Jun 26, 2013

Ehud Olmert called 'war criminal' and 'murderer' during speech at Woodrow Wilson Center

Former Israeli PM, Ehud Olmert, who authorized operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza, had his speech interrupted earlier this month at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. Student activists showed their outrage at Olmert's role in the Gaza assault by standing up at various points during his speech and calling him out, before staging walk outs.

The protest was led by students from George Mason University Students Against Apartheid.

Statements called out from the floor included:

“I’m appalled that the Wilson Center would host a war criminal such as yourself.”

“To hell with you and your occupation. Free my people and free Palestine. We will never be silenced.”

"You're a murderer!"

“You’re wanted in several countries.”

“Shame on Woodrow Wilson for inviting a war criminal. This is disgusting.”

“1400 people were killed in Operation Cast Lead. My former partner was there. It was her job to collect the bodies. She was working for the American Red Cross.”

Olmert attempted to shrug off the comments with stabs at humor. One comment he made speaks volumes about the man who presided over a full scale military assault on an occupied people that lacked even rudimentary defenses. He quipped: “These people say I am a war criminal. For many Israelis this may restore some of my reputation.”

This is the statement from GMU students against apartheid:

On 4 June, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Washington, DC’s Woodrow Wilson Center to offer a so-called “moderate” perspective on Middle East affairs and the Palestinian-Israeli impasse. A DC area coalition of Palestinian justice activists, led by George Mason University Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), were there to challenge Olmert and interrupt the Wilson Center’s complicity with the ongoing normalization of Israeli occupation, settler colonialism, and apartheid. Making clear that no Zionist presence is welcome in the DC metropolitan area, throughout the event activists interrupted Olmert, discrediting the supposed “peace plan” he has been parading around as a viable solution.

Far from the generous offer Olmert would have the Wilson Center audience take it for, Olmert’s two state plan is a Zionist strategy that frames Palestinians as “against peace” for rejecting it. As activists in the audience insisted, a plan which refuses rights of refugees, maintains occupation, and keeps in place the Wall and the apartheid system it reinforces, offers no peace at all.

At one point during the disruptions, Jane Harman, CEO of the Wilson Center and former member of Congress, presented for the audience what passes for the “common sense” perspective of a peaceful and just solution to the conflict. The hegemonic rationale grounding a two-state solution permeates nearly every discussion of Palestine in the United States. This view is presented as the moderate, reasonable position for peace and justice. Meanwhile, Olmert justifies his aggressive advocacy for a two- state solution out of fear that the Palestinians will soon demand their fundamental human rights under a one state solution.

As members of SAIA, we represent a growing international movement to deconstruct and undermine this false rationale of a just solution in a Palestinian state alongside a Zionist, Israeli state. The two state solution is not only exclusionary, racist and anti-democratic, but moreover, structurally impossible. The territories designated for a future Palestinian state have been sliced, diced, and carved up over decades of Israeli military encroachment, followed by the on-going construction of illegal settlements. With little-to-no control over water, trade, transportation, or governance, the vision of a Palestinian state is merely a fabrication propagated by Israeli hawks to buy more time for further encroachment. It is in this spirit that we claim that the only just solution to the Israeli occupation is a democratic, one state solution led by the three tenets of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign:

(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
(2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
(3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

It is appalling that the Wilson Center would host a war criminal of Olmert’s caliber. It is less surprising that Olmert would jump at the invitation since opportunities to speak must be shrinking, as nations across Europe revoke Olmert’s diplomatic immunity, leaving him susceptible to arrest and prosecution for his violations of international law.

GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid