Israeli Consul General Speaks to Tough Crowd
March 29, 2004 2:22 PM
Yossi Amrani, consul general of Israel, spoke to an international relations class on March 15, explaining and defending Israeli policy before a tough crowd of more than 50 students.
Before Amrani's arrival, Dr. Dwight Simpson, the class professor, emphasized the need for courtesy, but much of the audience simmered with banter that indicated hostility toward Israeli policy. One student even asked if he could walk out during the consul general's presentation.
"That would be extremely discourteous," said Simpson. "If you're going to walk out, do it now."
Amrani came to the class at 10:35 a.m. and spoke for about 30 minutes, sitting on the table in the front of the room with his arms crossed across his chest or with fingers laced over one crossed leg. The facial expressions and body language of both himself and his audience told of mounting tension as he spoke.
Amrani began by describing how Israelis feel about the need for a Jewish homeland. He pointed out that the Jews have lived around Jerusalem for the last 2000 years, though in varying numbers. He also said that the Jews' connection with the land was also rooted in Judaism, pointing out that Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life, the place toward which Jews pray.
“It’s not a question of right, it a question of who we are (as Jews),” he said.
Amrani said he thought both Israel and a Palestinian state could coexist, but pointed out that Arabs living in the area in 1948 refused an offer from the United Nations for a state of their own. Since then, Arabs’ refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist has made peace impossible.
“You can not negotiate with someone who wants to kill you,” he said.
Amrani also explained that Israelis feel their very existence is at stake every time there is a terrorist attack, but acknowledged that Palestinians probably feel the same way when Israel makes a heavy-handed response.
“There is a psychology of fear throughout the whole region,” he said.
Amrani also said that Israelis never target children, school buses, and other areas where non-combatants congregate. That is the difference between the Israeli response and the terrorism of the Palestinians, he said.
Amrani took questions for thirty minutes after his speech, and the simmering hostility in the room between audience and speaker at last flared up when some students asked hot-button questions.
One student asked about the fence being built around the country to protect Israelis and why it was in Palestinian territory.
“I feel that the fence is not the Berlin Wall or the China wall,” Amrani responded. “We’re building the fence as a defense measure. The fence is movable. The fence is not built to separate Palestinians.”
The student then questioned Amrani’s use of the word fence, saying, “It looks like a wall to me.”
“Five percent of the 200 miles is a wall, 95 percent is a fence,” Amrani retorted.
The last question of the day came from a student, Emilie Fauquet, asking Amrani to define terrorism.
"I suggest you look it up in a dictionary," Amrani said, which produced laughter and groans from the audience.
Fauquet began to interrupt, but was cut down.
"If you were appropriate, you would let me finish," Amrani said coldly. He proceeded to define terrorism as the targeting of innocent people for political and religious gain, and again emphasized how Israel had never targeted children or other innocent non-combatants.
Toward the end of the class the air had become tense as Amrani continued to answer student questions. After Amrani answered the last question, he quickly thanked the class and left the room. Applause was polite; some students shook his hand and thanked him as others shook their heads.
Many students left quickly to gather their thoughts while others stuck around and discussed what they just heard.
“He evaded the question on terrorism,” said Fauquet after class. “I hate how he said, ‘We don’t target Palestinian kids. ”
“In general he was a passionate guy,” said James Adamson, 24. “Some of the students' questions were inflammatory and unintelligent. Mr. Amrani seemed to stay coherent and cognitive the entire time.”
“I thought he was amazing,” said Morgan Samuels. The international relations major said she agreed with everything he said and it was nice to hear someone with similar views.
“His tone of voice was very discriminating-oriented,” said Nour Mansouri, a student wearing a shirt that said “Free Palestine” on it. “He seemed to revolve around the questions people asked with out actually answering them. He was very one-sided.”
In a brief interview after class, Amrani said he came to SF State as part of reaching out to all universities within the area. He said the future of America is in today’s classrooms and it is important that future leaders know Israel’s point of view.
Deeann Mathews and Richard McKeethen contributed to this report.
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University