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Shimon Peres gets one tough question — on illegal settlements — and Colgate University censors it

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Those in attendance rose to their feet last Saturday night before Shimon Peres even uttered a word. Typical of standing ovations– first a few stood and then it took several moments for the rest of the crowd to catch on and I’m assuming most didn’t even know what they were standing for.  As often happens with me as I eyewitness the fawning ignorance of so many US citizens on this topic,  words from my Catholic school upbringing rang in my ears…”Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”.  The now agnostic/atheist me still cringes that in the halls of academia, this sentiment is as apropos as ever.  
Newsman Bob Woodruff, Colgate Class of ’83, served as host, and it feels wrong for me to come down as hard as I’d like due to the severe head trauma he suffered in Iraq. But his oozing flattery of Israel’s ex-President and Prime Minister was hard to stomach.  Unfortunately his style of journalism has become the norm here in the US where our media is complicit in the dumbing down of the public and playing Israel’s PR game to perfection.  Self-describing as “your classic WASP” (which pretty much described the entire audience with few exceptions), Woodruff and Peres began by chatting about their experiences on Israeli kibbutzim and recalling their earlier, more carefree selves.
From there Woodruff asked his first question:  Is ISIS the most dangerous terrorist organization?  According to  Peres, “there are more dangerous than ISIS. The most brutal, but not the most dangerous.” Explaining the motivations of the recruits to such organizations, they are “taken by the excitement…and the lack or respect for human life,” and the causes are “poverty and lack of hope”.  He elaborated: “They speak in the name of religion and they have permission to chop off heads…Did the Lord ever permit anyone to kill young girls and young men?” Good question, in the wake of Gaza, when Israel killed 2100.

Humanist Peres went on to say we should “fight the causes of extremism, not the people.” This segued into a celebration of Israeli ingenuity. After 10,000 years of man relying on the land and needing to defend it, “the land is no longer the provider, science is”.  Shimon explained that certain people have been able to capitalize on technology, while certain others “just don’t understand it…In the last 50 years the (Arab) population grew five times; the production did not.” Happily accordingly to Peres, “you’re becoming more strong by being more intelligent, more knowlegeable, more inventive.” (Anyone grasp the Israeli supremacy message?)  Israeli technology “can now make from one drop of water, three drops”.  (So why are Israelis hoarding it and its sources on the West Bank and depriving Gazans of potable water?)
Woodruff asked Shimon Peres, “What should the US do in Syria?” ( US taxpayers send close to $9 million to Israel every day, and Bob asks the wizened old man what the US should do?)
Peres: “The US should go to the United Nations and ask the Arab League to handle it.”  (But  Israel should not abide by the Arab Peace Initiative or any of numerous UN resolutions.)  “If you go to war and then what?  You occupy and stay?  Better to use economic pressure”.  ( I didn’t expect to hear Shimon Peres justify BDS.)
Then at last the hard hitting question from our brave journalist:  “I want to talk about Gaza – you were in favor of withdrawing settlements.”  And about what “Israel has had to do in Gaza.”  (Has Had to Do: So by the simple phrasing of this question, a respected journalist justified the killing of hundreds of civilians).  Peres relayed that by removing the settlers, Israel wanted to demonstrate to the Palestinians that it was willing to give back territory. “We had to force [8000] settlers to leave.” (And go where?  Many went to illegal West Bank settlements.)
SP: “We thought – now they will be quiet…but Hamas took the area by force. [No mention of the election] …Why are they shooting?  What are they protesting about?”
BW: “Israel lost a lot of support due the bombing in Gaza. do you have any regrets. Do you think the world was correct in thinking you went over the top?”
SP: “I’ll give you an example: You sit on the balcony with your child on your knee and oppposite you sits somebody else also with a child on their knee and they start to shoot at you. What should you do. If the father and the mother hide themselves behind their child, what really can be done? It’s a dilemma. They use their children and grown up people as their shield. .. Before we bombed anyplace we sent a message, we are going to bomb you. Please leave the place children….Some of them left and they were saved. Some of them did not.”
Back to the softballs:
BW: “Did winning the Nobel Peace Prize change you?”
SP:  “The real reward would be achieving peace…I’m not impatient for it.”
Well, of course you are not impatient. You live in relative luxury and safety while others live under occupation with no rights and under threat that more of their children will be buried alive under rubble of their homes.
Now it was time for Q & A. Oh great – this might get good! I thought. But no.
“We have a question from a student,” Woodruff said, and played a videotape of a young  man named Max asking [at 1:08 in the video above], “Over the course of a career you’ve held a multitude of positions… Which position did you think was most influential and why?” A question with as much force and weight as  “what did you do on your summer vacation?”  I can’t even remember Peres’s response.  Who cares?
Woodruff: We don’t have time for any more questions. (I guess I’m not really surprised)
Shimon Peres then sank further in his comfy armchair and  in a very grandfatherly way, admonished the students to find their own voices and follow their dreams. Raucous applause exploded and this time everyone jumped to their feet, thanking  the brilliant pursuer of peace.  I turned to my daughter Ava and we both thought we’d lost our chance to ask a different sort of question.  But as the applause subsided and the crowds sat, I seized the opportunity and stood, and from the middle of the room shouted,  “What about the illegal settlements?” Thankfully my voice didn’t fail me and in the crowd of over 4000, it rang out loud and clear and Peres answered “That is why we need to dialogue”.  I got in one last comment before the boo’s drowned me out. “Then why does Israel keep building settlements, uprooting trees, demolishing houses…?”  A female cop approached us (my daughter had removed her kaffiyeh from her bag and now had it draped around her shoulders) “Are you finished?” she said in as menacing a way as her 5’2″ frame could muster.  By then Peres had started a new round of Israeli hasbara regarding the settlements, and my daughter and I chose to walk out on him yelling “Free Palestine.”
In the aftermath of this trying evening, I watched the video just to witness my moment of infamy –  or to some, my moment of glory. You can see the blip in the recording at 1:19:20.  Colgate University, an esteemed institution of higher learning, deemed it appropriate to edit out the entire episode.  No comment necessary.
Pat Carmeli

