University News

Controversial Hillel lecture sparks protest

Israel Defense Forces sergeant says he opposes two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sgt. Benjamin Anthony of the Israel Defense Forces gives a lecture at Brown/RISD Hillel Wednesday to a selected audience of about 40 students.

As Sgt. Benjamin Anthony of the Israel Defense Forces prepared to speak to an audience of around 40 invited students at Brown/RISD Hillel Wednesday night, about 70 students outside protested both his presence on campus and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

The protesters organized in the days prior to the event, meeting with administrators and Hillel representatives Tuesday to discuss their concerns.

“I am protesting his presence on campus because of the propagandistic nature of his speech,” said Josette Souza ’14, an organizer of the protest, adding that Hillel’s invitation of “student leaders” is not meant to stimulate dialogue, but rather to influence those who will go on to make domestic and international policy. “That is insidious,” she said.

Hillel purposefully did not advertise the event, hoping to encourage an “intimate” discussion of important issues, said Marshall Einhorn, executive director of Hillel.

Hillel invited student leaders “from the libertarians to the socialists, the (American Civil Liberties Union), Amnesty International and in between,” said Ross Lerner ’14, who helped invite students to the event.

Some students who were invited to attend the lecture chose to protest it instead.

Protesters objected to the event’s private nature and potential lack of a question-and-answer session. “I’m appalled this is happening,” said Reva Dhingra ’14, who was invited to the event. She added that she questioned whether the “insular nature of the event” would limit its effectiveness in starting a dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus, which Hillel leaders stated as their goal.

“I know from first-hand experience that many of the means that Israel has of defending herself are a consequence of a very solid relationship that has been built across generations between the United States of America and the state of Israel,” Anthony said in an interview with The Herald after his talk. “I’m very alarmed that that’s changing on university campuses.”

Despite concerns that Anthony would not take questions from attendees, he answered audience questions for over an hour immediately following his talk, doubling his budgeted time. Audience members pressed him on whether he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whether he thinks of himself as an “occupier” while on duty in the West Bank.

Anthony said he opposed a two-state solution on the grounds that it is currently unrealistic. It is impossible to link the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without compromising Israeli security, he said. Anthony added that he would support an Israeli annexation of the occupied territories — including the extension of voting and citizenship rights to Palestinians there — since doing so would not jeopardize the Jewish majority in Israel as many claim.

Anthony also addressed the issue of Israeli use of white phosphorous gas, a military tactic called out by the protesters as an example of the IDF’s willingness to violate international law. He said he supported both past and future use of the gas, citing his own experience using the gas on the front lines, adding that the gas is not illegal under international law, and Israel is not the only country using it.

Before the lecture, student protesters marched in a circle outside Hillel, chanting with signs, reading a solidarity statement and waving Palestinian flags. After being barred from using sound-amplifying technologies by the Providence police due to city ordinance, protesters moved across the street to the elevated patio outside J. Walter Wilson, where they read poems and named their reasons for protesting.

“I see it as justifying the continued human rights abuses of the IDF in Israel and Palestine,” said Kenneth Lusk ’16.

Some protesters cited personal experiences with the IDF. “As a Palestinian who actually experienced physical harm from IDF soldiers before, I am protesting because this person is representing a system of oppression,” said Ma’an Odeh ’16.

Anthony said he speaks to “humanize soldiers” and probe conversations to delve deeper than “the confines of a headline.”

“Anything in which I’m engaged militarily is done as a consequence of a deep, deep love for my own people and has nothing to do with negative feelings or emotions to another people,” Anthony told The Herald. “If we are not for ourselves, nobody will be,” he said of the Israeli people.

Anthony told The Herald he speaks to university students because of their potential to become world leaders. It is a “great privilege” to be able to speak with them, he said. Anthony has spoken at over 300 college campuses, including all eight Ivy league schools, with his organization Our Soldiers Speak.

He told The Herald he welcomes protesters and does not consider himself “politically aligned” despite coming under fire for his politics.


A previous version of a photo caption accompanying this article mischaracterized the event. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony spoke about his involvement with Israeli forces occupying the West Bank during a question-and-answer period, not in a preceding lecture. The article also originally failed to note that Anthony voiced support for the annexation of the occupied territories only if accompanied by the extension of rights to those living there.


