Thursday, October 05, 2006

NewU: Reut R. Cohen: Israeli Speaker Invites Discussion

No time now for comments. Link to Op-Ed.

Israeli Speaker Invites Discussion
By Reut R. Cohen

On Sept. 25, Ehud Danoch, Consul General of Israel, spoke at UC Irvine regarding current issues affecting Israel. The Anteaters for Israel-sponsored event attracted 350 individuals, including students, faculty and community.

Danoch described the many facets of Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors.

“Soldiers gave eviction notices to families who have lived there for 35 years ... 35 years gone in one day,” Danoch said in regards to the August 2005 Gaza disengagement.

Danoch went on to explain that for the sake of peace, Israel will be willing to participate in peace talks when the situation improves.

“Israel is willing to negotiate,” Danoch said. “We are willing to do a lot. But now we don’t see any negotiation, unfortunately.”

The majority of Israelis are willing to sacrifice land if it means the end of suicide and homicide bombing, and if it produces a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Israeli cabinet, in fact, acted in the interest of granting Palestinians their own state when it disengaged from Gaza.

Considering that Gaza today is a base for fundamentalists to launch Qassam missile attacks into cities recognized as part of Israel, I cannot fault the Israelis for refusing to negotiate with Hamas leaders. The fact of the matter is, as with Iran, Israel cannot negotiate with people who call for their annihilation.

The killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian radicals was also a hot topic.

“On June 25 of this year, a terror organization infiltrated Israel, killed two soldiers and kidnapped Gilad Shalit,” Danoch said.

Hamas and other radical groups have been hindering peace talks, and many Palestinians who would rather live in peace and work to support their families are placed in a precarious situation.

While Hamas might occasionally support Palestinians by building a school or clinic, they also represent a corrupt group of individuals who are responsible for dozens of attacks against Jewish, Christian and Muslim Israelis. The current Palestinian government, which receives millions in aid from Israel every month, is certainly not known for seeking peace.

Perhaps the most controversial topic discussed, however, was Israel’s recent war against Hezbollah. Danoch pointed out that the war was not against Lebanese civilians but against Hezbollah and its supporters.

“The Hezbollah infiltrated Israel and killed eight soldiers and kidnapped two,” Danoch said. “The population of Israel is seven million. ... Approximately one million Israelis were displaced, about one-seventh of the population.”

Israel and Lebanon should not have been in any conflict because the borders between the two countries are clearly recognized. Because of Hezbollah’s unwarranted attack on Israel, Israeli and Lebanese citizens suffered tremendous loss of life. The events this summer in Lebanon and Israel were tragic in the extreme.

In respect to Lebanon, I do, however, place much of the blame on Hezbollah, whose supporters surrounded themselves with innocent civilians and refused to let them leave Beirut.

Although I do not agree with the manner in which the war was fought and find that I cannot wholeheartedly support the current Israeli administration, I can observe, with pride, that the Israeli army is in fact very moral. The Israeli Defense Forces minimize damage to infrastructure and warn civilians of impending attacks, minimizing civilian casualties in wars.

In light of the many anti-Israel activities that occur on campuses around the country, Danoch urged the UCI campus to talk about tolerance.

“Freedom of speech is important,” Danoch said. “But when incitement begins, that’s a problem.”

Emily Shaaya, president of AFI, said that the group is working to promote tolerance on campus.

“It is a part of AFI’s mission to educate our campus,” Shaaya said. “It is important to bring someone to campus who is a scholar to come speak to students, faculty and community. ... I think this was a great presentation and opportunity to have the community come out to show its support for UCI students, not only Jewish students but students from all political affiliations and backgrounds. AFI is working to build coalitions with different groups on campus this year, to welcome them and to educate them.”

AFI has been a great way for many pro-Israel students like me to explore political avenues and gain some semblance of acceptance at a university which has become extremely anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and even anti-American.

Reut Cohen is a third-year English major. She can be reached at

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