Israeli ambassador gives speech without interruption
After Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, gave a speech at another UC campus disrupted several times earlier in the week, resulting in more than 10 arrests, he was able to deliver an uninterrupted message to a sold out auditorium on Feb. 10 at UCSD’s Price Center Theater.
Ambassador Oren gave a speech entitled “U.S.-Israel Relations from an Historical and Personal Perspective.” He was introduced by Samuel Spector, vice president of Off-Campus Outreach for Tritons for Israel, the group responsible for organizing Oren’s visit.
As Spector explained, Oren was raised in New Jersey and moved to Israel in the 1970s where he served as an officer in the Israeli Defense Force and was a paratrooper in the Lebanon War.
Oren is also a scholar of Middle Eastern studies, and he has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale. As an author, Oren’s book “Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East” won the Los Angeles Times History Book of the Year Award.
When Spector called Oren to the stage most audience members stood and applauded to welcome him. However, as indicated by the eight security officers flanking the ambassador, it was not a wholly supportive crowd.
Oren also entered a divided political environment when he became Israel’s ambassador in 2009. “Oi, are you going to have a hard job,” everyone told him as soon as they found out he had taken the position, the ambassador said.
Barack Obama had just been elected president, and Obama’s positions regarding the Middle East diverged from those of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama favored a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, a freeze on construction in the West Bank, and opening up talks with Iran about their nuclear program. Netanyahu proposed different tacks on all of these issues.
But the stances of the two administrations have since drawn closer, said Oren, and the relationship between the two countries is currently “robust.”
Oren fielded post-speech questions mostly asked by young people. The questions were also mostly anti-Israel in content, but despite voices sometimes rising in volume the exchange remained civil.
The evening ended on an additional tense moment. Upon exiting the theater, audience members were greeted by approximately 35 shouting protesters who held signs that read, among other things, “Free Palestine.”
On Monday, prior to his visit to UCSD, Oren spoke at UC Irvine. During the speech he was disrupted repeatedly by attendees who stood and shouted every minute or so, then walked out of the auditorium. Eventually Oren left the podium for about 20 minutes before returning to finish his speech, but the disruptions started again. Sources reported there were 11 or 12 arrests made that night.
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