Members of PalSoc hold a vigil outside the Union on Wednesday nightLucas Chebib

The Cambridge University Palestine Society (PalSoc) organised a candlelit vigil outside the Cambridge Union Society building on Wednesday evening as Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, delivered a talk to the debating society.

The two groups have repeatedly clashed over the Union’s record of inviting Israeli officials to speak to their members without soliciting a representative from Palestine to contest them.

In Michaelmas term of last year, PalSoc protested against the invitation of Yiftah Curiel, the head spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy, to the Union, and in the previous year against the invitation of then-Ambassador Daniel Taub.

The vigil was attended by around 20 people. They laid a line of electronic candles along the edge of the pavement opposite the back entrance to the Union chamber, where security guards were checking the possessions of incomers.

A spokesperson for the vigil told Varsity that their demonstration was a “sign of solidarity with the Palestinian people” intended to “hold Regev to account for [Israel’s] continued policy of occupation and denial of human rights.”

They also commented that the Union “should have more Palestinian speakers”, and, while acknowledging that the Union has invited the Palestinian Ambassador to speak separately in November, argued that “an event in which [Regev] was directly challenged would be better”.

She emphasised that PalSoc was not contesting Regev’s right to speak, a sentiment echoed by others attending the vigil. One attendee told Varsity: “The message that the ambassador intends to give will be given – we just don’t want it to be a comfortable event”. He added that Israel, which he called a “settler colonial state”, needs to be challenged at such talks.

And indeed various challenges were levelled within the chamber. Audience members asked Regev about the integrity of Israeli democracy, the effects on the peace process of Israeli settlements, and the wall – which Regev countered is a “security barrier” rather than a wall – erected by the state in the West Bank.

Regev answered, respectively, that Israeli democracy is strong and consistently improving, that settlements are being established at a slower rate now than in the past, and that the “security barrier” is necessary to protect the lives of civilians. He also demanded that Palestinians “be held accountable for failing to respect the peace process”.

Varsity contacted the Union for comment, but received no response

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