Ambassador Dennis Ross, the former U.S. Special Coordinator for the Middle East, visited UCSB Tuesday night to give a lecture on Middle East politics and to promote his new book about the region.
Ross spoke to an at-capacity crowd in Campbell Hall from 8 to 10 p.m. Ross, a diplomat for over 20 years, is best known for his efforts to create peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Working for the administrations of former Presidents Bush and Clinton, Ross fascilitated a number of international peace agreements, including the 1994 Jordan-Israeli Peace Treaty and the 1995 Interim Agreement.
UCSB religious studies Professor Richard Hecht, who introduced Ross, said the ambassador played an integral role in U.S. diplomatic involvement in the Middle East.
“Dennis Ross is a doer and a scholar,” Hecht said. “He played a leading role in seeing how the United States could facilitate the peace process.”
Ross’ book, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, contains a plethora of information about world leaders, and explores both sides of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Ross said his book, although informative, was written specifically to debunk commonly held myths about both sides.
“I wrote this book because the Middle East is the one region in the world where everyone lives by myth and not reality. It is a region consumed by mythology,” Ross said. “You can not make peace by reconciling myths. You make peace by reconciling with reality.”
Ross also addressed the issue of terrorism in the Middle East and the high incidence of suicide bombing attacks against Israel.
“We will not win the war on terror until we de-legitimize terror as foreign policy,” Ross said. “You cannot hold the terror card in one hand and the peace process in the other. They contradict each other. That legacy must be overcome … what is the measure of diplomacy? It is not only what you achieve, but what you prevent.”
Though Campbell Hall was filled to capacity, only about 15 percent of the audience was comprised of students. Third-year biopsychology and Spanish major Erez Ofer said the limited student attendance at the lecture reflected general student apathy.
“The lack of student attendance represents the overall indifference of the students,” Ofer said. “Most college students would rather watch the ‘Real World’ than learn about the real world.”
Like the majority of the students attending the event, Greg Papazian, a third-year political science major, enjoyed Ross’ lecture.
“I thought that Mr. Ross did a great job,” he said. “I am glad he stressed the importance of opening up the lines of discourse between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That is the only solution to find lasting peace.”
But not all students thought Ross’ lecture was fair. Second year global studies major Nura Azzam said Ross did not adequately represent the Palestinian side of the conflict.
“I was very unhappy with how Ross approached the rivalry,” she said. “I feel like he generalized Palestinians as terrorists. He did not approach the situation as a humane one. He only sees the land, not the people. You just can’t go into someone’s home and say, ‘Get out.’ You must have respect for all parties involved.”
Hardcover copies of The Missing Peace were sold at the door, and Ross held a book-signing session after the lecture.