Pat Carmeli lived in Israel 12 years and is married to a sabra. She lives in Cazenovia, N.Y. and is very involved in conflict resolution and the movement for freedom for Palestinians. She is a founding member of CNY Working for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel

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23 Responses

  1. bilal a on October 29, 2014, 10:50 am

    Interesting how old money wasp liberal arts colleges like Colgate have crumbled into garish tel aviv zionist bordellos

    With so much good news to celebrate, attendees were receptive to Colgate’s campaign to raise $5.3 million for a series of Jewish studies and Jewish life initiatives. Foremost on this list is the endowment of a chair in Jewish history. Other priorities include endowing a position for Hebrew-language instruction, endowing the Rabbi position, and supporting Jewish studies off-campus study, the Jewish Chaplaincy, and the Saperstein Center’s future activities.

  2. Kris on October 29, 2014, 11:15 am

    This is a terrific article, thank you!

  3. Horizontal on October 29, 2014, 11:34 am

    This is how elites play the game at the top.

    Academia, news, politics, show biz, business; it doesn’t matter. There are rules and there are unwritten rules. Chomsky has covered this all quite well. Why doesn’t some big news anchor call out these monsters? Because by the time someone has crawled up the ranks to get to become a big news anchor, they’ve already proven themselves that playing the game is more important than rocking the boat. No censorship is even necessary. They do it themselves.

    It’s a shame. Bob Woodward was once a great newsman to folks of my generation. Now what is he?

    I appreciate your shouting out the one question that needed asking.

    “Are you done?” Hell, no.

    • bajahasa on October 29, 2014, 7:51 pm

      Hi, Horizontal—- I just want to point out that the interviewer was Bob Woodruff, not Bob Woodward.

  4. Sycamores on October 29, 2014, 11:35 am

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing” Edmund Burke.

    my own daughther is called Ava, i hope when the time comes i’ll show the same courage and strenght as the two of you did. Bravo!

    honesty over civility any day.

