By Morris Casuto
SAN DIEGO–On January 10th, Ambassador Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States, spoke on“U.S. Israel Relations from an Historical and Personal Perspective” at UCSD for an audience of several hundred people including students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Thanks to the firm position taken by UCSD’s administration led by Chancellor Marye Ann Fox, this lecture was not a repeat of the unfortunate incident in UC Irvine on February 8th where the Israeli Ambassador’s speech was disrupted by a well-organized group of student protesters.
In sharp contrast, UCSD’s administration demonstrated resolve and determination to conduct a program in a peaceful and civilized manner and in the best traditions of the university’s commitment to freedom of speech and exchange of ideas. The presentation started with a strong statement from Peter Cowhey, Dean of the UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, that interruptions would not be tolerated during Ambassador Oren’s presentation and that members of the audience would have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation. The lecture proceeded smoothly, and the following Q&A session was mostly monopolized by students who questioned the Ambassador on topics that included the usual pro-Palestinian discourse on ethnic cleansing, war crimes, violations of human rights, etc. Ambassador Oren responded to each question with the knowledge of the accomplished historian that he is and with the wisdom of a true diplomat.
The program was organized by the student group Tritons for Israel and Hillel of San Diego, with the support of UCSD’s Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, and other organizations within the UCSD and San Diego communities.
The UCSD Police Department, in cooperation with the security team from the Consulate General of Israel, provided security for the event. They were present but not intimidating. Their presence indicated that UCSD would not brook a repeat of the events that occurred at UCI. Prior to the presentation, ADL staff met with UCSD police who contacted us for assistance.
Students from the Manhigim Institute, ADL San Diego’s youth leadership program, had the opportunity to attend the lecture, meet the Ambassador, and have their picture taken with him.
Some protestors gathered outside Price Center to voice their opposition to the Israeli government.
Prior to the event ADL, with the support of the Consulate General of Israel, organized a briefing with the editors of the San Diego Union Tribune. The editors had ample opportunity to ask questions about a variety of topics, including security issues, the two state solution, the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government, and the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Morris Casuto is director of the western region of Anti-Defamation League.