  1. “Anthony also addressed the issue of Israeli use of white phosphorous gas, a military tactic called out by the protesters as an example of the IDF’s willingness to violate international law. He said he supported both past and future use of the gas, citing his own experience using the gas on the front lines, adding that the gas is not illegal under international law, and Israel is not the only country using it.”

    WOW. Just wow. White phosphorous burns through flesh and bones. White phosphorous has been used on civilians. Young and old men, women, kids. I’m disgusted by this man to no end.


    • ThisIsPalestine says:

      White phosphorus isn’t a gas, so I don’t know what this reporter is talking about.

      By the way, Ew, the Red Cross found no evidence that Israel used white phosphorus on civilians. So take your lies somewhere else.

      • 🙂 this man was proud of using white phosphorous himself. it’s quoted, it isn’t too hard to read the article.

        • ThisIsPalestine says:

          Is he proud of using it *on Palestinian civilians* as you claimed (without evidence) Israel did ?

          It isn’t too hard to read my comment. Give it a try in the future.

          • Believe me, it is very hard to read comments in which you absolutely ignore the suffering of an entire people and try to justify it.

            I’d say you could start by reading the Human Rights Watch report, here –

          • ThisIsPalestine says:

            Would that be the same “Human Rights Watch” who had a Neo-Nazi enthusiast in charge of their Israel division and was criticize by THEIR OWN FOUNDER for being biased against Israel?


            I said evidence. If you would like to provide evidence instead of shoving links around, please do so.

          • Uhm did the article you sent me just cite Richard Kemp, another war criminal (this time one pertaining to the British army, one who took part in the invasion of Afghanistan) brought to Brown a couple of years ago?

            Such good evidence indeed that your politics are based on racism and violence. So you can’t trust victims and eye-witnesses because they’re “biased”? So if I were a victim of rape my denounce doesn’t prove anything because I’m the victim? What kind of messed up logics are you working on?

            You will never legitimize discourses of violence on our campus.

          • ThisIsPalestine says:

            If you think that Richard Kemp isn’t a reliable source for a reason other than the fact that he served in the British Army, but it forward now.

            Palestinian “eyewitnesses” have been caught lying dozens, even hundreds of times. And even if they weren’t, unsubstantiated claims isn’t evidence. You do know that, right?

            Put that race card back in the deck. And stop the endless lies.

          • tell us, Palestine-hater, how this IDF soldier is any better than the Nazi war criminals who violated international law and persecuted an entire people on the grounds of blood and birthright?

          • ThisIsPalestine says:

            Do have any evidence that this IDF soldier has killed even a single person, let alone violated international law and “persecuted an entire people?”

            I didn’t think so.

          • so do you want to also play the “the holocaust didn’t exist” game? Because that is equally ridiculous.

      • This article addresses the Red Cross’s report and provides some counterpoints, including the shelling of a U.N. school being used as a fallout shelter with white phosphorus rounds.


        Finally, a protocol to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons bans the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations or in air attacks against enemy forces in civilian areas. So either way, its use in Gaza was illegal under intl. law.

        • ThisIsPalestine says:

          Your articles don’t have evidence, just claims by Palestinian “eyewitnesses.” There’s no proof that Israel used it as anything besides a smokescreen, which is perfectly legal.

      • They used white phosphorus when they invaded Lebanon in 2007. Animals. Also, white phosphorus is illegal under international law. Using white phosphorus, and supporting it so openly, is tantamount to terrorism.

      • Hey ThisIsPalestine, I’m from UMich, I remember you commenting on the Michigan Daily. Do you do anything else besides post imperialist, fascist, and false statements on student newspaper sites?

        • ThisIsPalestine says:

          If you’re from UMich, what are you doing here? Do you do anything else besides posting racist, insulting, and pro-terrorist lies on student newspaper sites?

      • Sorin Panainte says:

        Yo, ThisIsPalestine aka Zach Smith aka Trolls on every student newspaper site when there’s anything against the imperialist occupation of Palestine. I saw you comment on Michigan Daily. Do you do anything besides comment on student sites? Do you enjoy being a sock puppet for Israel?

        • ThisIsPalestine says:

          Yo Sorin, are you and your SAFE friends going to apologize for intimidating Chris Mays into missing a weeks worth of classes?

          Just wondering if you have any humanity left. I’m guessing probably not.

        • Oooooh, maybe that’s “Arafat”‘s new name. 🙂 that was another character on student newspapers. it’s sad to be paid to do this kinda sh!t.

          Thanks for the heads up sorin!

