The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may seem a million miles away, but the debate hit home last night.
A lecture in Isla Vista Theater Wednesday night by Dennis Prager took an in-depth look at the pro-Israel side of the conflict. Prager, a renowned author and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, touched on issues surrounding American Jews and the political battle over U.S. intervention in Israel. The event, sponsored by the American Students for Israel and the Santa Barbara Jewish Federation, drew a crowd of over 250 people.
Prager argued that the current crisis in Israel/Palestine stems from the conflict in values between radical Muslim fundamentalists and Israelis. He cited the freedom of Israeli people and growing Westernization of the Middle East as causes for Muslim resentment.
“Parts of Islam have been taken over by evil people. It’s a tragedy,” Prager said. “And the only people that can bring a solution are the Muslims themselves.”
Prager hit upon a number of controversial issues, including the pending war with Iraq and disputed the argument that gaining access to oil stands as a contributing factor to a possible U.S.-lead war.
“It’s a lie to say this war is for oil. It’s a lie,” Prager said. “And lies are the things I most fear in this world.”
Prager also spoke about the horror of honor killings – the murder of female family members for behavior deemed unacceptable in certain Muslim societies. Unacceptable behavior, Prager said, could range from private sexual acts to publicly holding hands with a man. He argued that much of the Muslim hostility towards the United States revolves around the issue of women’s rights and their conduct in public.
Despite the controversial topic, the lecturer received mostly positive reactions from the crowd.
“There have been a number of discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at our campus, and most have held a heavy bias on the Palestinian side,” first year microbiology major and audience member Adam Graff said. “One of the purposes of this discussion was to bring a new viewpoint to debate, and it was important to have someone who was an authority on the issue.”
In addition, many students said the event covered crucial topics that should be of interest to all students. Sarah McBride, a senior global studies major, studied for a year in Israel under the EAP program and said that events like this help to ease the culture shock of returning to the United States.
“The idea for this was to have a very informative discussion on the modern Israel conflict,” McBride said. “We have a very apathetic and ignorant campus on this issue, and our goal is to make sure that it gets adequately discussed.”
Prager concluded his lecture on a lighter note but warned of future instability in U.S. foreign relations.
“You are very lucky and unlucky for the time in which you will grow up,” Prager said, “because you might get hurt, but also because these are times that will force you to think about even more than ‘The Bachelorette.'”