Protests continue to follow Ehud Olmert

on 29 Comments
Protest against Olmert speech in Chicago, October, 2009. (Photo:Tom Tian)

A few months ago we followed a series of protests that followed Ehud Olmert across the country as he tried to rehabilitate his image on a US speaking tour. He is still at it, and the protests continue to follow. This Thursday, Olmert will speak at Union College in Schenectady, NY and a coalition of local organizations are planning a protest.

In addition, Union faculty have opposed the decision to host Olmert and are circulating the following statement:

A Position Statement from Members of the Union College Community:

Whereas, Union’s Strategic Plan calls for graduating students who are “engaged, innovative, and ethical contributors to an increasingly diverse, global, and technologically complex society;” and

Whereas, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted on serious corruption charges in his own country, has been officially implicated by the United Nations in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, and has also been implicated in the suppression of dissent:

We, the undersigned, hold that the administration’s decision to allow the Speaker’s Forum to invite Mr. Olmert was mistaken and contradicts the values and ethics of Union College. We reject the argument that Mr. Olmert’s visit is simply that of a “controversial” individual. We reject the logic that validates such a position, and hold it to be irrational and inconsistent with the intellectual climate we hope to create. Mr. Olmert’s appearance at Union does not contribute to the free exchange of ideas. On the contrary, closed to the general public, under the pall of heavy security, and with questions vetted by moderators, this event seems to limit and stifle opposing viewpoints a set of conditions inconsistent with our tradition of academic freedom. Furthermore, we deplore the significant negative impact this event will have on Union’s academic reputation on the local, national, and international levels. We go on record strongly against this decision to invite Mr. Olmert to speak at Union College, and urge that the event be cancelled.

Anyone wishing to sign this statement is invited to contact any of us listed below to be added to the list of supporters. We are compelled by our consciences to circulate this position statement within the Union College community and beyond.

David Ogawa
Eshi Motahar
Tom Lobe
Mazin Tadros
Andy Feffer
Michelle Chilcoat
Valerie Barr

29 Responses

  1. potsherd
    January 12, 2010, 10:49 am

    What other country lets people under felony indictments go roaming the world?

    Israel should keep its criminals at home.

    • Chaos4700
      January 12, 2010, 11:52 am

      They might have to. I think the US is pretty much the only place Israelis can travel in the Western world and not be subject to international arrest warrants.

      • Citizen
        January 12, 2010, 11:53 am

        Right. In the USA they are treated as honorary first class Americans.

      • Oscar
        January 12, 2010, 1:59 pm

        And they’re paid “honorariums” to spew Hasbara to American college students.

  2. Citizen
    January 12, 2010, 11:52 am

    Where is the call for providing “context?” A contrary POV? Instead this international and Israeli domestic criminal gets to spout off and only screened questions are allowed to be asked?

  3. Richard Witty
    January 12, 2010, 12:18 pm

    I’m much more concerned about the faculty.

    What faculty that actually considers itself to be educators, would censor students’ access in this way?

    How better to find out what the decision process of the government of Israel was during key events of its history, than to have the head of state of that government available to inquire of?

    Its very upsetting, in NOT a hopeful way.

    • Donald
      January 12, 2010, 12:21 pm

      Yes, Richard, what better way to determine the truth than to ask a politician why he did something. And this part–

      “On the contrary, closed to the general public, under the pall of heavy security, and with questions vetted by moderators, this event seems to limit and stifle opposing viewpoints a set of conditions inconsistent with our tradition of academic freedom. ”
      doesn’t seem to concern you.

      • Richard Witty
        January 12, 2010, 12:34 pm

        Even your theme of “squirmy” would be demonstrated by seeing more than censored.

        Hopefully, people would actually listen to his concerns in the process of making and enacting decisions, so as not to imagine and then condemn relative to their fantasies.

      • Donald
        January 12, 2010, 7:13 pm

        “Hopefully, people would actually listen to his concerns in the process of making and enacting decisions, so as not to imagine and then condemn relative to their fantasies.”

        Yes, Richard, because no one is more likely to tell the truth than an Israeli prime minister fresh from his killing. At last, we can know what really happened. You can get the rationalizations you need to hear.

        Seriously, if I were at Union I’d demand that there be knowledgeable people present who could grill him. I’d rather not keep him away–I’d want, say, some Human Rights Watch people present to ask him questions, or maybe some Palestinians. Perhaps the faculty who signed this petition would know enough to pin him down.

        But vetted questions— that doesn’t sound good. If they are softballs as I suspect, with no followup if he tries to weasel and squirm, then the event doesn’t belong at a college campus.

    • Chaos4700
      January 12, 2010, 12:53 pm

      I don’t recall you having that commitment to free access when the political science class that was hosting a talk on the Israeli occupation got their event scaled back and restrained at Goucher.

      link to

      Not a post to be found from you. Wittypocrisy, huh.

    • Danaa
      January 12, 2010, 1:36 pm

      Hey Witty – would you go along with an invitation to Pinochet? topic could be “The importance of civil liberties in a democracy”?

      How about OJ Simpson? maybe to discuss the american criminal justice system?

      It’s the prerogative of faculty to frown on an indicted criminal and an unindicted war criminal, responsible for over 2000 murders to protest giving him a podium to discuss anything. Sure, free speech and all that. But free speech has limits, as the KKK finds out about now and then. Communities do have some right to set standards.

      perhaps olmert can give talks at david duke university, or at a hagee revival. Surely he’ll meet an appreciative audience there.

      So, witty – can I put you in touch with some teabaggers? they can teach both you and olmert something about carpetbaging….

    • VR
      January 12, 2010, 1:46 pm

      First Richard, it has never been the design for the most part regarding academics, to be anything but the staunchest supporters of the status quo. Real critical thinking and contrary views left campuses long ago, for the most part. All intellectuals (and the majority supposedly in academics) are marchers in the parade for full support of their nation right or wrong, no matter whether it is world superpower and imperial empire supporting the worse atrocities imaginable in the world or not –


      Second, Olmert is on a quest for legitimacy – and they (war criminals and human rights abusers) get it where they can. As if there is some respectability or other alternative view than to be completely appalled at what Israel did under this administration (and quite frankly, all of them). There is nothing legitimate about it, and any institution which fosters this on their students is nothing but a fawning and servile ass kisser of the worst sort – but what else is new about education in America for the most part?

  4. Mooser
    January 12, 2010, 12:52 pm

    “Hopefully, people would actually listen to his concerns in the process of making and enacting decisions,”

    Under the circumstnces, wouldn’t those be mostly in the form of excuses, or to put it plainly, alibis? For which the university is providing an outlet, and validation with its standing.

    Besides, he can tell it to the judge when it’s time for sentencing.

  5. Mooser
    January 12, 2010, 12:59 pm

    I don’t understand why Richard isn’t embarking for Israel immediately! I mean, who could pass up the chance to live where there are no criminals?

    Always the reflexive defense, and always based on the same four axioms (if axiom is the word I want):

    link to

    Oh, don’t thank me Richard, always glad to help folks understand you.

  6. David Green
    January 12, 2010, 1:40 pm

    The most highly recommended (by far) response to David Brooks’ puff piece on Senor-Singer in the NYT this morning:

    I kept waiting to read a comparative list of Muslim Nobel prize winners (hardly any) and their relative contributions compared to the Jews–(hardly any). This is a close to disgusting op ed, Mr. Brooks–just barely disguising contempt for Palestinians–whom you mention only as a disruptive force in settling Israel. Yes, we know the Jews are a well educated and creative people. We need no more proof of that.

    When you named Milton Friedman as an Israeli advocate, I knew you were over the edge! Do you not realize that this man, the founder of the Chicago School of Economics, was directly and indirectly responsible for overwhelming poverty in many countries to which he brought his “free market” theory–including many Latin American nations, Indonesia, Russia and (even after his death) Iraq! That has nothing directly to do with the state of Israel, but it has everything to do with the way you speak and think!

    You also do not mention that Israel is by far the largest recipient of foreign aid from the US of any nation, and has been for a long time. No wonder they don’t have to worry about bailouts! And that the big, wealthy Jewish lobbying group, AIPAC, has the power to make or break any politician in this country! And has!

    The Jews are an amazing, talented people, but they are also human. And many Israelis and American Jews are part of the Neo Con movement–which has almost destroyed America. If they had their way, we would have bombed Iran by now. You did not mention (I assume purposely) the Peace Movement in Israel or in America–in which many prominent Jews are involved! They have seen the light, and know that war and domination are not the answer! But our bellicose press, including you, seems only to respect the obvious signs of power–wealth and success! High tech creativity is terrific, but it should not be celebrated when it is on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised!

    • Richard Witty
      January 12, 2010, 3:13 pm

      I found the Brooks article interesting.

      He seemed like another side of Phil, articulating the success of Jews and the contrast between Jewish diaspora success and contrary Jewish characteristics in Israel.

      He did note that the Israeli award winners are ultimately mobile, and more committed to their work than nationalism, as Phil as noted.

      • David Green
        January 12, 2010, 4:05 pm

        What’s interesting is that a clear majority of those writing comments and recommending the comments of others’ recognizes the disingenuous vulgarity of this tired argument about Jewish/Israeli “success.” While of course and unscientific sample, I think it says something about the “liberal” and “educated” zeitgeist regarding Israel–the show is over.

