Olmert (left) was the Prime Minister of Israel during both the 2006 Lebanon war and the 2008-09 Gaza warGin Kai

Ahead of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s talk at the Cambridge Judge Business School this evening, a poster campaign condemning his actions and declaring that he is “not welcome in Cambridge” has been launched.

Olmert, a politician and lawyer, served as the 12th Prime Minister of Israel, and has also previously held roles in the Israeli Cabinet and as the Mayor of Jerusalem. Following his term as prime minister, Olmert was convicted both of accepting bribes and of obstruction of justice, and was sentenced to a prison term.

His talk tonight – entitled ‘Israel as a start up nation’ – has already provoked outrage from pro-Palestine groups within Cambridge. Protesters postered the walls of the Judge Business School with flyers calling to “free Palestine”, and the Cambridge University Palestine Society (Palsoc) issued a statement on their Facebook page urging the cancellation of the event.

The posters cite the deaths and displacements of civilians during the 2006 Lebanon war and Israel’s attacks during the Gaza war as evidence for their assertion that Olmert is a “war criminal”, echoing Amnesty International’s similar condemnations since 2006. The 2008-09 Gaza war, which took place during Olmert’s premiership, resulted in a death toll of over 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Israel says it acted in legitimate self-defence in response to attacks by Hamas.

Asked about the invitation extended to Ehud Olmert, a spokesperson for the Cambridge Judge Business School told Varsity that a student met the former prime minister during a visit to Israel, and, on hearing of his upcoming travel to the UK, invited him to speak in Cambridge. They added, “We uphold freedom of speech as one of our primary values”.

In an email inviting staff to attend the event, the Cambridge Judge Business School said, “We would like to keep this event low profile and we are not promoting it across the University”. A spokesperson blamed “short notice and little time to prepare for the event” for this decision, saying that were informed of the invitation extended to Olmert less than two weeks ago.

Although the invitation to Olmert was not directly issued by the Judge Business School, they created an officially branded leaflet for the event, which was emailed to staff.

PalSoc called the decision to invite Olmert to speak in Cambridge “deeply shameful” and echoed the accusations written across the posters plastered to the walls of the Judge Business School, saying “Olmert is a war criminal who belongs in the dock of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, not at a canapé-laden reception and discussion in Cambridge”.


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In 2009, a UK lawyer working to expand the use of ‘universal jurisdiction’ for human rights abuses declared that Olmert would likely face arrest on war crimes charges if he visited Britain.

On their Facebook page, PalSoc write that they are “dedicated to increasing understanding of the Palestinian people, their culture, their heritage, their rights and their struggle for self-determination”. In May, they co-organised an emergency rally – attended by around 150 students, staff and Cambridge residents – in support of Palestine, following recent attacks in Gaza.

Ehud Olmert has not responded to Varsity’s requests for comment

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