Trinity College Provost Regrets Protest of Israel Ambassador, Looks Forward to More Students Visiting Jewish State
The provost of Trinity College in Dublin on Thursday criticized student protests that forced the cancellation of a speech by the Israeli ambassador there last year, and said he looks forward to more of his students visiting the Jewish state.
Addressing alumni in Jerusalem while on a visit to Israel, Provost Patrick Prendergast noted that Ambassador Zeev Boker’s February 2017 appearance had to be canceled due to security concerns, after protesters led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) took over the campus venue he was meant to speak at.
“This was regrettable for the ambassador, for the students who had turned up to hear him, and for Trinity with its commitment to the free exchange of ideas,” Prendergast said. “To willfully shut down discussion before it has even begun is not — or should not be — the way of universities.”
SJP later spearheaded a successful referendum urging the school’s Students’ Union to adopt a long-term policy endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Photos of campus graffiti shared at the time with The Algemeiner by a student who opposed the boycott showed messages denouncing Zionism, denying the number of Jewish Holocaust victims, blaming Israel for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and calling one Trinity professor a “f**king Jew.”
Prendergast acknowledged the controversy surrounding Israel in Ireland, noting that when his school held its inaugural conference with the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2014, “Trinity was then lauded for the partnership; subsequently we were criticized.”
“The mood in the country and on campus is not uniform or invariable — nor should we expect it to be,” he observed. “But, as far as the college is concerned, we strive for consistency.”
Trinity is proud of its tradition of scholarship in Hebrew, Jewish and Middle Eastern studies, he said, and remains committed to partnering with universities that exhibit “academic excellence.”
“The Clem Esses scholarship sends one of our students each summer to the Hebrew University Jerusalem for a month to study the history of Jerusalem,” Prendergast added. “Each year about 10 school teachers go to Yad Vashem as part of Trinity’s Certificate in Holocaust Education.”
In the coming academic year, Trinity’s exchange program will support “29 staff and students moving to and from Israel and Trinity in the area of Middle-Eastern languages and cultural studies,” he continued.
He noted that under the terms of a recent dual degree program launched with Columbia University, students will have the option to study modern Hebrew and will be required to complete an internship in their chosen language. “We look forward to more students from Trinity, and Columbia University, coming to Israel,” the provost said.
In an article published in the student-run University Times on Sunday, an organizer of last year’s SJP protest responded by denouncing Prendergast’s outreach to alumni in Israel and accused the college of maintaining “investments and research connections that tie it to Israeli apartheid and the occupation of Palestine.”