Israel is a democracy that focuses on human dignity, said Avi Davis in a speech Monday night in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom.
Caravan for Democracy, a national organization that brings speakers on Israeli issues to college campuses, brought Davis to campus to speak on Israel as a democracy in the Middle East and its connection to the United States, according to www.caravanfordemocracy.org.
Davis is a senior fellow at the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, as well as an attorney, journalist and lecturer.
Davis was a replacement speaker for Mark Regev, chief spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., who could not attend because of current world issues.
The event was cosponsored by Students for CHAI: Cultural and Historical Awareness of Israel, a new student group whose goal is to educate the CSU community on the culture and history of Israel, and Hillel.
More than 150 people turned out to hear Davis speak on key issues surrounding the Middle East, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current situation in Iraq.
“The struggles of the Jewish people are only a precursor of a struggle that may affect us all,” Davis said.
Davis emphasized that the cause of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not possession of land.
“It is Palestine’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist,” he said.
Davis also said that the United Nations has outlived its purpose and that France is acting as an opponent to democracy.
“The United States and France began life together in the experiment of democracy,” he said. “(Now) France is surrendering the very elements of democracy that the founders fought for.”
After his speech, Davis answered questions from the audience, many regarding the war in Iraq, especially the Arab world’s view on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“I believe that there are a lot of leaders who would be happy to see Saddam gone,” he said.
Prior to his speech, Davis said that peace is possible in the Middle East, but it would require a cultural and attitude change.
“As John F. Kennedy said, peace has to be written in the hearts and minds of people and not just on paper,” he said.
Davis’s speech was the first event coordinated by Students for CHAI.
“This was a great kick-off event for us to start with,” said Rachel Raizen, co-president of Students for CHAI and vice president of Hillel.
Erin Lehnherr, a senior engineering science major, said she especially enjoyed the question-and-answer portion of the speech.
“I think most of us who came were looking a little more at the current issues,” she said. “I agree with (Davis) completely. I think a lot of the press is biased, so it was good to hear from a journalist perspective.”
Everyone who attended did not agree however. One student, who would not give her name to the Collegian, stood outside the ballroom holding a sign in protest of the speech.
Davis closed his speech by summarizing what he considers the heart of the conflicts in the Middle East.
“At risk is no less than the very soul of humanity,” he said. “We stand therefore at a crossroads and the only choices are life and death.”