After he spoke to students about the ongoing conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, Yossi Olmert, an Israeli diplomat who was an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, left many audience members feeling dissatisfied that a more open dialogue did not take place.
In what was his second visit to campus, Olmert spoke out against terrorism and the fears he said he has felt from living in Israel. He also condemned terrorists and urged students to support the war in Afghanistan.
“It is important that this mission succeed. We have to defeat those Muslims that are engaged in terrorism,” he said in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union last night, careful to differentiate between defeating terrorists and attacking all Muslims. “It will be the end of the world if we come to a situation like that.”
No matter how Olmert qualified his remarks, many in attendance, such as engineering grad student Aminah Ibrahim, were angered by the lecture.
“If (they) wanted a speaker that was beneficial, they would have brought someone else. There was no dialogue,” Ibrahim said. “There is more than one dialogue on this issue.”
Some affiliated with the organizations that sponsored the event expressed disappointment that those who attended were not able to discuss both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Samantha Rollinger, a spokeswoman for the student group American Movement for Israel, said that the group invited Olmert to the University to offer his opinion as an expert but had expected he would address more of the questions.
“I thought he prevented an intellectual view of the situation and the issues at hand,” Rollinger said, adding that his views were not representative of the entire Jewish community.
“For every one Jew, there are three opinions. Almost every opinion will concur that Israel does have a right to exist. He was just here to offer an opinion.”
Though Olmert spoke on the conflicts between America and Afghanistan, the majority of his lecture centered around the idea that there will never be an agreement between the two nations if Palestinians do not stop attacking Israel.
“While they got 50 percent of the territory, we got 100 percent of the violence and terrorism. That is a bad thing,” he said.
Many students attending the event said the Olmert”s lecture did not address Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
Israelis “have issues amongst themselves,” said LSA senior Gamed Zindani, “but they were not even brought to the surface.”
During a question-and-answer session following the lecture, Olmert dismissed many student questions, openly questioning the intelligence of the students who asked them.
At one point in the lecture, Olmert refused to answer a question he said was a “joke.”
“He was dismissive to so many of the questions. If he”s not even going to show respect to the questions how are we going to get anywhere?” said LSA senior Fatima Siddique.
“He exhibited the typical Israeli poise on stage, exhibiting a brash harshness,” said LSA freshman Brad Sugar, an active member of Hillel. “He could have been a bit more eloquent in his counter argument. I don”t know if everyone knew what they were getting into.”
Olmert said what Israel wants from the Palestinians is what every person wants in every country: “to get up in the morning, go out and sleep at night without the fear of violence.”
“Violence did not take the Palestinians even one step closer to what they want to achieve,” he said, later adding that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could stop the violence if he wanted to. “If he can promise in one place, he should be able to promise in other places. When he really wants to stop the violence in parts of territories, then he does. That”s why he should stop it all over.”