    • adele on October 29, 2014, 12:08 pm

      A family that BDS’s together, stays together :-)

      • Sycamores on October 29, 2014, 1:17 pm


  5. amigo on October 29, 2014, 11:51 am

    I was going to ask why include this video which I found painful to watch beyond the point where Peres opened his lying mouth but then it occurred to me , that it would be unfair , why even antisemitic to deny the “ZioMondos” their cranial orgasmic thrills.

    Wouldn,t want to take that from Yonah /Mayhem/Double Standards et al.Besides it ought to keep them busy for a spell.

  6. adele on October 29, 2014, 12:00 pm

    Shimon explained that certain people have been able to capitalize on technology, while certain others “just don’t understand it…In the last 50 years the (Arab) population grew five times; the production did not.”

    Funny, I didn’t expect a “peacemaker” to disseminate lies. Those “certain others” that Peres refers to live under Israel’s draconian apartheid policies that are designed to suffocate any economic growth. LRB just published a short and damning expose on the mechanisms used by Israel to choke any economic development….Organised Hypocrisy on a Monumental Scale – Robert Wade on the Economic Occupation of the West Bank

    These are some of the economic restrictions on “certain others” as witnessed by Robert Wade, an LSE professor of political economy, on his first-time visit to the OT:

    The next day, on a dusty dirt road outside Nablus, with the Israeli security fence on one side and an olive grove on the other, I met two brothers walking towards the town some three kilometres away, where they lived. They had been working on their (ancestral) land on the Israeli side of the fence. The Israelis manned a gate closer to the town, they said, but opened it for only one hour in the early morning, one hour at midday and one hour in the late afternoon. If they wanted to come or go at other times they walked, or sometimes drove a tractor, several kilometres to the next gate, which had more extended opening hours. They also each needed a permit to cross the fence. The permits didn’t last long. The period varied but was commonly about two months. When it expired the men had to apply for another permit, which could take weeks. Last year they applied for a permit to cover the period for harvesting their greenhouse tomatoes, their main source of income. But it took 40 days to arrive, by which time the crop had rotted. They had two more brothers who were not allowed to cross the fence under any circumstances, because years before they had been jailed for protesting against Israeli rule.

    On to a nearby herder community, where fifty households tend several thousand head of sheep and goats on barren land. Electricity lines run overhead, water and sewage pipes run below, but the herders have no access to them. They buy water from an Israeli-owned water depot some distance away. They can pay for an Israeli-owned tanker to bring water to their cistern; but it was cheaper for them to tow their own water container to the depot behind a tractor, fill it, and pull it back home. In 2008 the Israeli authorities confiscated their water container, saying it did not meet standards. Now they pay the extra for the Israeli-owned tanker delivery.

    The Palestinian Hydrology Group, an NGO, has been working for more than twenty years to improve water and sanitation facilities throughout the West Bank. The Nablus office has provided toilets to fifty poor communities, including this settlement of herders. In Israeli eyes the toilets are illegal, because built without a permit. The PHG knows from experience that the chances of getting a permit are practically zero. So, backed by Spanish aid, it built quickly collapsible toilet cabins. With just a few minutes’ notice the components can be spirited out of sight and reassembled when the soldiers are gone. In Area C of the West Bank (more than 60 per cent of the territory) it is illegal even to mend a failing water cistern without a permit – which is rarely given. Solar panels would require a permit, too.

    The same restrictions mean that areas A and B of the West Bank (40 per cent of the territory), where Palestinians have greater scope for self-government, cannot be connected to scale-efficient infrastructure networks for electricity and water. The areas are fragmented (ghettoised) into small enclaves surrounded by area C land, where infrastructure projects require Israeli permits, which are rarely given. This greatly increases the cost of infrastructure services and restricts their supply to most of the West Bank population.

