Saturday, April 28, 2012
Israeli Soldiers Speak at UC Irvine
Above video created by the protesters (Kinda inspires you, doesn't it?)
On the evening of March 1, two young Israelis, Ranya Fadel and Ran Bar-Yoshafat, who have served in the Israel Defense Force (IDF), continued their US tour of college campuses. Earlier in the week, these two ex-soldiers spoke at the University of California at Davis and UC Berkeley. Their presentation at UC Davis was disrupted by a handful of pro-Palestinian activists, while their appearance at UC Berkeley was without incident.
On March 1, I attended their presentation at UC Irvine. Surprisingly, given what had happened at UC Davis, no campus police were present. Fortunately, they were not needed.
The appearance at UC Irvine was sponsored by the UCI College Republicans. Approximately 50 people showed up including over 20 members of the Muslim Student Union and their sympathizers, many of whom were wearing red t-shirts with signs stating that “IDF has committed war crimes“. While there was no disruption, but the anti-Israel contingent stood up after a few minutes and walked out unwilling to hear what the Israelis had to say.
The two Israelis continued their presentations describing their experiences as IDF soldiers, experiencing first-hand what it is like to be on the front lines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They stated that they took no pleasure in interrupting their lives to serve in the military, but that they considered it their duty to protect their country.
Ran told of his experience studying in Italy and meeting Lebanese students, who initially refused to have anything to do with him but eventually became friends with him, engaged him in discussions about the conflict, and eventually accepted him as a friend, one even becoming a supporter of Israel. He, of course, could not be identified.
Ranya, a Druze female, told of having served on check points and having detected and intercepted a female suicide bomber.
At a certain point, three of the anti-Israel students came into the room and participated civilly in the question and answer session. They asked questions about the settlers in the West Bank, the Israeli control over naval and air space in relation to Gaza, and what would be a just settlement. There was an honest back and forth on these questions-as there should be.
During the Q and A, I identified myself as a part-time teacher at UCI and asked if they were the same persons who had spoken earlier this week at UC Davis. When they replied in the affirmative, I apologized for the rude treatment they had received at Davis and told them that I was ashamed that this had happened at a UC campus. I also told them that, in my opinion, those who had disrupted them had probably never served their country in uniform and probably never would even think of doing so.
It is unfortunate that most of the opponents of the Israeli point of view are unwilling to even listen to two young Israelis who have experienced the conflict first-hand These two speakers did not speak out of hate and expressed their own personal desires for a peaceful solution. Yet, the overwhelming majority of the anti-Israeli forces chose not to listen. It seems that the UCI Muslim Student Union has only learned half of the painful lesson from the disruption of the speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in 2010. While they did not disrupt, they chose to walk out instead of engaging in honest dialogue. Perhaps they realize that they cannot win the debate.