On Monday Nov. 5, Yoni Michanie’s talk at Drew University was interrupted by two protesters. The talk, Obstacles to Peace, was hosted by the Drew Israel Student Association (D.I.S.A.), a new club at Drew this semester. It was held in L.C. 28 at 7 p.m. and focused on the aspects Michanie believed operated as obstacles to a resolution for the Israel/Palestine conflict.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA GOMBERT
The two protesters were not Drew community members. They came into the talk late and, after sitting for just a minute or two, stood up in the back of the room with a Palestinian flag and a sign reading, “When do we Jews notice that Israel is insane?!” One protester identified himself as a Jewish man and the other as a Palestinian man.
The protesters interrupted the talk several times, claiming that Michanie was lying to the audience, which led to a heated back and forth between the two protesters and the speaker. The Coordinator of Residential Engagement (CRE), Chris James, at the event intervened after a few minutes to bring the focus back to the talk. There was another interruption later on, and the protesters were warned that if they interrupted again, they would be asked to leave. After separate interruptions by each of the protesters, they were escorted out of the space by Public Safety officers. Several students took the protesters’ place, holding the flag and sign in the back of the room.
The talk continued without incident for the rest of the time. Michanie, a former IDF paratrooper and a current employee of the organization CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, focused his talk around on three main obstacles: international community, anti-Israel establishment, and Palestinian leadership. At the end Michanie opened the floor for questions and students from both sides of the conflict got a chance to share their thoughts.
Nathan Milgram (‘21), the president and founder of D.I.S.A., explained why he wanted to start this group on campus, stating, “I see so much criticism of Israel and so much one-sidedness that I felt that I needed to advocate to the other side. Of course I want a peaceful solution to this conflict. Of course I want an end to violence but we can’t do that if we’re only arguing one side.” He continued, “I am so interested in changing the opinions, changing the narrative. I know this campus loves the facts so all I’m giving is the facts.”
In reference to Michanie, he stated, “Yoni is so multifaceted. He acknowledges the sufferings of the Palestinians. He understands the conflict through academia and facts. He’s not interested in giving an emotional argument.” He also explained the appeal of bringing Michanie to campus, stating, “Yoni is a charismatic guy, he knows what he’s doing and he treats people with respect. I brought him on because I knew he could have that kind of relationship with the other side. I knew...he’d be friendly and show that our club isn’t a way to demonize anything but our club is a way to promote Israel.”
While this talk was the club’s big event for the semester, they are planning on hosting events throughout the year. They want to hold an event celebrating Israel’s independence day as well as events celebrating Israeli culture “It’s so important to widen the perspective; it’s so important to look at this just not from the issue of the conflict because that creates such apathy. I want to create events that will allow people to hear about Israel.”