  2. Shame on Emma Harris and the Brown Herald for covering an openly racist event. The Hillel openly targeted minorities for exclusion. And there go Brown Herald reporters covering the event.

    Emma would you cover a KKK event ? Not from the outside. But actually go and listen to their proceedings. ? Shame.

    • Hi mxm123… Frankly I have seen the BDH do worse, like when they “covered” a protest by just interviewing people who opposed it, and none of the organizers. To tell you the truth I think Emma’s coverage is quite good, although she definitely did not count every person who was at the protest, because there were more than 70 people out there.

      I have seen a lot of comments in which you talk about how Hillel targeted minorities… could you explain a little bit of how so? It’s really just a clarifying question. I am very critical of their zionist politics, the way they wouldn’t support a jewish anti-zionist group on campus… and I definitely condemn their giving a platform to such hateful discourse. The thing is that I have not heard of them discriminating in this specific way you seem to claim. I think that if someone decides to make such a serious accusation, they should also substantiate it.

      • The Hillel basically targeted minorities by gerrymandering how many of them would attend such event. You can’t have an “open” event and then conduct yourself in such a manner to limit say the number of certain minority groups who attend. And then claim “Look there is a African American so we did not discriminate”.

        What the Hillel did is racial targeting. Shame on Emma Harris and the Brown Herald.

        • kazeegeyser says:

          Your claim has no evidence to support it. Also, I don’t quite see what race has to do with this event. If anything, I would expect them to exclude politically left people, which they didn’t do.

          • They targeted certain minority groups. Don’t pretend other wise.

          • kazeegeyser says:

            Uh, sure. By you telling me this with such certainty, I will believe it.

          • I don’t intend to convince u that the sun rises in the East either. Brown can ask the Justice Dept. Civil Rights Department to investigate. Or run its own investigation.

          • If you ever want anyone to actually listen to what you have to say, support it with evidence. Don’t make a claim and then ask other people to substantiate it for you because you think it is self evident. Evidence first, then claim. That is how all legitimate arguments are constructed.

          • I asked for a neutral investigation. And that’s biased by you. I’m shocked, shocked.

    • As someone who was invited to the event and would be identified as a racial “minority,” I’m worried that mxm123’s comments are distracting from deeper issues involved with this event that have been mentioned in numerous other articles. In regards to the invite procedure, it’s not about targeting minorities for exclusion, though by inviting only individuals with the time to become politically involved there is an inherent exclusion of those individuals who are busy trying to fund their college education and thus unable to commit the time and energy to work, succeed in their classes, AND not just participate in, but lead a political organization. However, the issue with the invite procedure is that only political student leaders and potential “legislators of tomorrow” were invited. This is an attempt not to start dialogue but to ensure that the audience for Anthony’s policy agenda could implement his support of perpetuating the militarization of Israel and occupied Palestine in our future careers. The event therefore essentially served as a lobbying platform, and despite an extended Q&A, the organization’s basic goal of enacting policy agendas on campus does not change.

      • Reva, your’e just plain wrong. Its not a distraction. It may sound unpleasant at your World Affairs wine and cheese social. But don’t pretend that Hillel did not try to gerrymander the racial composition.

        Under American Law one can point to the profile of groups who’ve attended such meetings in the past and compare that to who the Hillel invited. Gerrymandering a racial composition is illegal.

        For Example. You can’t have an non-member event and limit say the number of minorities who can attend. It is illegal even if say three African Americans were allowed to attend. When past events have shown that a lot more African American attended a certain event.

        • Attacks and unsubstantiated claims of this kind only further polarize an already-polarized debate. I think that you are alienating individuals with serious objections to this event, which include but are not limited to issues of diversity among our political leadership at this school.

          And in regards to the palpable condescension in your depiction of “wine and cheese socials” and activities of the Journal, I’d add the caveat that I am expressing my dissent as an individual student leader and not on behalf of the Journal, and I don’t feel comfortable further engaging when you’ve brought up the Journal as an argument against my individual perspective. But stop by one of the Journal’s events any time, all voices are welcome.

          • What unsubstantiated claim ? Look at who attends the I-P events/debates and ask yourself. Did the Hillel try to gerrymander the participant’s racial composition.

            Having a sniff, sniff conversation about “polarized debate” may be fine and dandy. But racism is racism.

            Mine is a fair, albeit inconvenient, observation. Racial discrimination is ugly. Face it rather than avoiding it.

