Israeli diplomats 'hazed' on campus

Pro-Palestinian university students appear to be growing more vocal and organized with their frustrations. And it's a phenomena that seems to have caught the Israelis off guard.


    The Israelis have a lot of experience dealing with asymmetrical warfare.  But they're not exactly used to its latest manifestation, which could be coming to a college campus near you. 

    Committed activists let their frustrations be heard on Monday in two separate lectures delivered by senior Israeli diplomats.

    While the videos go viral among students, its watching the tactics used at these events that must be leaving Israel unnerved.

    Consider the way in which a mockery was made of Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, who presented at the University of California at Irvine.

    The New York-born former academic had nary a minute to get into his talking points when he himself was taken to school by angry students, at least one of whom shouted "propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!"

    The heckling made it impossible for Oren to carry on, and persisted in spite of pleas and threats by audience members and promises of arrest by the rattled college rector.

    Most of Oren's detractors made reference to Israel's actions during the  2009 Gaza War. 

    Israel is under heavy strain by UN officials and international rights organizations to be held accountable for crimes of war during the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza.  Some from academia have defended Israel from the charges, including Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, who went so far as to attack UN Investigator Richard Goldstone with a provocative Hebrew word that translates as "traitor to the Jewish people".

    Off guard?

    But by in large, what is making me take notice is how pro-Palestinian students seem to be growing more vocal and organized with their frustrations. 

    It's a phenomena that seems to have caught the Israelis off guard.  When Oren's appeal for Middle East-like hospitality failed, Oren jousted: "This is not London or Tehran!"   

    He must have been clairvoyant.  Across the Pond at Oxford Union on that same day, it was not exactly going swimmingly for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, trying also to lay down a rote defense of Israel.

    Students there also used timed interruptions, and apparently racist invectives, to upset their Israeli guest.  

    Unlike Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki, these students were more interested in shaking fists at Ayalon than afterwards shaking hands.

    The implications of this week's Israeli diplo-heckling are uncertain. Aside from threatened legal action by Ayalon, stiffer heckling penalties will likely be imposed, but can only go so far.  These guys are professional and, in Ayalon's case, should know from experience how to handle themselves.

    Much as some might hope, campus gumshoes are unlikely to bar students from attending based on their affiliations, religion, or appearance, lest they abandon the pluralistic values which underpin most institutions and set themselves up for lawsuits.   

    Instead organizers will have to find other ways to keep this youthful equalizer at bay, which will probably mean skipping universities with large pro-Palestinian activist bodies.  And that seems to be a widening community.

    NOTE: Middle East passions also reached my Alma Mater last month where the same exact tactics were used to frustrate a presentation by U.S. CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus.

    Last October, Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, also faced a tough crowd despite steps taken by the university.



    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.