International Relations: Now Served in the Lobby

From the Clarice Smith Center blog

By Kathryn Lerner. Published November 2, 2010.

On Thursday, October 14th, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren gave an informative, educational, and inspiring speech on the relationship of the United States and Israeli governments. This occurred in none other than the Dekelboum Concert Hall at CSPAC. The lecture itself was a peaceful event which brought together students and faculty from all different backgrounds to learn about an incredibly important issue.

I was left incredibly moved by this whole occurrence under the roof of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. This was not your typical CSPAC experience, but as I have said many times, the performing arts have such an enormous capacity to better the world in so many ways. Housing such an event that inspires constructive, intellectual discourse is something the center should be proud of, and boasting about. Since they haven’t, I’ll boast for them.

Ambassador Oren strongly emphasized the unique similarities between the births of the United States and Israel. Both stem from British colonialism, and were born from settlers seeking freedom from persecution. The United States and Israel both rose to nationhood in the face of incredibly ill-favored odds; our countries have an unshakable tie.

Oren emphasized that both the United States and Israel dream of and are committed to a stable and peaceful situation in the Middle East. He stressed that Israel recognizes the Palestinians as a people, and that they wish to live alongside this people in a shared peace.

In the lobby of CSPAC and outside the building, students, many with their mouths taped shut, held flags of Palestine, as well as signs with various slogans which supported aspects of the Palestinian cause. These included variations of “End Settlement,” “Support Palestine,” etc. As I walked through the CSPAC lobby, I stopped and engaged the protesting students. The tape, inhibiting their mouths, was the least of the obstacles I found in trying to understand their protest.

I asked one student, “What are you protesting?” She responded with a tape muffled, “The silence of the other side.” I replied, “Silence? There could be, and have been speakers for the Palestinian cause on campus – do you mean you would like a Palestinian ambassador to speak, or does that not even exist?” I was surprised they knew that there is in fact no embassy, since Palestine is technically not a state.

A protest outside a peaceful, incredibly informative lecture on history and policy still baffles me. A little bit of research next time, and maybe you guys would have known that such a lecture could only improve support for Palestinians, and if you actually attended the lecture, you could, as many students did, have directly posed questions to the Israeli Ambassador. Of course Palestine needs a voice, but they deserve a voice that is mindful. Honestly, I believe that such “protesting” does a disservice to the Palestinian cause.

I invite, encourage, and beg for the discourse to continue. Post a comment. Challenge me. Open your mind, and don’t tape your mouth closed.