A wrongful protest

This is a republication of an original article written by Traci Siegel in the Diamondback on Wednesday, October 20, 2010.

As Israel’s ambassador to the United States and distinguished historian Michael Oren spoke to a group of about 300 people last Thursday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, about 20 silent protesters stood outside with tape on their mouths to express their feelings on what they call the “Israeli occupation.” As I entered CSPAC, I was handed a sheet of paper that outlined the vast amount of monetary aid the United States gives Israel. Following Oren’s speech, the protesters were screaming the names of Palestinians who were killed as a result of the conflict. And while I am a strong advocate of free speech, I felt these protests did not directly address Oren’s points and were simply a protest for the sake of protest. The protesting was by no means offensive or inappropriate, but I felt it was unnecessary and counterproductive.

If these protesters would have joined us for Oren’s lecture, they may have learned about the unique relationship between Israel and the United States and where all of this monetary “aid” goes. He mentioned a kibbutz that solely produces armored vehicles for the U.S. military — the same vehicles that keep our soldiers safe in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oren also noted that Israel has the second-highest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange — second only to the United States. Israel is also the nation that developed our cell phones, computer processors and state-of-the-art medical equipment. Thus, this money is not merely aid, it is an investment. This investment goes beyond helping Israel; it helps the Palestinians as well. Because the Palestinian economy is directly tied to Israel’s, a decline in one would result in a decline in the other. Requesting that less aid be sent to Israel would not only be bad for Israel, but it would be counterproductive for the U.S. and Palestinians as well.

Beyond focusing on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Oren touched on Israel’s desire for peace. As a country that struggled for many years for its own right to self determination and a return to their homeland, Israelis whole-heartedly support the same thing for their Palestinian neighbors. Israel recognizes it is not only imperative for the Palestinians, but it is also in their best interest to form a Palestinian state. In fact, Israel and the Palestinians are began peace talks last month to try to work toward a productive solution.

Therefore, while the protesters requested an “end to the occupation,” what they did not realize is that Israel would like to do the same. Perhaps instead of protesting, they should have listened to Oren’s words which promoted the same ideals of peace they were fighting for. The Gildenhorn Institute brought Oren to the campus, not for a pro-Israel rally, but as an opportunity for education and understanding. If we protest our opposition before hearing what they have to say, we become guilty of furthering conflict. Conflict is solved through mutual understanding and that is something our university should work toward. As a university community, we should engage in dialogue, rather than focusing on the negative aspects of this issue. If we are able to make peace on this campus, we can be a paradigm for peace across the Atlantic.

About the Author

Traci Siegel is a junior government and politics major and is treasurer of the Terrapin Israel Public Affairs Committee.