in the Middle East and the Palestinians rightful resist their nearly fifty year old illegal occupation with crude missiles ( most don't have guidance systems) and stones for the most part. Not content to use state-of-the-art weapons, Israel sometimes resorts to banned weapons like DIME munitions, depleted uranium, armor-piercing shells or white phosphorus. Israel too has a history of using human shields.

Did you people who are calling the protesters thugs ever see the video footage from Operation Protective a Edge in Gaze during the summer of 2014?

Caleb Powell wrote 51 weeks 21 hours ago

Three Regressives Side with Terrorists

The regressive left has become unwilling to debate or listen to the other side, and rather than engage they make false accusations.

Both sides are at fault. But the Palestinian government has done much in causing the Palestinians to suffer.

If you can't debate with this guy, and protest as censorship, and accuse him of ridiculous untruths, then you come across as looking like an apologist for the terrorism and murder.

bill wrote 51 weeks 23 hours ago

Those reping for Israeli apartheid should be treated like Klan

Those who travel from campus to campus supporting the apartheid state of Israel should be treated like the Klan. Their advocacy for Israel helps to make the cruel and vicious treatment of the Palestinian people possible. In the 80’s it became nearly impossible for supporters of South African apartheid to hold events on campus. It would be great if that happened to backers of Israeli apartheid today.

FormerlyUndecided wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

I used to be undecided on the Israel/Palestine conflict

But if this is how the Palestinians choose to "combat" the other side and to prevent any sort of dialogue, then I can't help but side with the Israelis. These childish antics show that apparently the best defense of the Palestinian cause is to act like a bunch of thugs. . . .good luck with winning any rational person to your side with that nonsense.

fizzy wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago


every occupation forces will be defeated sooner or later no doubt about it

Ron wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

the BDS'ers are nothing but thugs who threaten ppl

Students for "Justice" in Palestine , "BDS" - why don't you call them what they are - bunch of thugs who support murderers that try to kill Jews on the streets in Israel. they support terrorists, suicide bombing and stab knifing of Palestinians that feeds on incitement given to them by their false leaders lying to them how "the Jews are taking over Al Aqsa mosque"
its time to face reality and call it what it is - they group in large numbers and threaten everyone around with violence - everyone that does not think like them - they are the exact example of the danger in the support of Palestinian cause - in the 60's and 70's those ppl hijacked planes and killed innocent civilians "in the name of the cause" - in the name of human rights - and today they gather in campuses threaten ppl and prevent them for speaking - they are thugs and criminals.
they do not care for freedom of speech , they do not care for any freedom, they just want to see more Jews being killed.

Fern wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

Justice for Palestine

I'm glad this action occured - it's always right to shut down Zionists. Justice for Palestine!

Jess S wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

More of this!

It's time we stop giving racist, zionist, war apologists a free pass to speak on any public platform, campuses or elsewhere. Their words are hate speech and lies, while their politics promote apartheid, occupation, and the denial of Palestinian liberation, including the fundamental right of return.

They deserve all the respect and civility they offer to Palestinian lives: None.

Anonymous wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

Israel Speaker at the U of MN

You people are racist and fascists. Welcome to the future...when do you begin banning language and burning books?

Frank wrote 51 weeks 1 day ago

Mob Thuggery @ U of MN

No excuse for this kind of violent, thuggish behavior. And it doesn't say much about the Palestinian cause either, if the only way they can make their statement is by shutting down speakers that they don't agree with.