Many people unfamiliar with the Brandeis community view us as a strictly Jewish institution, when in fact we are a very diverse community.  We have members from a wide spectrum of Jewish backgrounds, from the many faiths of the world, and from no faith.  For a great number of our students, faculty, and staff, the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bring out very passionate, and sometimes personal, opinions and experiences.  Michael Oren, as a spokesperson for just one view of the many on this extremely contentious issue, causes the members of our community to divide themselves in relation to their deep-seeded feelings on the views he espouses.  Instead of uniting our community around the principles of peace, justice, and coexistence we seek to uphold during our time here and after we graduate, the selection of Oren divides us emotionally and ideologically.  The selection of Oren brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the most sensitive topic at Brandeis University, into our most sacred ceremony–commencement.  We believe that commencement should be a time of culminating unity, when the members of our graduating class prepare to set off into the world in solidarity.  The selection of Michael Oren as commencement speaker instead tears our graduating class and campus community apart.

In peace,
Phil LaCombe (’10)

8 comments on “Another articulation of the division Oren causes our community”

  1. Art Says:

    I will give credit where due. This is the best summary of this front’s views yet.
    You’ve given a pretty decent argument-that a member of a divisive organization ought not be the sole commencement speaker. This is, in a vacuum, not horrid.
    The only gap is ,again, how Oren is a symbol, or primarily, a symbol of the conflict. He was a media relations officer. Do you blame Toyota’s PR team for the lives lost at the wheel of defective toyota cars? I’ll reiterate-divisiveness can be sought anywhere. Few, myself, a registered republican included, would call Booker a poor, divisive choice. Yet Booker is a democrat-disagreeing to a small but undeniable minority here at Brandeis.

  2. Benny Says:

    Phil,

    No, the selection of Oren as commencement speaker does not tear the graduating class or community apart. As I mentioned in a comment on Jessica’s post, Brandeis and Israel are very much connected. As an alumnus, Jewish or not, you have a special connection to Israel. To bring Oren is fine, as he represents Israel, NOT the conflict.

    But there are other reasons. Even though he will be speaking about divisive topics, these topics are important to bring out into the open. As you move on, you and your peers must respect other opinions. He is not divisive if people do not respond to his opinions in a protesting manner. People would not break the decency and sanctity of a commencement ceremony to protest. IF PEOPLE DO, then the Brandeis community will become united against them, against their divisive protests, and will be united for free speech.

    Benny, Future Class of 2014

  3. Alex Says:

    Once again, I am offended by Phil’s viewpoint: he claims to speak for the entire student body.

    The campus is not divided; where do these claims come from? A few hundred people that joined a Facebook group? Angry rants on the internet?

    I’d like to see what the harm is here.

  4. Caroline Says:

    Hi Phil,

    I understand where you’re coming from and I don’t want you to take my comments the wrong way. I think my frustrations lie in that it seems that people from Israel can never be seen outside the conflict, despite their personal achievements (and Oren’s are extensive). It seems a shame to see a person as one sided or representing something (which he probably won’t even speak about- and in the times I’ve heard him speak he hasn’t). Wouldn’t it be frustrating if someone continually referred to you as a white male, even though you think you have other things to share? What if they said that you’re view, on any issue, wasn’t valid because of the white privilege you are automatically entitled to and the fact that you’ve never felt institutional discrimination?

    For me, it would be so nice for once to not have people see me as a reflection of my Jewish identity or my support of Israel (which, politically, i never speak about). To see Michael Oren as necessarily connected to the conflict, assuming he has certain views or not recognizing his other qualifications and achievements is to look at someone and see only one side.

    Best,
    Caroline

  5. art Says:

    Pretty solid point, Caroline

  6. Patrick V Says:

    AMEN to what Caroline said.

  7. Blue Citizen Says:

    Benny- isn’t there something kind of funny about a bunch of people saying we don’t like what he has to say, therefore he is divisive and shouldn’t have been chosen. Amen, to a little bit of tolerance. Lets remember tolerance means listening to people who you actually don’t like and disagree with. I thought this sentence, “He is not divisive if people do not respond to his opinions in a protesting manner” puts it real well.

    Phil– Why would we ever want to talk about issues about which there is disagreement. David Schwimmer for commencement speaker next year! Who can take issue with Schwimmer?! Best to not rock the boat too much.

  8. Benny Says:

    Blue Citizen,

    Let me be more specific. I meant that speakers may be controversial, but they are not “divisive” unless they spark “divisions”. “Divisions” in a community result, I know it’s put simply, from people being angry at one another. And people are going to be angry if there are protests and crazy anti-Israel people at the rally.

    Therefore, Oren himself is NOT a divisive person. He is controversial though. As you said, we have to be tolerant if we disagree with him. But if people move into radical protesting, it will cause the divisiveness that will destroy the commencement ceremony’s sanctity.

    Therefore, the people against Oren shouldn’t be against Oren, they should be working to make sure there is no disruption at the event, to make sure everyone is respectful and tolerant.

    -Benny