French university defends shuttering pro-Israel event following heckling

(JTA) — A French university defended its decision to shut down a pro-Israel event after disruptions by pro-Palestinian activists.

The administration of the Paris 8 University in Saint-Denis near Paris stopped the March 14 activity of approximately 10 members of the What Israel group “regretfully, and because of the risk of disruption of public order,” the university said Wednesday in a statement.

Videos of the event showed some 25 pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanting “Zionists out,” “Zionist killers,” “Israel, get lost, Paris 8 doesn’t belong to you.” They handed out fliers calling for a boycott of Israel and waved a large Palestinian flag while chanting “Palestine will live on” from loudspeakers. They also chanted “No dialogue with apartheid.”

One of the demonstrators, a young woman, was filmed hitting the What Israel cameraman, who is heard telling her, “Don’t touch me.”

The unauthorized pro-Palestinian demonstration was organized by a group called Collectif Palestine.

In its statement, Paris 8 said it “condemns and regrets” the actions of the hecklers.

The members of the What Israel group were visiting Paris 8 as part of their weeklong tour of a dozen French universities, an activity that the group co-organized with Union of Jewish French Students, or UEJF.

In the video, a representative of the university’s administration is seen telling the students to pack up. When they protested that the administration had authorized the event, she told them “please do not tell me what the administration can and cannot do.”

In a statement Tuesday, Sacha Reingewirtz, a UEJF leader, said representatives of the organization had met with the president of Paris 8, Daniele Tartakowsky, to discuss the incident.

Tartakowsky apologized for the violence and said she would help UEJF hold a conference on Zionism at Paris 8 in the near future, Reingewirtz wrote.

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