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Student arrested at SJP protests of Israeli Knesset

By Tate Herbert
On April 2, 2012

  • Student protesters shout as they are taken out of last Monday’s event at Temple Emanuel in Newton. Tess Scheflan/ All rights reserved.

Newton police arrested one Brandeis student and dispersed approximately 15 protesters in total at last Monday's panel of members of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, during a town hall-style meeting at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass.

Knesset members Ofir Akunis, Lia Shemtov, Ilan Gilon, Raleb Majadele and Fania Kirshenbaum, all Ruderman Fellows, spoke at the meeting as part of the Ruderman Fellows Program, which partnered with the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies to bring Knesset members to the Boston area to learn about the American Jewish community.

During the forum, members of Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine, all wearing blue T-shirts emblazoned with the word "apartheid" in Hebrew, stood up and yelled "mic check," when Akunis began to speak.

A few students from other Boston-area universities and local activists were also in attendance, according to SJP member Seth Grande '12, along with members of the peace activist group CODEPINK, according to Newton police reports.

Protesters continued to chant slogans such as "Israel is an apartheid state and the Knesset is an apartheid parliament," "Mr. Akunis and Ms. Kirshenbaum, how do you feel to be silenced?" and "free, free Palestine," for approximately one minute until they were led out of the room by police.

Director of the Schusterman Center S. Ilan Troen '63, who moderated Monday's panel, wrote in an email to the Justice that the protest was "silly ... actually infantile" and "a non-event" compared to the two-hour-long panel.

Troen also pointed out that the panel included Majadele, an Arab Member of Knesset who has held several powerful political positions.

Protesters were particularly opposed to Akunis and Kirshenbaum because they "sponsor this legislation that shut down international funding to human rights [non-governmental organizations] operating in Israel and Palestine," said Grande.

"We go in, stand up, do the mic check, and [Newton Police] start pulling us out," said Grande in an interview with the Justice. "Some of us were in the middle of the pews, so it was a bit harder."

One of the students who resisted police efforts to remove the protesters, Leila Einhorn '12, was arrested for disorderly conduct, according to Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, director of the Department of Community Services for Newton Police. Einhorn declined to comment on the events.

Einhorn "was sitting on the edge of the benches, one of the cops grabbed her pretty violently," said Grande. She pulled away as the officer grabbed her and was consequently arrested, according to Grande.

Apotheker declined to comment on allegations by SJP members that protesters had been assaulted and that one was thrown to the ground by police.

SJP also disrupted a similar event held on campus last year. "The walkout last year got such a big press response and got so many people noticing," said Grande. "[Knesset member] Avi Dichter ... is an international war criminal. The glossing over of all these problematic aspects of Israeli government policy, I don't find that right," he added, referring a member of the delegation of MKs that came to Brandeis last year. A group of plaintiffs did, in fact, attempt to try Dichter for war crimes in 2005, but the case was dismissed in 2007, as Dichter was found to have immunity.

"We don't really feel comfortable with the relationship between Brandeis University and the Israeli government," Grande said, explaining SJP's position. "We are opposed to actions of the Israeli government as a whole. We will not welcome any Israeli officials to Brandeis university events," he added.

-Sam Mintz contributed reporting 

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