A speech at the Yale Political Union by Elyakim Haetzni, former member of the Israeli Knesset, provoked another confrontation on campus concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Yale Police Department arrested Yitzhak Melamed GRD ’02 and charged him with disorderly conduct during the speech, which was held at SSS 114 on March 21. Melamed will appear in court this Thursday.
Since Melamed’s arrest, members of the Palestinian Right to Return as well as people who objected to Haetzni’s presence on campus, have written letters to Yale President Richard Levin criticizing the event and Melamed’s arrest.
“It’s a question about a speaker being invited that some people object to,” Levin said. “We encourage freedom of speech and we invite people of very different points of view.”
The talk, co-sponsored by the Yale Friends of Israel and titled “Resolved: There is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” is the third in a string of talks on the Middle East attracting protests on campus.
Melamed, an Israeli Jew and philosophy graduate student, said he stood up during the talk and shouted questions to the speaker, and the police requested that he leave the talk.
Melamed said his arrest was due to a miscommunication. He said the moderator of the talk, YPU speaker Timothy Willenken ’03, asked him if he would continue to make comments. Melamed said he told Willenken “no,” but the police still asked him to leave the event. When Melamed refused to leave, the police forced him to exit the talk.
“I was simply astounded,” Melamed said. “I didn’t understand what was going on.”
Adam Goldfarb ’02, president of the Yale Political Union, said although during his time at the YPU he has not seen anyone removed from a speech, an audience member must abide by specific rules of conduct when making comments.
“People should make comments in an orderly fashion,” Goldfarb said. “Otherwise the forum is sabotaged.”
Sammy Mansour ’03, a member of the Arab Students Association who attended the event, said the presence of police was unnecessary.
“As with the last two or three speakers [the Yale Friends of Israel] have brought, there have been two or three policemen present,” Mansour said. “To me it is a form of intimidation.”
Goldfarb said police are invited to YPU speeches when there are controversial speakers and when high attendance can lead to security concerns. He said the YPU hosts speakers with views from the far right as well as the far left.
“The YPU provides a forum for all things political,” Goldfarb said. “This is not the first time we’ve hosted a controversial speaker, and it certainly won’t be the last.”
Melamed said Haetzni does not represent the views of the majority of Israeli citizens.
“I don’t think anyone would consider Haeztni a spokesperson for Israel,” Melamed said. “He would probably be considered a part of the radical two to three percent of the Israeli political spectrum.”
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a member of the Palestinian Right to Return, said Haetzni is on the far right of the Israeli political spectrum. Qumsiyeh said that according to the Jerusalem Post, as a member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, Haetzni introduced a bill promoting the expulsion of the parents and families of Palestinian stone-throwers.
Melamed compared Haeztni to the Ku Klux Klan and said he called for the trial of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin as traitors prior to Rabin’s assassination.
“As an Israeli citizen and an Orthodox Jew, I can’t stand this kind of racism,” Melamed said. “I was not educated to tolerate racism such as this.”
This speech is the latest on campus addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In January, the Yale Friends of Israel sponsored Yoav Gallant, a brigadier general of the Israeli Defense Forces. And in November, the group invited two Israeli soldiers to a Trumbull College Master’s Tea. Both of these events drew some protest.