Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren spoke at Northwestern University on Monday in yet another PR move to improve Israel’s public image. Ever since Israel’s 22-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, Israeli authority figures have been on the defensive, taking advantage of any and every opportunity to throw in a few good words about Israel, about democracy, and about Israel’s-unique-form-of-democracy-that-doesn’t-give-rights-to-Arabs. Ehud Olmert did it in late 2009 at the University of Chicago and Oren did it soon after at the University of California – Irvine. But after being interrupted dozens of times by California activists, Oren came to Chicago for another try.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend Oren’s speech but I did come across various articles reviewing the event. From what I can gather, Oren’s speech wasn’t original by any means. It followed the same backwards talking points outlined in those small “Why I Love Israel” pocketbooks. One line in particular caught my attention, however, and this is why I’m awake at 3 AM typing.
Regarding the possibility of withdrawing settlements and other occupational forces from the West Bank, Oren said:
That territory is adjacent to our biggest population centers. It’s right next to Jerusalem, to Tel Aviv, and to Ben Gurion Airport. What happens if that Palestinian state is created and it becomes another Lebanon or it becomes another Gaza?
Michael Oren at Northwestern University
I’ve heard very wild attempts at justifying the occupation of Palestine before, but this has to be the worst one ever. In other words, because a lousy man-made airport was constructed too close to Palestine’s 1967 borders, Palestinians have no other choice but to endure decades of occupation, degradation, and human rights abuses. Shame on all of those who applauded him at the end of his ramble.
And what if “that Palestinian state” becomes another Lebanon or Gaza? The more important question is, “Who made Lebanon and Gaza what they are today?” If it weren’t for countless air invasions, bombing campaigns, and gun raids launched against the civilian populations of both Lebanon and Palestine, peace might actually be a reality and not an abstract concept discussed in futile direct talks. But just as Israeli officials insist that they’ll never stand down whenever an Israeli is hurt or killed, the Lebanese and the Palestinians insist on the very same. Shame on all of those who fell for this double standard.
And shame on Michael Oren for coming to a speaking event unprepared and factually-inept.