'The blood of Palestinian children is on your hands!' Heckler interrupts von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen was scheduled to deliver a speech at the European Defence and Security Summit when a man stood up to denounce her policy on Israel.
Ursula von der Leyen was scheduled to deliver a speech at the European Defence and Security Summit when a man stood up to denounce her policy on Israel. Copyright European Union, 2024.
Copyright European Union, 2024.
By Euronews
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A speech by Ursula von der Leyen was briefly interrupted on Wednesday by a man who accused her of being a "criminal" over her support for Israel.

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The European Commission President was about to deliver a speech at the European Defence and Security Summit when she was abruptly interrupted by a man who stood up and directed accusations at her.

"Mrs von der Leyen, this is a citizen's arrest! You are charged with aiding genocide in Gaza!" the man is heard saying.

"You have expressed total support for Israel at the beginning of this genocide! The blood of Palestinian children is on your hands!"

At that moment, another person approached the man, who continued shouting while he was removed from the room.

"You are a criminal, Mrs von der Leyen! You should be at the Hague! You should not be here. You should not be looking for a second term! You are war -- you are a criminal!"

"Free Palestine! Free Palestine!" he added, as his voice faded away.

Von der Leyen, who stood still and showed no reaction during the unexpected occurrence, then began her intervention by thanking her hosts for the invitation.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be here," she said.

The President proceeded to deliver a wide-ranging speech about the need for Europe to strengthen its security and defence as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The man later identified himself as David Cronin, an associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, a Chicago-based publication that covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective. In a post defending his "citizen's arrest," Cronin doubled down on her criticism of von der Leyen, saying "her enabling of genocide is despicable."

Since the 7th October attacks launched by Hamas against Israel, von der Leyen has emerged as one of Europe's staunchest advocates of the Jewish nation, a support she underscored in a closely-watched visit to Jerusalem in the immediate aftermath. 

However, her support quickly backfired as the death toll in the Gaza Strip caused by the Israeli offensive began mounting and the devastation on the ground turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Although she never backtracked on her stance, von der Leyen gradually adapted her narrative to position herself as a leading actor in the provision of emergency aid to Gaza, travelling to Cyprus last month to announce a maritime corridor.

This article has been updated with more information.

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