Brett Hausler, CAMERA fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reports back on Sgt. Benjamin Anthony’s most recent lecture at UMass entitled “The Israeli Arab Conflict.” The event took place on November 7th. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony is the founder of Our Soldiers Speak, an organizations that brings the truth about the Israel Defense Forces to university campuses.
Brett says that the room was filled to capacity, meaning that some 80 students came to the event. The crowd was quite diverse, although many participants had gone on Birthright or were involved in Jewish organizations on campus. Brett says that he saw many new faces, too. Some students from SJP attended the event as well, and were handing out fliers.
Sgt. Benjamin Anthony discussed his experience in IDF; his captivating oratory skills and the power of what he had to share made for an excellent talk. He spoke for about 30-45 minutes and then answered questions from the audience.
The goal of the lecture was to expose students to a different perspective on Israel and Middle East affairs. Brett hoped to empower and educate students through the lecture, and to encourage them to learn more about Israel and the mission and values of the IDF. Brett wanted students to leave the venue carrying with them valuable information about Israel, as well as the motivation to advocate for accuracy in the media.
Sgt. Anthony made it clear that he speaks for himself when presenting his view points on the two-state solution and other issues. Some students from in the audience strongly disagreed with Sgt. Anthony; indeed, a few students from SJP and J-Street walked out abruptly in the middle of Benjamin’s talk. Brett says that “after the event, Benjamin told me he was disappointed that they [the students who walked out] would not stay to debate the topic, and I think this is because the students heard what they didn’t want to hear. I believe that these interactions should be cherished in the academic setting. This is how people learn.”
Several members of the audience did ask thoughtful questions. Questions spanned a spectrum of topics, from the occupied territories and the two-state solution to questions about Benjamin’s personal experience moving from the UK to Israel.
Overall, Brett was pleased with the event, and is working on building relations with attendees to ensure the success of future events on Israel and the Middle East.