AMHERST — Just 10 people were outside protesting the Palestine solidarity event Saturday night at the University of Massachusetts that opponents failed to block via court action.
About 2,000 attendees passed through security check-points before entering the packed Fine Arts Center auditorium –- many more had to be turned away — where speakers denounced Israeli treatment of the Arab population in that country.
The speakers also criticized President Donald Trump's support for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A large contingent of police stood outside the Fine Arts Center, and many were also inside during the Palestine event, that was peaceful.
Inside, attendees were warned that if they disrupted proceedings, they would be admonished twice; a third infraction would result in expulsion for the evening. The hall has a 2,000-seat capacity.
One of the protesters outside, Allen Talewsky of Somerville, directed his ire toward the most well-known of the event speakers, rock musician Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd.
"Roger Waters hates Jews," Telewsky shouted repeatedly outside the Fine Arts Center before the event started.
In an interview, Telewsky lamented there was so few protesting. "There should be more of us here, it's kind of sad that there isn't," he said. "My original intent was to be with people in the opposition."
Waters, 75, told the audience he became supportive of Palestine solidarity 13 years ago while on a music tour in Israel.
He said he was appalled by the conditions Palestinians must endure, and since then has supported movements to boycott Israel.
In an opinion piece he wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian last month, he urged Madonna not to perform in Israel.
Waters is also the narrator of a documentary film, titled, "The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel's Public Relations War in the United States" released in 2016, and available online at OccupationMovie.org.
Sut Jhally, a UMass professor of communications and organizer of Saturday's event, is the film's executive producer.
During the Fine Arts Center talks, former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill received standing ovations and prolonged cheers during an impassioned plea demanding justice for Palestinians living under military occupation in Israel.
A professor of media studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Hill recounted that — because of a speech he gave last year at the United Nations in support of Palestinians — the college tried to fire him. That speech resulted in CNN removing him as a commentator.
Hill said the chairman of Temple's board of trustees, attorney Patrick O'Connor, advocated terminating him.
During his speech Saturday night, Hill noted that O'Connor is Bill Cosby's lawyer.
"I was almost fired. . .he is Bill Cosby's attorney – I can't even make this stuff up."
Hill said the fight for justice is "not about isolating Israel . . . it's about speaking the truth everywhere."
He listed several nations that abuse human rights — and also said: "I can't say enough about what's wrong in the United States of America."
Hill said, "we live in a moment" when people must "pay a price" to obtain justice, proclaiming loudly: "They can't take us all out — we will be free!" — to thunderous applause.
Opponents of Saturday's event sought an injunction to prevent the event from occurring on the UMass-Amherst campus. But Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert L. Ullmann declined to issue the injunction requested by attorney Karen Hurvitz to prevent the panel discussion on Palestine.
The panel also included MPower Change co-founder Linda Sarsour who is Palestinian, Tricontinental Institute Director Vijay Prashad, who was moderator, and The Nation magazine journalist Dave Zirin.
During his remarks, Zirin took aim at those that have accused him of being "a self-hating Jew," saying more folks should condemn the Israel government's treatment of Arabs.
"As a Jew, I'll be damned if I'll be called anti-Semitic. . . there is nothing anti-Semitic about criticizing the actions of the Israeli state," he said.
Sarsour paraphrased a statement from a speech Malcolm X delivered in Detroit back in April 1964, when he said: "It'll be liberty or it'll be death. And if you're not ready to pay that price don't use the word freedom in your vocabulary."
The speakers thanked the UMass administration and Jewish Voice for Peace for taking action in court to prevent Saturday's event from being blocked.
Neil Anders, who attended the event, said he came because, "I want to see an end to apartheid world-wide."
Some said that although they did not agree with the message, they thought it worthwhile to come and hear it and that it would be wrong for those views to be repressed and censored.
Outside, a Needham man who was protesting the event said the organizers erred by not including "an opposing viewpoint."
"I am a proud UMass alum; I am a prouder Jew —- I am a big proponent of free speech," he said.