On Thursday, a group of students interrupted an event hosted by the Center for Jewish Civilization on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s career in protest of the leader. The students held a banner that read “Netanyahu is a War Criminal” and chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
MacKenzie Foy (COL ‘19), Eman Abdelfadeel (COL ‘17), Hadley Masiel (COL ‘19), Christian Morris (COL ‘19), and Kendell Long (COL ‘19) walked to the front of Gaston Hall and in front of the stage holding the banner. Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) officers immediately removed them from Gaston Hall, as event organizers informed them that they were in violation of the university’s Speech and Expression Policy.
“The panel is here to mislead you,” Abdelfadeel shouted. Other protesting students waited in line to ask the panelists questions regarding Israeli policy towards Palestine. GUPD officers took down the names of the students who approached the stage with the banner.
The protesters say they sought to bring attention to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and that the panel did not sufficiently address Israel’s relationship with Palestine as part of Netanyahu’s legacy.
“We want to bring visibility to the normalization of Netanyahu’s war crimes to campus and the oppression faced by the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli state. We’re concerned that a conversation about the Israeli state took place without talking about it as an occupation and apartheid, “ said Abdelfadeel and Foy (COL ‘19) in a prepared statement. “Georgetown as a Jesuit institution needs to be held accountable for its complicity in this and all state violence.”
Khadija Khan (COL ‘17), one of the protesting students, asked why the panel included no Palestinians. “What is Georgetown meaning to say by the fact that there are four self-proclaimed Zionists sitting on the stage right now?” said Khan.
The demonstration occurred at the beginning of the question and answer time for the event, after Vance Vaughan (SFS ‘19) referred to Netanyahu’s policies toward Palestinians as imperial genocide. [Full disclosure: Vaughan is a former Voice staffer.] “Maybe the Palestinians want it to be genocide, but they never had the power to. The Israelis who had the power to were never genocidal“ said Benny Morris, panelist and government professor, before protesters began chanting.
Moderator Robert Lieber had begun the event by reading Georgetown’s free speech policy. “I noted in the Speech and Expression Policy that Georgetown’s policy is that there should be ample opportunity for the expression of ideas but you may not prevent the speakers from speaking or the audience from hearing,” Lieber said after the demonstration. “Students have the opportunity to ask questions but they don’t have the opportunity to disrupt the proceedings.”
Throughout the discussion, the panelists answered questions about Netanyahu’s leadership and both criticized and praised some of his policies.
“He does everything in order to stay in power and maybe secondarily in the interests of Israel,” said Morris in the panel.
Panelists discussed the issue of Israeli settlement and all agreed that Netanyahu’s policies are not as right-wing as others may claim.
Panelist Dennis Ross, former senior Middle East adviser to President Obama and professor in the Center for Jewish Civilization, said that Netanyahu has difficulty pleasing either side with his policies. Both left and right are unsatisfied with his support for their cause, whether pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. “But he manages,” Ross added.
After the event, protesting students stood outside Healy Hall with their banner and signs to continue their protest, as ten officers waited near by.
An error in this article has been corrected in regards to a student’s name. His name is spelled Vance Vaughan, not Vaughn.