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Shell-Shocked in DePaul Print E-mail

By Jacob Shrybman
April 4, 2009

I wasn't 30 hours off the plane from Israel to give a presentation at Chicago's DePaul University on March 16, before I was greeted with the kind of direct anti-Semitism that legitimizes Kassam rockets fired at Sderot.

Several anti-Israel posters draped the entrance to the building in which I began my presentation to a small audience of around 20. Then the room began filling with people not merely against Israel's political policies and action but in clear support of the Hamas terrorist organization.

When I invited a question-and-answer session following my presentation, the very right of free speech which I offered the audience - now numbering more than 100 - was denied me. One audience member verbally attacked me, declared his support for the firing of rockets into Israel and ended his anti-Semitic rant with a question irrelevant to anything in my presentation. I pointed out that the questioner was not simply criticizing Israel but was clearly expressing his support for Hamas.

Before I could finish answering, I was interrupted and silenced by the Hamas supporters. Then a student rose up in the front of the room and called me a "dirty whore" in Arabic. He then grabbed his crotch and screamed, "Here's your Kassam!" - in Arabic.

I wasn't able to utter a word, so the event was shut down. After I'd collected my belongings, the local police - teamed with university security - escorted me to my car. The combination of unceasing anti-Semitic chants, personal harassment and solidarity with a terrorist organization hijacked the event.

I HAD COME to tell the human side of the daily reality of rockets, but these Hamas supporters only laughed at raw footage of kindergarten children running for shelter as a Kassam rocket was fired at them, or of my personal stories of having 15 seconds to run for my life before a rocket landed. If it wasn't before, it was clear to me then that these people were not here to learn about reality, gain understanding of the trauma and suffering, or even to object to my presentation. These people were there for the sole reason that it was an event regarding Israel, to whose very existence they objected. How was I to promote human understanding if the unruly crowd didn't even recognize my right as a Jew to live in Israel?

The following week I answered e-mail after e-mail, phone call after phone call from everyone ranging from people at the event to the event organizers, to reporters and journalists, to heads of major organizations - but not one of the e-mails or phone calls concerned the fact that more than three out of four children in Sderot have post traumatic stress disorder, or that one million Israelis now live under the daily threat of rockets. No one remembered the story I told of the baby in the stroller gasping while pointing to the sky as the Color Red alarm sounded in Sderot. My message was lost.

For the past eight years, it's been acceptable to the world that rockets are fired into the South. The longer anti-Semitic harassment and hate-filled propaganda is common in cities and campuses across the globe, the more the targeting of innocent Israelis by terrorists becomes acceptable.  

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