Although she once willingly chanted “Death to Israel, Death to America,” Tabby Davoodi’s words at UCSB last night were those of peace.
In front of an attentive crowd at the Santa Barbara Hillel last night, the director of academic affairs for the Los Angeles Consulate General of Israel, spoke on an array of issues ranging from the Iranian Government to President George W. Bush’s first visit to Israel. Davoodi urged the audience to remain optimistic about the current steps being taken by the governments of the United States, Israel and the Palestinian National Authority in order to bring peace and stability to the region.
An Iranian-born Jew, Davoodi said she was persecuted following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. As a young pupil in Iran, Davoodi said she was forced to chant slogans condemning enemy nations.
“Death to Israel, Death to America,” Davoodi said. “I said these [phrases] proudly in my class, a class of 30 to 35 first-grade females. […] This is the type of brainwashing I had to endure.”
Throughout her presentation, Davoodi urged students to see Iran as a current and viable threat to the State of Israel via its support of Hezbollah and Hamas both financially and schematically. Davoodi stressed that a nuclear Iran would bring insecurity to Israel, as Iran would have the capability to sell its nuclear weaponry to its proxies to be used against Israel.
In addition to her discourse on Iran, Davoodi spoke about the current peace talks between Israel and the PNA. Davoodi said talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PNA President Mahmoud Abbas were now a biweekly occurrence and that the Israeli government is now willing to work with moderates of the Palestinian government.
“Israel supports a two state solution,” Davoodi said. “An independent, strong, and secure Palestinian state is in the interest of Israel.”
American Students for Israel President Alan Levine, a third-year political science major, said Davoodi’s situation as an Iranian-Jew painted a distinctive and clear picture of the current sentiments of the Israeli Consulate.
“I think that having Tabby come and speak to us today gave us a unique perspective on the issues and problems we face today,” Levine said. “Hearing the perspective of a Jew born in Iran post-revolution, having seen the indictment that goes on in Iran, was really a great experience.”
Last night’s event kicked off the beginning of a student-led program launched by ASI entitled, “Israel by the Book” – a series of 10 events concerning Israeli society. The program, which spans a total of four months, will host lectures with topics ranging from Israel’s roll in humanitarian aid around the world to Israel’s environmental contributions and a festival for Israeli Independence Day, the date marking the 60th birthday of Israel.
According to Levine, the series of events focuses on promoting what he called a more realistic version of Israel.
“The aim of this program is to educate people about Israel in [a] more accurate and diverse way, divergent from conflict and violence.” Levine said. “Israel has a lot more to it than what the media portrays and this program will help to show just that.”
Justin Ratowsky, a third-year sociology major, said the presentation inspired him to learn more about the issues surrounding Israel and the current peace process.
“I think that [Davoodi] was very helpful and raised some very prominent points that students should educate themselves about,” Ratowsky said.