Israeli general draws protests

WOODBRIDGE, Conn. — The Middle East conflict hit home Tuesday afternoon as protesters gathered to demonstrate outside the Joseph E. Slifka Center for Jewish Life. Their cause: Gaza. Their target: retired Israeli Airforce Brigadier General Nechemia Dagan.

Dagan was invited to Yale to speak about Israel’s invasion of the Palestinian-occupied Gaza Strip, a conflict renewed Dec. 27 that Palestinian medical officials say has already taken the lives of more than 971 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Although the Slifka Center had initially planned to host Dagan, police concerns forced the event to relocate to the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven here in neighboring Woodbridge. In his address, Dagan admitted to having “mixed feelings” about the offensive and mentioned that fighting could soon end, but the Brigadier General took a hard-line stance on Hamas.

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Jared Shenson
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“I believe that by the end of the week it will end,” he said.

Dagan argued that the late Yasser Arafat — formerly President of the Palestinian Authority — had fought “on a battlefield among civilians”, thereby provoking instability in the region, and that all Palestinians must share part of the responsibility.

“If you elected them [Hamas], then what is the situation that you [Palestinians] are not involved?” he asked.

Slifka Center organizers contacted the Yale Police Department when organizers received word that Connecticut pro-Palestinian group “The Struggle” had sent out a mass e-mail asking people to picket the event. Organizers said the YPD gave the Slifka Center three options: cancel the event, move it to a different location or pay $1500 to have eight officers on hand with bomb-sniffing dogs. The action prompted criticism from event organizers.

“I personally feel [the police precautions] weren’t necessary and even stifling,” event organiser and Yale Friends of Israel President Benjamin Alter ’11 said. “What’s disturbing to me is that this is our campus, this is our building, we wanted to have a discussion with someone we invited, and because of protesters not affiliated with Yale coming to our campus, the police department is making us leave our own campus.”

Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said in an e-mail that the police response to the event was in the interest of the “overall safety” of students.

By 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, a group of 25 protesters had gathered in front of the Slifka Center, holding banners decrying the U.S.’s provision of aid to Israel and chanting, “Free, free, Palestine! Occupation is a crime!” Older men and women in cowboy hats and Keffiyehs stuck it out in the 34-degree weather, saying they had serious concerns about the fighting’s toll on civilians in Gaza.

“They’re supposed to be the most precise military in the world, you can’t have this level of civilian casualty by mistake from this precise a military,” protester Kanishka Ezimi said.

Ultimately, some 30 students and community members were on hand here in Woodbridge for the event. Slifka officials and students with cars carpooled to the community center, but others could not attend due to the distance. Those who could not attend voiced their disappointment.

“The poster just says ‘Has Been Moved to Another Location,’ I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before,” said one recent alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous due to the political sensitivity of the topic.

Dagan spoke to the historical origins of the fighting and fielded a range of audience questions, from a potential Israeli response to a nuclear Iran to what Israel planned to do about Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon.


  • Alan Stein

    It's disgraceful that Yale has effectively allowed a group people to effectively censor free expression. It's all the worse because it was a group of people effectively supporting a terrorist group (Hamas).

  • Anonymous

    Why should Slifka have to pay for their own safety? YPD is sending a message to campus organizations that fear for their safety that they will not protect them. It would be understandable if, the next time something like this happens, Slifka takes matters into their own hands.

  • James

    He should be arrestd as a war criminal - no invited to speak! Murdering savage!

  • Anonymous

    I'm alarmed by the sheer level of paranoia. Why don't we ask this question: Was there even a safety issue? For me what sounds alarming is the comment that it is understandable if people "take matters into their own hands".
    The protesters were also using their freedom of speech and if the event was moved, the responsibility belongs to the decision makers.
    Finally, a necessary correction: Yes, the event was organized by a non-Yale group, but there were people from Yale at the protest.

  • Chris

    Bomb-sniffing dogs? Really? Look up the Arms Export Control Act.

  • Genocide Witness

    Yes, Slifka should follow the model of Israel and bomb the homes of those who protest it to kill them and their children, and perhaps splash some white phosphorus over their neighbours to teach them a lesson.

  • kanishka

    as the one quoted in this story, for the record, i wasn't there to encourage the event being moved away or debate stifled. i showed up with print outs of debates over the action and even multiple statements of opposing view points from the isreali ministry of foreign affairs. i wanted to draw attention to what i believe is an immediate injustice and stand with other people who felt likewise.

    its nice to know that you can attend william and mary, spend most of your life trying to be an informed, balanced american citizen, come to a protest, and have people decide the protest is dangerous enough to need bomb-sniffing dogs…? score one for yale security's open mindedness

  • Anonymous

    As someone still deciding whether or not to attend Yale, this incident certainly reflects poorly on what is supposed to be an open-minded campus. Bomb-sniffing dogs? Really?

    Couple this with revoking the offer to Juan Cole to teach Yale because AIPACers and other hard-line Israel supports disagreed with his respected take on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Two strikes…

  • Aaron L.

    A clarification: this article refers to the "Palestinian-occupied Gaza Strip." Although it is occupied by Palestinians in the sense that they inhabit the territory, this usage is confusing. Until the recent Israeli withdrawal, the Gaza Strip was illegally occupied by the Israeli military; one could argue that the recent attacks have allowed the Israeli Defense Forces to partially reoccupy it. Only those on the rightmost fringes of Israeli society would claim that the Palestinian population living in Gaza is forcibly "occupying" it in this sense. Presumably, this author intended to indicate that the Gaza strip is inhabited and governed (such as it is) by Palestinians.

  • kanishka

    fascinating the bitter responses in this thread. strangely gives me hope, but wish it was worded more proactively instead of daily show style. one should aspire to challenge people's opinions without attacking them. they will just shut off their mind the rest of your ideas after they feel insulted or attacked

    prospetive student person, i think similarly to you, trying to find inconsistencies. but try to put into perspective. if you get a bad feeling, write the head of a department and ask them the reality of the situation on politics obstructing proper administration, etc. of course, take each flaw within context. you may have hundreds of people with amazingly open minded world views, but just the ignorant few getting the most attention. dig deeper!