Israeli students plan to protest Obama speech after embassy snub
The U.S. Embassy in Israel declined to invite students from a controversial university in the West Bank from attending President Barack Obama‘s speech in Jerusalem, prompting those students to promise a protest of the president’s appearance. After the Times of Israel reported that students from all major Israeli universities except Ariel University, based in a ...
The U.S. Embassy in Israel declined to invite students from a controversial university in the West Bank from attending President Barack Obama's speech in Jerusalem, prompting those students to promise a protest of the president's appearance.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel declined to invite students from a controversial university in the West Bank from attending President Barack Obama‘s speech in Jerusalem, prompting those students to promise a protest of the president’s appearance.
After the Times of Israel reported that students from all major Israeli universities except Ariel University, based in a hotly contested West Bank settlement, were invited to Obama’s March 21 address at a Jerusalem convention center, Israeli lawmakers and Ariel University students criticized the president and pledged to show up at the speech anyway. The school was upgraded to full university status last year, becoming the first Israeli major university in the West Bank and sparking a firestorm of international criticism.
"We were pretty shocked by the discrimination and by the manner in which Ariel University was given up on," Shay Shahaf, the head of the university’s student union, told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, promising to protest. "In either case, we’ll have a presence there."
A U.S. embassy official confirmed to The Cable that the embassy rather than the White House was in charge of the invite list but said that invitations were only extended to educational institutions that were partners in joint programs with the embassy. Ariel University is not a embassy partner, the official explained.
"We’re working with institutions that are partners in joint programs with the U.S. embassy and not even all of our partners were included because we have a limited number of invitations," the official said.
Jewish Home Minister Yoni Chetboun wrote to Shapiro complaining about the snub but has not gotten any response.
"He [Obama] chose not to speak before the Knesset, saying he wasn’t coming to Israel for political reasons, but at the same time decided he’s meeting with students from the universities, except for Ariel University, which is a political decision. It’s exclusionary," Chetboun’s spokesman Ohad Cohen told The Times of Israel. "Israel decided that Ariel is a full-fledged university. So does Obama not recognize Israel’s decisions?"
Some in Washington see the incident as an unforced error by the Obama administration that could cause unnecessary controversy during his first trip to Israel as president.
"This is discrimination plain and simple, and unfortunately it is also counterproductive," said Noah Pollak, executive director of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel, which has run advertisements denouncing Obama’s Israel policies. "The controversy threatens to overshadow the rest of his trip and make it about delegitimizing Israeli students because of where they go to school. Anyone who wants President Obama’s trip to be successful should be asking him to correct this mistake."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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