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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Spoken Too Soon

I drove onto campus Tuesday afternoon and it was like a ghost town, you could have heard a pin drop, the only noticeable quality that stood out about the day being the scores of illegally parked and unattended LAPD cars all around campus.
I had no idea what was going on until I asked, to which someone replied, “The Israeli Ambassador is giving a speech here today.” I really didn’t see the need for all the security being that the Ambassador, Michael Oren, is here to promote a thriving relationship between the U.S .and Israel a relationship that has been steadily growing stronger over the last 4 decades after the Johnson administration.
However, upon reading The Loyolan this morning, it was voiced that the reason for all the security was due to the Ambassador’s past appearances at other venues being met with strong and sometimes violent opposition by those of Muslim descent in his audience at UC Irvine last week, 12 students being subsequently arrested due to threatening violence prompting the Ambassador to now take extreme precautions wherever he goes.
I couldn’t really understand why, despite cultural and philosophical differences of course, people would try to stand in opposition against someone who is trying to facilitate intercultural dialogue and bridge the aforementioned differences. Wouldn’t such dialogue in turn teach the Ambassador his opposition’s views? Doesn’t interrupting or disturbing such talks only facilitate further stratification, misunderstanding, and tension between those groups the Ambassador’s discussions are attempting to unite and additionally violate our country’s right to freedom of speech?
I guess I couldn’t understand his aggressor’s feelings because to be perfectly frank I was totally ignorant and unable to relate to the nature of why these people could be so angry despite the ambassador’s attempts to ‘extend the olive branch’, so to speak. I decided to restrain making up my mind about the situation to do some research regarding the nature of the U.S. Israeli relationship and the subsequent conflicts it has caused with other Middle Eastern countries.
During the Johnson presidency, Israel, who in the previous half of the century hadn’t had any substantial or significant interaction with the U.S., began negotiations with the American government to have them be Israel’s primary arms supplier. As a result Israel began to dominate it’s neighboring countries whom it was in conflict with, most notably Pakistan, which only further adumbrated an anti-Western sentiment amongst many Middle Eastern countries, being as the weapons the U.S. was supplying Israel with were used against various countries that Israel was in opposition with such as Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt. Needless to say this greatly aggravated many Middle Eastern countries, whose governments have subsequently refused to have their military assist the U. S. in any endeavor.
Apparently the U.S.-Israeli relationship was established and maintained by the U.S. initially not as a means of commercial gain, but the alliance was seen as advantageous in helping end the Cold War and Communist settlements, arising in the Middle East. Most Arab countries, being of Muslim association, chose not to join this alliance against Russia, feeling a greater conflict, due to religious differences, with the predominantly Jewish-Israeli population. The Jewish Virtual Library explains the next step in the U.S. Israeli- alliance.
“In 1987, Congress designated Israel as a major non-NATO ally, which allowed Israeli industries to compete equally with NATO countries and other close U.S. allies for contracts to produce a significant number of defense items. Israel also began to receive $3 billion in grant economic and military assistance. The following year, a new MOU was signed encompassing all prior agreements. By the end of Reagan's term, the U.S. had prepositioned equipment in Israel, regularly held joint training exercises, began co-development of the Arrow Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile and was engaged in a host of other cooperative military endeavors.”
The U.S. has also provided Israel with billions of dollars in military and economic aid, as well as over $100 million in anti-terrorist aid. In other words, the U.S. has largely helped bail out Israel in their economic problems in exchange for continued alliance and for the country’s compliance with U.S. military aims. Although the relationship between the U.S. and Israel may on the one hand seem altruistic and of the best intentions to promote world peace and intercultural tolerance, on the other hand the relationship can be viewed as intimidating if not a down right frightening alliance in the eyes of surrounding Arabic countries who have suffered the results of the relationship.
Although my limited research may not cover the entirety of the U.S.-Israeli-Middle East relationships and past conflicts, I have gleaned enough understanding from my research to form an educated enough opinion about the actions of those students toward Michael Oren’s presence, which has brought me to ask these questions: Are these people who oppose the Ambassador because of his origin and religion, hypocritical and biased in their opinions considering they live and pledge allegiance to the country that provided Israel with the arms that enabled violence against their people? My second question is: Where is the line drawn between standing by one’s belief and exercising one’s right to freedom of speech and preaching one-sided ignorance. Personally, I feel that a lot of good, as well as bad, has come from our alliance with Israel, and while I may not agree with the politics of the situation, I do however support these types of discussions being that they promote dialogue to dissuade conflict in effort to both make amends as well as helping create new relationships. As idealistic as it may be I think if more people made the effort to take the time understand things from all angles, violence and conflict may finally one day become extinct.

Written By: Christina Lo Duca


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