February 28, 2016

Ambassador Dennis Ross arouses protests on campus

By Andrew Hebert–

The World Affairs Council hosted Ambassador Dennis Ross Feb. 25 to discuss his experiences dealing with the Middle East and his ideas in his new book, “Doomed To Succeed.” While the talk attracted a large group of students and faculty, it also brought protesters upset about the treatment of Palestinians.

The World Affairs Council has over 80 organizations, with Ross representing the Kentucky-Southern Indiana branch. Ross has been involved with relations between the United States and the Middle East since the 1970s. Under the Clinton administration, he was the envoy to Israel to improve Palestinian and Israeli peace progress.

About 30 protesters convened outside of the University Club to show their disapproval of his policies. Students held signs that charged Ross of being “Pro-Israel” and changing his book title to “Doomed to Apartheid.” Linda Omer, the media director for the protestors, expressed her disappointment in the lack of a counterargument offered by the World Affairs Council.

“This organization is all about peace, so we believe they should have a counter speaker as well,” said Omer. “Dennis Ross is friendly with Israel and the U.S. already sends a lot of money to the them, being that they’re the largest military in the Middle East.”

Ross spoke on his experiences over the past 40 years trying to find peace in the Middle East. He argued that the U.S. makes more progress in the Middle East when they are being friendly with Israel, despite what people believe.

“When the United States is close with Israel, more work is done toward peace,” said Ross. He believed other conflicts like the Syrian Civil War were much more relevant in 2016 than the Israel-Palestine conflict. “Solving the Israel-Palestine conflict will not bring peace to the Middle East. There are other larger issues currently taking place in the region.”

Ross was welcomed warmly by the audience, but when he answered questions, he was faced with some difficult inquires. One student who was unpleased with his argument asked sarcastically, “Are you a citizen of Israel?”

“I was intrigued by his point that distancing ourself from Israel hasn’t worked in the past, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was stretching the claim. In the end, he was biased toward Israel, and he didn’t seem to give any reasons why we should actually support Israel,” said U of L senior Will Pope.

The audience wrote down questions for Ross and Adel S. Elmaghraby, U of L’s chair of computer engineering. Elmaghraby spoke about the event, addressing Ross’s speech.

“I believe he did a very good job answering fairly. One of the students who protested thanked me for asking balanced questions. I tried to get questions that are reasonable and fair but also address the controversial topics,” said Elmaghraby.

The host of the event, Xiao Yin Zhao, was honored to have such an esteemed speaker.

“We try to bring in high profile diplomats because they know the style of discussion and the type of people in the audience. People who work in that field have something to share whether or not you agree with their views, and Ambassador Ross is very knowledgeable on the subject,” said Zhao.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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