Sunday, October 18, 2009

Well, looka there

Ehud Olmert, former PM of Israel, came to give a lecture at the Harris School of Public Policy at my university a few days ago. I passed the protesters outside, but I didn't realize there were disruptions inside the lecture hall as well:

Detailed coverage from Electronic Intifada here.

I was really surprised by this, frankly, as well as by the size of the anti-Olmert protest. UChicago, at least in its more visible aspects, tends to be a pretty politically conservative institution and very pro-Israel. On the other hand, of course Mearsheimer does teach here, and our Center for Middle East Studies is fantastic academically and politically much more varied--if anything it probably would lean toward the Palestinian end of things.

The student body, particularly the undergraduates, tends to be much more liberal than the school's reputation, but for the most part the pro-Israel students tend to be much louder and more visible than the other side. Partly it has to do with the very large contingent of fairly conservative Jews here: while by no means are all Jews pro-Israel, I've met many more people here who have spent extended time in Israel or have direct family connections to it than I ever have before in my life (though I'd say the proportion of Jews in the University population is about the same as the area I grew up in).

Partly, it seems from the EI coverage that the protest was augmented by area activists and students from other universities, but nevertheless it was an unusual and, frankly, welcome display of the other side of the debate. It gets tiring sometimes only seeing one side represented.

According to EI, this is the latest in a series of protests across the US, which is an interesting data point in terms of how Americans view Israel's actions of the last few years. It confirms the prevailing notion that Americans in general have lost some patience and goodwill toward Israel, something that has been generally felt among people I've talked to but usually unconfirmed by any real data. (Not that this is the equivalent of a major study with, you know, statistics, but it's still a data point.)

I'm not sure how I feel about the level of disruption of Olmert's actual speech. I'm sure I would have been massively uncomfortable had I been there, but that's sort of the point, isn't it? I don't know. As always with this issue, I remain divided and able to see both sides of it.


  1. I'm going to the big J Street conference in DC this upcoming weekend. I can let you know how that goes.


  2. That would be awesome! Do tell me what happens.