Armed police flanked the Bodleian on Tuesday night as Shimon Peres arrived in Oxford to present a lecture to students and staff at the Sheldonian.
But the heavy security could do little to prevent a verbal assault on Peres as students interrupted his speech with a series of attacks on Israel’s policy on Palestine.
Throughout the course of the talk, entitled ‘the globalisation of peace’, a series of eight students stood up and shouted statements in what they described as a gesture on behalf of the Palestinians.
One student shouted, “I represent the thousands of farmers who’ve had their land stolen illegally to build Israeli settlements.”
Another student, who loudly heckled Peres and called him a war criminal, was escorted out of the building by security guards.
Around 40 students gathered in front of the Sheldonian to protest at Peres’ visit and at one point chants of ‘Free Palestine’ threatened to drown out his voice.
The response of other students to the hecklers was mixed, with some booing and hissing and some clapping in response to those who interrupted the president. At the end of the talk, some students present remained seated while others stood to enthusiastically applaud.
Peres was invited to Oxford by Andrew Graham, Master of Balliol College, in order to inaugurate the first of a series of five lectures on the subject of peace.
Mr Graham said that he was “well aware of the opposition that has been expressed about this invitation” but that “the fundamental purpose of a University which is to hear and discuss and examine all points of view.”
During his speech, Peres hailed the election of Barack Obama as “the end of racism” and “a clear demonstration that we live in a different world.”
He also addressed the problems of peace negotiations and the progress made by Israel in the fields of science, agriculture, alternative energy and medicine.
Watch Cherwell’s video of the protest against Peres’ lecture here