Sam Hudson with permission for Varisity

Ben Shapiro has told the Cambridge Union that a “powerful coalition” supportive of Hamas exists at the university, stating that “barbarians and their supporters” are “inside the gates”.

Shapiro, an American conservative commentator, spoke yesterday evening (31/10) at the debating society about events in Israel and Gaza and Cambridge campus responses, as well as other issues.

The American pundit condemned the recent Students’ Union motion calling for a “mass uprising” likened by its proposer to the “First Intifada”.

He also criticised Cambridge University Opera Society’s decision to cancel their production of Handel’s Saul over worries about the “striking synchronicity” of the opera to “the ongoing Middle East conflict.”

Shapiro told attendees at the Union that the opera was cancelled because it was deemed “offensive”. He continued, stating that the opera could only be seen as “offensive” by people “who sympathise with those who slaughter babies in their cribs, rape and kidnap women en masse, and shoot holocaust survivors in the head.”

“It is no coincidence that the statement from the Cambridge Opera Society avoided all mention of Hamas,” he said.

Hamas, a Palestinian organisation of Islamist militants, launched an attack on Israel on October 7th which killed 1,400 people.

The group is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States, the EU and the UK, as well as other powers.

Since the Hamas attacks, Israel’s retaliatory airstrike campaign, siege, and ground invasion of Gaza has killed over 8,700 people.

A tense moment in the talk saw Shapiro state that a student attendee was advocating for “the Jewish state to be wiped completely off the map” after she ended a question by saying “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea”.

The phrase “From the River to the Sea” has been the subject of controversy, after Home Secretary Suella Braverman instructed the police and crime commissioners earlier last month that it could amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence.

Protesters at Cambridge’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which attracted around one thousand students and members of the public last Saturday, have repeatedly chanted the phrase.

The issue has been in the spotlight particularly on university campuses, after Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wrote to UK university vice-chancellors last month, telling them to use the government’s antiterrorist ‘Prevent’ system to deal with any suspected incidents of support for terrorism.

Shapiro also condemned UK pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the talk, claiming that the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have marched in London over the last few weeks did so “in support of Hamas”.

The American commentator emerged as a public figure after appearing in viral YouTube videos debating college students on race, abortion, and LGBT rights, and is most well-known for his conservative views and support of what he calls ‘Judeo-Christian’ morality.

His career has seen him editing the right-wing Breitbart News website and founding The Daily Wire media company. The Daily Wire was named in a recent investigation by The Guardian into two Texas fracking billionaires’ funding of climate denialism in American alternative media.

While Shapiro’s Cambridge Union talk went ahead, the SU Ethical Affairs campaign held a welfare support event for students “marginalised” by the American pundit’s views.

The “alternative event” was advertised as being “in the face of transphobia, racism, ignorance, and prejudice at the Cambridge Union”, with an SU spokesperson saying that, by inviting speakers such as Shapiro, the Union is “normalising hatred of marginalised students” and “perpetuating the systems that lead to death and oppression.”

After Shapiro gave his short address to the Union, questions from nominated speakers were posed to Shapiro which covered climate change, austerity, gun control, and abortion.

When asked about Shapiro’s comments, a Cambridge Union spokesperson said: “The Union provides a space in which views can be aired and challenged.”

“Due to the nature of the topics being discussed, we gave members additional opportunities to challenge Mr Shapiro”, they continued, stating: “we are pleased that many members took the opportunity to do so.”