Students interested in listening to Israeli Maj. Gen. Doron Almog’s talk on terrorism and security in the Middle East Wednesday had to pass through a group of seven vocal protesters and two checkpoints manned by Yale police officers checking ID cards.
Almog spoke at a Calhoun Master’s Tea about his experiences as Commander of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Southern Command, a position that placed him at the head of the Israeli military’s operations over the entire Gaza Strip. His lecture was entitled “Israel’s War Against Terror: A View from the Front Lines.”
Nearly 100 students endured the tight security measures to attend the tea, which was sponsored by the Yale Friends of Israel and coordinated by Amanda Elbogen ’07.
Nelson Moussazadeh ’05 said he was moved by Almog’s personal losses to terrorism, including the recent deaths of five of Almog’s family members in a suicide bombing and the loss of his brother in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Moussazadeh, who serves as co-President of the Yale Friends of Israel, said he was very impressed by Almog’s work.
“[Almog’s] history of protecting innocent life — truly proved that humanism is not necessarily an untenable quality in a commander, and that really resonated with me,” he said. “The general did a great job of putting Israel’s security situation into perspective.”
Members of the press were not allowed into the event, but students who attended the talk said the theme was a “commitment” to Israel and its defense.
Calhoun Master William Sledge said the security measures were warranted.
“We had no idea what we were dealing with and whether or not there was a potential for real violence,” Sledge said in an e-mail. The college had begun receiving messages denouncing Almog as a war criminal, Sledge said, and he was worried that a large-scale protest would materialize.
Elbogen said she respected Almog’s work in the Gaza Strip from 2000 to 2003. She said she admired Almog’s successful efforts to prevent terrorists from crossing into the area.
Suzanne Kahn ’07 said she was glad she had attended the tea, even though her views on the Arab-Israeli conflict differ from Almog’s.
“The nature of war is sounding really aggressive and nationalistic. I didn’t respond to that positively,” she said.
Kahn also said she could appreciate the protesters’ concerns.
“I definitely understand both sides of this argument,” she said.
The protesters outside Calhoun’s Elm Street gate held signs with the slogans “Warning: War Criminal Inside” and “Gen. Almog’s Troops murdered Rachel Corrie.” Corrie, an American college student, was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 while protesting the demolition of Palestinian buildings in Gaza. A few protestors displayed a banner bearing Corrie’s picture and the words “Remember Rachel Corrie.”
Stanley Heller ’69 led the protest against Almog’s talk on behalf of the Middle East Crisis Committee, a 22-year-old New Haven-based organization he chairs.
“[Almog] should not be at Yale University, but in the Hague on trial for war crimes,” Heller announced over a bullhorn.
Almog is now retired from the Israel Defense Forces.