Ambassador Michael Oren Selected as Commencement Speaker

A breaking update from The Justice:

Michael B. Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, will be the keynote speaker at Brandeis’ 59th commencement on May 23, according to a University press release. 

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health; Judith S. Kaye, the first female chief judge in New York State; award-winning Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina; Dennis B. Ross, a member of the National Security Council; and Paul Simon, Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter and member of Simon and Garfunkel, as well as Oren. 

Oren, who was born in New Jersey and moved to Israel in the 1970s, served in the Israeli Defense Forces and acted as an IDF spokesman during the second Lebanon War and the Gaza operation of 2009, according to the release.

Oren is also a distinguished scholar and author whose “two most recent books focused on American involvement in the Middle East, and on how the Six Day War of 1967 influenced the making of the modern Middle East.” He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown Universities, according to the release. 

I won’t hide my feelings – I find this selection polarizing, disrespectful, and decidedly not in keeping with the Brandeis legacy of social justice. Whatever Oren’s academic qualifications, as a propagandist for a regime that does not respect human rights in the Occupied Territories and disregards international law he should not be legitimized by being selected as our commencement speaker.

The comments on the Justice article are telling – criticism of Oren is equated with anti-semitism, and his work defending human rights violaters is whitewashed in favor of his academic achievements. I was even told that “You should be ashamed and should have gone elsewhere to undergrad…Brandeis is a Jewish school and a supporter of Israel. You believe yourselves to be open minded citizens, but you are merely bigoted.” Besides demanding that all Brandeis students fit this poster’s ideological beliefs, this comment points out a stunning intolerance for dissent within the Jewish community – something we also saw in the appalling decision to bar Justice Goldstone from his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts about this, but I for one will certainly not take this lying down. More news on this as it develops.


15 thoughts on “Ambassador Michael Oren Selected as Commencement Speaker”

  1. When my aunt graduated in the 70s, they wore black armbands to protest their own commencement speaker. Legacies.

  2. I find this post decidedly disturbing.

    Regardless of whatever circumstances arise Brandeis will support the Israeli government and the Israeli people out of solidarity. To be surprised by this show of respect and pride in the Jewish state is at best naive.

    Out of all the ongoing world conflicts what you choose to demonize and you pick… Israel? Sorry kid but Israel’s track record is like a walk in the park when compared to incidents like the video of Nick Berg getting his head sawed off to cheering. Never mind Hamas training and brainwashing children combatants or genocide in Sudan, Israel’s violations are much more grievous and deserve special attention! I think of Israel to be pretty humanitarian considering that it faces hordes of crazed fundamentalists who blend in with the civilian population hell bent on Israel’s destruction and 70 virgins.

  3. @Alex N.: Just b/c the stated agenda doesn’t mention killing people doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cause deaths.

  4. @Dan: Not saying you shouldn’t be- I’m class of ’11 so I’m rather apathetic about all of this, too busy pushing through the end of the semester and trying to figure out senior year to really care all that much. I just think it’s important that we not conflate the university’s selection of an Israeli diplomat as commencement speaker with a student group’s activities. BZA’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration has nothing to do with the university’s actions.

  5. @Rachel. Fair enough. That last sentence of my original comment was more of a joke. Doesn’t mean I’m any less upset about the selection of speaker for my commencement.

  6. Also, you could hardly label progressives in general as having a single organized agenda like a government does.

  7. Art, of course they are propagandists, but their agenda doesn’t usually include killing people.

  8. By that extension ,Matt, Sahar, Jon and co are “propagandists” for their progressive agenda.

  9. Dan- the event on the great lawn yesterday was organized by the Brandeis Zionist Alliance. And it was Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. So what on earth are you talking about, “co-opting an otherwise celebratory event”? What, was BZA co-opting 4/20? Come on. They organized a celebratory event that was in line with their political goals.

  10. Jon, thank you for posting this.

    As a senior, I find this decision especially distressing as I now actually have to consider the prospect of boycotting (or in some way protesting) my own graduation.

    Were Oren speaking on campus in any other venue, I say fine. Certainly, it would allow the propagation of the same sort of rhetoric over on the justice forum, but at least there would be some potential to resist or demonstrate against the event. With commencement, how is this possible? Any ideas are welcome.

    I feel I should also point out this wasn’t the only recent instance of the zionist camp at Brandeis co-opting an otherwise celebratory event. Anyone who was at the great lawn yesterday (4/20) knows exactly what I’m talking about…

  11. “Propagandist? He’s a fucking DIPLOMAT.”

    Exactly. It’s his job to defend and get international support for Isreal’s actions. That is the textbook definition of a state propagandist.

  12. Propagandist? He’s a fucking DIPLOMAT. You don’t have to love Israel, but don’t make this guy come off as the architect of a genocide

Comments are closed.