Foreign Ministry officials are considering stopping the lectures by senior figures around the world, particularly in Britain. The reason: The outspoken verbal attacks by students and pro-Palestinian activists, which render them ineffective. The attacks peaked last week, when demonstrators assaulted the Israeli deputy ambassador to Britain at the end of a lecture she gave at the University of Manchester.
Ma’ariv has learned that Israeli diplomats stationed in the US have significantly reduced the number of public lectures that they give to students, as a result of the frequent heckling. The last [lecture] was given by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren in February at the University of California.
“It seems that giving lectures in public halls at universities in Britain is becoming ineffective in terms of PR. The pro-Palestinian students cause major disruptions and prevent any dialogue. In the worst case, the lecture is simply stopped,” a Foreign Ministry source said, “in the end, the heckling and the incitement get the newspaper headlines, and not the message that the lecturer wanted to convey.”
The Foreign Ministry has raised several alternative ideas. One of them is to increase the use of social networks as a means of PR. The Foreign Ministry has several staff members who are considered experts on public diplomacy using the Web, including Deputy Director of the Training Bureau Yaron Gamburg and Ilan Sztulman of the Public Affairs Department. Another alternative is to allow the lectures to continue only in closed forums of lecturers and teachers.
Last week, it was reported that the Deputy Israeli Ambassador to London, Talya Lador-Fresher, was attacked at the end of her lecture at Manchester University by violent pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
As soon as she stepped out of the lecture theater she was stormed by the demonstrators, until security was able to smuggle her back inside the room. Afterwards, she was escorted out in a police car, but the demonstrators surrounded the vehicle and even climbed on top of the bonnet.
Israeli Ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, believes that the public lectures must not be cancelled, despite the attacks. Even Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, who suffered disruptions throughout his lecture in February, believes that “We have to appear in every forum open to us, despite the disruptions. We cannot leave the floor open to enemies of Israel. If we show weakness, and show that their violence and shouting is working, they will continue like that everywhere we go”.