|January 12, 2010|
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to speak at Union
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will speak at Union Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. The lecture is sponsored by the student-run Speakers Forum.
Due to limited seating, the lecture is open only to the campus community. Those with a Union ID card are permitted to bring one guest. Campus Safety personnel will be checking IDs at the entrance to the chapel.
Olmert served as prime minister from 2006 until early 2009, when he resigned after being indicted on corruption charges dating to when he was Jerusalem mayor and Cabinet minister. He pleaded not guilty last month to charges of illegally accepting funds from an American supporter and double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad.
As prime minister, Olmert, 64, came under fire for his handling of the 2006 war against Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia and the three-week war launched in 2008 to remove the Palestinian Hamas group from the Gaza Strip after its violent takeover of the coastal territory occupied by Jewish settlers and soldiers.
Olmert’s upcoming appearance has sparked passionate debate on campus, with some faculty and students opposed to the former leader's visit. In response, a number of discussions are planned. On Wednesday, Campus Action sponsored a “Day of Dialogue” on Israeli policy under Olmert. Stephen Berk, the Henry and Sally Schaffer Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies, Andrew Feffer, an associate professor of history, and Mazin Tadros, visiting assistant professor of history, lead a panel discussion presenting the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives of the conflict as well as a critical analysis of Olmert's role as a head of state. The event, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Old Chapel, was free and open to the campus community.
Will Friedman ’10, president of the Speakers Forum, said his group is mindful of those who are opposed to Olmert’s views and policies. He said Olmert’s talk is intended to spark lively debate about issues in the Middle East.
“We thought that the opportunity to have a former prime minister at Union was too amazing to pass up,” Friedman said. “If the Speakers Forum did not bring controversial speakers to campus, then I would not be doing my job.”
At colleges and universities where Olmert has spoken, there have been efforts to disrupt his talk. Union Campus Safety Director Chris Hayen has implemented special procedures and protocols to minimize disruptions. Audience members will have the chance to participate in a question-and-answer session with Olmert following his lecture by submitting questions to a student panel via note cards. He will not see the questions ahead of time.
Metal detectors will be posted at the entrance, and attendees will not be allowed to bring backpacks or bags of any kind into the event.