Pro-Palestine students protest panel of Israeli soldiers

Student protesters hold up their signs in front of the former IDF soldier’s presentation. Blocking the view of the audience.

Claire Nelson, News Contributor

Pro-Palestine students protested a presentation including two former Israeli Defense Force soldiers on Wednesday in Wilkinson Hall. Protesters stood in front of the presentation holding up signs saying ‘hold Israel accountable’ and ‘IDF commits war crimes.’ The presentation was created to spark dialogue between Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian viewpoints in attendance.

The presenters said they were anticipating protests, but weren’t anticipating for protesters to physically obstruct their presentation. Aviv Atia, one of the presenters, acknowledged that protest is a part of democracy.

“We live in America, it is a democracy, it’s completely fine. They can say whatever they want. We came here for respectful dialogue,” Atia said.

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The student protesters were upset that a faculty member allowed the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, a non-OSU affiliated group, to hold a space on campus. Because they are not affiliated with the university, the organization must have had the space reserved by a university representative. The protesters claimed that having StandWithUs on campus involved a faculty member taking a political stance to make it happen.

Azeem Hussaini, protestor and member of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, claimed that the university should not be taking a political stance in these situations.

“And by the faculty member bringing the speakers here, it directly contradicts their statements and they should be held accountable,” Hussaini said.

The former soldiers, Aviv Atia and Chen Basson, spoke of their life in Israel and how being in the IDF had changed them. Chen said being part of the IDF was about being part of something bigger than themselves, by serving their country.

Many protesters and audience members shared statistics and stories of their family experiences during the conflict. The speakers, Atia and Basson, attributed such horrors to a terrorist group near the Gaza strip known as Hamas, as well as a lack of knowledge from the media about what is going on in Israel. 

Atia and Basson further defended Israel after the protesters called the IDF “war criminals.” Eventually, the exchange focused on the veracity of sources and statistics being shared by protesters regarding the IDF. The speakers asked for the protesters’ sources and disputed them.

During the presentation, a protester interrupted the speakers, refuting their claims and asserting that putting all the blame on Palestinians is dangerous.

The StandWithUS speakers said they wanted to increase awareness on what is happening in Israel, what can happen in the future, as well as create discussion amongst one another. Both Aviv and Chen agreed that they completed their task.