Israeli Historian Draws Small-Scale Protest
On Monday evening, controversial Israeli historian Benny Morris presented a speech in Usdan about his most recent book, 1948: A History of the First Arab Israeli War. The lecture drew a large crowd of students, professors, and locals, as well as a protest from an activist group.
The protest, which was located outside Usdan next to Wyllys Avenue, included about ten people from the Connecticut group Middle East Crisis Committee. Members held signs that read “End the Siege of Gaza” and “Cut the Million$ to Israel.” The group’s chairperson, Stanley Heller, spoke into a megaphone facing Usdan, shouting messages about the violence in the Gaza Strip and Morris’ support of a war with Iran.
“We’ve been involved in issues like Palestine, the sanctions against Iraq in the nineties, the war against Iraq and all kinds of Middle East human rights issues,” Heller said. “[We are] standing out here, handing out leaflets, letting people know what kind of a person Benny Morris is. This is a man who supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
The Middle East Crisis Committee heard about the event from a University student, although no students are currently involved in the group.
Morris spent the first half of his presentation explaining the research behind his most recent book and the conclusions he reached, focusing largely on the influence of Islam in the 1948 war.
“The attitude going into the war was [that it was] not just territorial . . . but also a holy war, carrying out Allah’s will to uproot infidels,” he said.
During the second half of the presentation, Morris answered questions from the audience. While none of the members of the Middle East Crisis Committee were present, many audience members asked questions that addressed the issues the protesters brought up. Questions ranged from comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with colonists’ treatment of the Native Americans to predicting how the violence in Gaza will be viewed in the future.
While Morris argued with some audience members over his views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the crowd was very diverse, including both Orthodox Jews and members of student pro-Palestinian liberation groups.