    Israel systematically blocks Palestinian external trade with other countries (70 per cent of the West Bank’s exports are sold in Israel). The only alternatives to Israel’s ports are two land bridges to Jordan. Israel often closes one of them, and the other is often choked by insufficient infrastructure. Israel levies murky forms of protection against Palestinian products, such as health and safety standards that Palestinian producers cannot comply with. Israeli law requires a wide range of products, including pharmaceuticals, to be certified before entering Israel; but Israeli security law also typically prohibits Israeli citizens from performing inspections in the Palestinian territories. Palestinian products subject to these rules therefore cannot be sold to the Israeli market, because they cannot be inspected by Israelis before entering Israel.

    The restrictions that the Israeli state imposes on Palestinians in the West Bank (to say nothing of Gaza, which I did not visit) are most visible in the Wall and security fence, which divides the whole length of the West Bank, including deep intrusions to annex additional land for Israel. But the restrictions also cover the movement of people, the import and export of goods and services, investments, and access to basic infrastructure (electricity, water, sanitation). They are so pervasive and systematic that it almost seems as if the Israeli state has mapped the entire Palestinian economy in terms of input-output relations, right down to the capillary level of the individual, the household, the small firm, the large firm, the school, the university, so as to find all possible choke points, which Israeli officials can tighten or loosen at will. Under these circumstances – which I’m happy to say I have never encountered elsewhere – political and economic development is barely possible.

    • adele on October 29, 2014, 12:13 pm

      It really is pathological how Israel blocks all channels of economic progress and then blames the victims of their inhumane policies for being “backward”.

      What else can a sane person do except BDS Israel?

      • Horizontal on October 29, 2014, 5:15 pm

        adele ~

        His child on a knee analogy was enough for me to toss my lunch. There’s a pathological mindset at work here that is breathtaking.

      • just on October 29, 2014, 11:19 pm

        Horizontal, iirc it was not the first time he’s used that analogy on teevee….. it’s grotesque.

      • adele on October 30, 2014, 3:54 pm

        I”ve never understood why people fawn over Peres. When did he suddenly become a harmless old man who likes to put children on his knees? Did I miss something?

  7. W.Jones on October 29, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I am confused why 4000 students would be so positive and uncritical? I thought that campuses were changing on this issue. I know that some were just clapping to have a speaker. But I am surprised that there were not more things like you described.

    Why do you say they were classic WASPS if the journalist had been on a kibbutz?

    • Pat Carmeli on October 29, 2014, 2:51 pm

      The journalist had described himself as a wasp – and the audience seemed predominantly Christian-types. I do think wasps spent time on Kibbutzim some years ago – it was the cool thing to do.

      • W.Jones on October 29, 2014, 11:42 pm

        ” I do think wasps spent time on Kibbutzim some years ago – it was the cool thing to do. ”
        What percent of WASPS did that?
        I personally know zero who did AFAIK.

    • Ellen on October 29, 2014, 4:06 pm

      I am confused why 4000 students would be so positive and uncritical? It is the comfy culture of a place like Colgate University.

      Go visit and you will see. Not all campuses are changing, especially smaller places like Colgate where group think appears to prevail.

      • Horizontal on October 29, 2014, 5:40 pm

        “When I wash my Brain, I use Colgate.”

      • W.Jones on October 29, 2014, 11:42 pm

        “When I wash my Brain, I use Colgate.”

      • W.Jones on October 29, 2014, 11:44 pm

        Yes, I visit Colgate not that long ago. I noticed a poster wherein a Jewish organization on campus was sponsoring weekly lectures on the Middle East, as I vaguely remember.

      • W.Jones on October 29, 2014, 11:46 pm

        My impression is that a lot – if not most – campuses are simply inactive when it comes to real left wing grassroots college organizing (as opposed to, say, College Democrats, Chess club, etc.)

  8. just on October 29, 2014, 4:02 pm

    Bravo Pat and Ava. I admire your intestinal fortitude (in both senses of the words) !

    “Humanist Peres”– sarcasm, eh?

  9. Pat Carmeli on November 26, 2014, 11:58 am

    UPDATE: Communications Director at Colgate University advised me that a university employee deleted the segment of the event’s video (“What about the illegal settlements?”) when asked to do so by Peres’ people. She said that the college realized it was a mistake – probably after reading about it online – and had it reinserted. It’s around 1:20 on the video, after Peres received his second standing ovation.

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