A group of around six students protested during and after a panel discussion on the politics and policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held by the Center for Jewish Civilization in Gaston Hall on Thursday evening.
During the question-and-answer section of the panel, the group of students got up and began chanting pro-Palestinian and anti-Netanyahu phrases before being escorted out of Gaston Hall by GUPD officers.
Outside of Healy Hall, the students held posters with messages such as “Netanyahu is a war criminal.”
The panel, entitled “The Netanyahu Premiership: A Retrospective,” was moderated by Georgetown CJC professor Elliott Abrams, who formerly served as White House adviser on U.S. Middle East policy. The event featured specialists of Middle East policy, including Natasha Mozgovaya, former Chief U.S. Correspondent for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and Benny Morris, a Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor and Israeli historian.
In a statement to The Hoya, two of the student protestors, Eman Abdelfadeel (COL ’17) and MacKenzie Foy (COL ’19), said the panel was biased against Palestine and failed to include a diverse set of views.
“We want to bring visibility to the normalization of Netanyahu’s war crimes to campus and the oppression faced by Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state. We are concerned that a conversation about the Israeli state took place without talking about it as an occupation, as an apartheid,” Abdelfadeel said. “Georgetown as a Jesuit institution needs to be held accountable for its complicity in this and all state violence.”
One of the protestors held up a poster with a quote by Morris from a 2004 interview he conducted with the Haartez, in which he apparently refers to Palestinians as animals.
“Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice,” Morris said in 2004. “There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another.”
While the purpose of the event was to address Netanyahu’s strengths and weaknesses as prime minister of Israel, the audience drove the conversation toward Netanyahu’s actions concerning the Gaza Strip and the West Bank during the question-and-answer portion.
Alex Coopersmith (COL ’19), who attended the panel, said the panel and the questions asked showed the diversity of opinions in the Georgetown community.
“There were questions of ranging from, ‘Why are you not calling Israel a genocidal state?’ or ‘How come there were no Palestinians talking about this issue [at the event]?’ to questions that were very, very pro-Netanyahu,” Coopersmith said. “So I think it said the Georgetown community on the other hand values the role that question-and-answer plays instead of just one side.”
CJC Director Jacques Berlinerblau, CJC Associate Director Dennis McManus, CJC Center Manager Anna Dubinksy and CJC Events and Program Coordinator Michelyne Chavez did not respond to requests for comment as of 2:30 a.m. today.
Elodie Currier (SFS ’19), who attended the event, said the panelists tactfully tackled the complexity of Netanyahu’s actions.
“For the most part the panel did a really great job of keeping things civil and recognizing the nuance of things,” Currier wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Personally, I was really impressed with the panel’s ability to handle the protesters and to assuage questions that were at times just clear criticisms of Israel in general.”
According to Carol Hillman, a D.C. resident who attended the discussion, the protestors were unreasonable in their actions.
“It was a very interesting discussion about Netanyahu. Of course the Palestinian situation was brought into the conversation, but I don’t think it was a reason for a group of angry Palestinians to be in the conversation,” Hillman said. “It wasn’t about them, it was about Netanyahu and his behavior.”
Hoya Staff Writers Taylor Harding and William Zhu contributed reporting.