      • Oscar
        January 12, 2010, 4:55 pm

        David Green raises a great point. Brooks’ op-ed piece was appalling in its ethnocentric arrogance, and most of the comments on the NYT blog were largely negative (that is, until the Times closed the site to new comments — what a surprise).

        Interestingly, the Times ranks the comments by the ones most often recommended. Virtually all of the top 20 “most-recommended” comments were critical of Israel’s conduct in Palestine, its unending consumption of US taxpayer aid, and its record on human rights and aggression. The article made a splash all right, but not the Semitic-supremacist afterglow it was aiming for.

        Click here to see the parade of negative comments.
        link to

      • David Green
        January 12, 2010, 5:29 pm

        And also look at the 17 “highlights”, that are selected by the NYT lackies in order to soften the criticism–hardly a representative or meritorious selection. And the time delay to get your comments posted is also really annoying and manipulative.

      • sammy
        January 12, 2010, 5:43 pm

        I’ve noted many opinion pieces by Zionists don’t even open for comments in the Guardian. Apparently they don’t like to hear other people’s opinions of their blather.

    • potsherd
      January 12, 2010, 6:06 pm

      It’s notable that Brook doesn’t mention anything about the abysmal standing of Israeli education in the current world, the illiteracy, innumeracy and ignorance of the graduates of Israeli schools. Rather than build on Jewish intellectual gifts, Israel has turned the Jews into a nation of bullies and clods.

  7. wondering jew
    January 12, 2010, 5:08 pm

    If the Palestinians are best served by publicizing their cause, then Olmert’s speaking tour suits them well for it allows them to protest his presence and thus gain publicity.

    • Chaos4700
      January 12, 2010, 5:28 pm

      That’s kind of like arguing that letting the Nazis kill Jews in death camps for longer is a good thing, because it generates more evidence for the Nuremberg Trials.

      Really, WJ, do you really think anyone is that stupid? Or are sincerely that foolish yourself?

      • wondering jew
        January 12, 2010, 5:56 pm

        Chaos- now when Olmert is allowed to talk it is not only a Nazi talking it is actually a Nazi killing.

        You’re ridiculous. At present the United States supports Israel and for an Israeli representative to talk to the public or a selected group of people and for Palestinians or Palestinian supporters to be marching outside is a hell of a lot more people thinking about the question of I/P than if the only thing happening on campus is a football game.

      • Danaa
        January 12, 2010, 6:51 pm

        I somewhat agree with WJ that Olmert is a poster-child of israeli corruption and a born-again recruiter for the palestinian cause. I mean, this is a guy that was caught taking money-stuffed envelopes for LOL! When Madoff was able to hide his tracks for years! I guess in israel, they take corruption and graft so much for granted that only freiers don’t do it.

        You might have wanted to mention WJ, that the lecture circuit for Olmert inside israel is kind of dry at the moment. But, hey, in America, they say a sucker is born every day, right?

        On the positive side, Olmert’s accent is not as bad as some…the better to spew platitudes at the gathered hapless multitudes.

        had I been there, my placard would have said “Au Revoir O’ Merd”. Please feel free to expropriate as needed.

      • Chaos4700
        January 12, 2010, 6:57 pm

        Why limit it to merely Israelis who have war crimes arrest warrants out for them, WJ?

    • Donald
      January 12, 2010, 7:08 pm

      That’s a fair point, and if I were at Union I’d probably put more stress on the fact that the questions are “vetted”–I think that the questions should include some grilling over the Gaza war crimes. Left to himself, or offered softball questions, Olmert is likely to make excuses and give rationalizations that could be challenged if the people putting on this show would allow it.

  8. Avi
    January 12, 2010, 7:18 pm

    I honestly do not understand the outrage.

    A few years ago, Columbia University invited the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak at their campus. Ahmadinejad was and continues to be accused of denying the Holocaust and threatening to “wipe Israel off the map”. Despite evidence dispelling these accusations, he continues to be stigmatized in the US and in Israel. Mind you, he did not carry out the Holocaust, nor did he “wipe Israel off the map”.

    Yet, Ehud Olmert who has killed thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians as the commander and leader of the Israeli military establishment is being shielded from criticism and encouraged to speak in front of an academic forum for the sake of “open mindedness” and “freedom of speech”.

    It seems we are being led to believe that speech is more dangerous than actions.

    I don’t know about you, but if I were forced to choose, I’d rather be called names, than suffer a blow to the head or abdomen.

  9. robin
    January 12, 2010, 9:59 pm

    The fact is that Union places Olmert in a position of honor by providing him with this venue. And they are paying him. That is simply not acceptable in the case of a man who, by all evidence, is a war criminal.

    If it was merely a matter of “controversial views”, the issue would be less black-and-white. Although clearly some views are held to be inappropriate for reputable forums, and I would say that Olmert’s support for racism puts him in that category.

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