Oren speaking last year.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
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Brandeis Students Protest Oren

Israeli ambassador is the commencement speaker

Marc Tracy
April 27, 2010
Oren speaking last year.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who earlier this year was shouted down and called a “Killer!” while speaking at the University of California, Irvine, is once again a subject of campus controversy: Brandeis University’s selection has prompted the inevitable Facebook petition protesting the choice, and the equally inevitable counter-petition supporting Oren and Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz.

The anti-Oren petition is (somewhat) careful to couch its opposition in terms of Oren serving as a distraction from graduating students rather than of specific opposition to the policies he represents: “commencement has been hijacked to serve as part of a debate about Middle Eastern politics,” it argues. It wears its politics a bit more on its sleeve when it calls Oren “a divisive choice.”

While not technically officially totally Jewish, Brandeis, located outside Boston, has highly Jewish student and faculty bodies and was named, at its founding in 1948, after the first Jewish U.S. Supreme Court justice (who was also, as Jeffrey Goldberg puts it, “the leading Zionist in American history”).

Oren will also receive an honorary degree, as will American Mideast adviser Dennis Ross; novelist Antonio Muñoz Molina (whom some of us are big fans of); and Paul Simon. Personally, I am outraged—outraged!—that the perpetually underrated Garfunkel is not to be similarly honored. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a petition to write.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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