Alec Weisman, Editor-in-Chief
UCSD students and faculty as well as community members warmly welcomed Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, on February 10th, 2010. Speaking to a sold-out Price Center Theatre, the Ambassador discussed the importance of the US-Israel relationship and his own personal story. Tritons for Israel and Hillel of San Diego brought the Ambassador to UC San Diego after he chose to speak to both UC San Diego and UC Irvine.
After a brief welcome from the moderator, Dean Peter Cowhey, of the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacfic Studies, who set the guidelines for the event, Chancellor Mary Anne Fox graciously opened the lecture by thanking the Tritons for Israel for bringing the Ambassador to speak at UC San Diego.
Sam Spector, the Vice President of Off Campus Outreach for the Tritons for Israel introduced the Ambassador, later saying “It was an honor for us to host a policymaker as influential and a historian as celebrated as Michael Oren. The event could not have been more successful, the event was sold out, and students were respectful and were able to engage in dialogue with the Ambassador. It was a proud day for the pro-Israel movement at UCSD, and a proud day for our University.”
Ambassador Oren began by telling his personal story before discussing the lengthy history of the US-Israel relationship. His discussion stretched back to the founders, remarking that the Puritans perceived themselves to be the new “Israelites” for America while also believing that they should support the “old” Israelites (the Jewish people) in reclaiming their homeland in Israel. The Ambassador also cited Abraham Lincoln, who said that “restoring the Jews to their homeland is a noble dream shared by many Americans.”
However, as the speech turned towards more controversial issues, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Ambassador took several tough questions from students. However, despite the rude behavior of protestors at UC Irvine, several of whom may soon be facing expulsion and criminal charges, the protest of the Ambassador at UCSD was minor, with no disruptions occurring in the event. Lior Abramson, the Vice President of Culture of Tritons for Israel said “I thought it was really great that the school could allow so much free speech so people could voice their opinion on both sides”
Although most of the individuals who asked questions during the Q&A portion of the lecture held anti-Israel views, the exchange of ideas was insightful. When asked to defend Israel’s actions during Operation Cast Lead, Ambassador Oren replied by discussing the situation both prior to and during the military operation before saying “I challenge you and urge you to put yourself for one second in Israel’s place here. What would you do if there were rockets falling on your home town? What would you do?” The Ambassador explained that Israel has wanted a permanent and lasting peace and a two state agreement ever since the UN Partition plan in 1947, but sadly “The Palestinian people hold the world record for a people who have been offered an independent state and turned it down, and turned it down with violence. I say that without any joy” before then pleading with those in the audience who want a Palestinian state to “lets not miss another opportunity” for peace. Danielle Desta, the Israel Program Coordinator with Hillel who was instrumental in helping the Tritons for Israel bring Ambassador Oren was very appreciative of his lecture. “As an Israeli, I believe the Ambassador did an amazing job representing the Israeli people and explaining how the conflict affects the daily life of Israelis, which the media fails to consider.”
After the event, dozens of students facebook statuses described how much they enjoyed the Ambassador’s speech. In fact, the Ambassador made such an impact that several people reported hearing from students that “Michael Oren is a silver fox and a sexy beast.”
Ari Kattan, the Club Ambassador for the Tritons for Israel summed up the thoughts of many of the students at UCSD, saying “Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech was an interesting synopsis of the state of American-Israel relations today. We thank him for speaking on our campus.”