Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren spoke to the Northwestern community Monday about the international issues confronting Israel.
“Israel faces an immense challenge in the peace process,” Oren told a packed McCormick Auditorium in Norris. “It’s a challenge not just of realizing the vision of two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state living side by side in a permanent and legitimate peace, but what about the risks inherent in peace?”
Not everyone in the auditorium, however, was ready to talk about peace. One man, who introduced himself as “Northwestern first-year Greg House,” asked about an event in Gaza last week when two Israeli soldiers hid behind a nine-year-old child. “It’s a token case. 327 children died. Will there be 327 cases?” the man yelled as he stormed out of the auditorium and slammed the door.
There is no “Greg House” or “Gregory House” listed in Northwestern’s online student directory.
Oren is no stranger to controversy during his campus visits. In February, 11 students were arrested at UC Irvine following repeated interruptions to the ambassador’s presentation. The Muslim Student Union’s charter was revoked for the 2010-2011 school year following the incident.
“It was very sad for me,” recalled Oren to a group of student prior to his speech. “At Irvine, the campus is known for having a very large Muslim population and that’s why I wanted to go to Irvine. I wanted to go and meet those people. I wanted to interact with them.”
Although Oren said that Israel is committed to the peace process and the two-state solution, he explained the nation’s doubts about territorial withdrawal in the West Bank.
“That territory is adjacent to our biggest population centers,” he said. “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? ”
In order to accommodate Oren’s visit, campus police and the Israeli consulate implemented special security measures.
“We coordinated to avoid any disruptions,” said Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon.
Students entered the auditorium through a metal detector, had their bags screened and turned on their computers.
The Crown Jewish Studies Center, the Buffet Center for Civic Engagement, Hillel and Chabad co-sponsored Oren’s appearance.