          • Provide some data. Observations are reckless and a waste of time. And besides… what exactly is being gerrymandered? Was there some election and decision made at this talk?

            Brown is becoming a scary place where freedom of speech is shouted down by people who don’t approve of what is being said. You can disagree with Zionism. Share your opinion. You can call Israelis oppressive. Share your opinion. Demanding they be muzzled is not a path to follow.

            The vocal minority at Brown has always been loud. But now it frightens me.

          • Its called a Justice Department Civil Rights Investigation.

            The Hillel has a right to discriminate as a private entity. But Brown cannot allow such organizations access as it has promised parents and students that it fully follows civil rights laws.

            A Civil Rights Investigation, as Hillel members around the country have themselves called for when it suited them, does not involve me. Its a neutral investigation.

            Departments like the World Affairs can’t have a wink wink nod nod relationship with an organization that openly discriminates. Would u sit quiet if a Saudi Wahabist organization on campus collaborated with the World Center and then turned around and limited Jewish participation in its “open” events.

  3. “Annex the West bank” Are you kidding me? So not only does this speaker support use of white phosphorous against the Palestinian people, but the further theft and potential genocide of a people. Truly disgusted by Hillel and the Brown administration for allowing this speaker to come to our campus. Embarrassing and disgusting. Shame shame shame.

    • Soon Hillel will be using Brown classrooms and other resources to host events. Of course those will be open. But you get the picture.

      Brown Administration and the Hillel in cahoots to deny Equal Access for coloreds.

    • ThisIsPalestine says:

      “So not only does this speaker support use of white phosphorous against the Palestinian people…”


    • At the event says:

      If you were there, you would know he said he would only support annexation if it included giving full rights and citizenship to palestinians. Don’t talk if you’re uneducated.

      • "Student Leaders" only says:

        hey at the event, it was invite only, so how do you know if karma was invited. don’t talk if you’re uneducated

  4. this, if anything, proves exactly how fudged up the whole thing was. he literally says “I support oppression because I love my people and I use illegal war methods because lol guys it’s not illegal it’s practical”

  5. Buttz Henderson says:

    way to go bdh and hillel for making fascism sound so uplifting. WHITE PHOSPHOROUS IS NOT A GAS. IT IS AN INCENDIARY WEAPON WHOSE USE AGAINST A CIVILIAN POPULATION IS A WAR CRIME UNDER THE LAWS OF THE GENEVA CONVENTION. for christ sake i know its a student paper so research is optional, but its only legal to use as a smokescreen, not as a bomb. journalism doesn’t mean parroting whatever dumb authority is willing to let you lick their butthole.

    f*ck this skinhead and his stupid blazer. f*ck hillel, the bdh, and chris paxson for whitewashing explicitly political action under the guise of “open discourse”. this university is a sham. it reciprocates financial and pr benefits with just about every global force it claims to oppose, from coal, to war, to sweatshops, to racist urban militarization, rent-raising, financial piracy, the surveillance state, the exploitation of faculty and staff, the prison-industrial complex, and a classist system where “lives of usefulness and reputation” are a transparent stand in for “members of the ruling class”. every person with eyes or ears knows that this campus is wildly segregated along racial and economic lines.

    but its the “student leaders”, whether its ucs or the bdh’s pearly white editorial board, who should be the most ashamed of themselves. you lead no one. you are mouthpieces, eager to play the stooge for whoever has the most credentials because it will look oh so nice on your resume, and eager to sell your peers for the privilege.

    our generation has unprecedented crises to face, and old fools like paxson and the corporation board can’t be bothered to care because they will be dead and rotting by the time sh!t really hits the fan—they’ve got enough money that they can just count it till the world ends. but you, the young fools, have been tricked into selling our future to these suit-wearing vampires. and for what? some piece of sh!t consulting job? a prestigious unpaid internship? look around you. think with something other than a f*cking textbook. grow up.

    • ThisIsPalestine says:

      This is your brain on Palsbara.

    • Why do you think that this kind of speech is productive? If you are so intent on criticizing the organization around you, let’s see if you can change it for the better. It seems to me like all you are doing here is making sure that your opinions will never be heard or have any impact in the world because you can’t speak like a rational person.

  6. If Palestine were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel – Benjamin Netanyahu

    • “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,” – Netenyahu

      Not to worry. There is no Palestine. Israeli soilders use their guns to ensure that.

      • Do you really think that if Israel completely withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza, allowed the Palestinians to completely self-determine, and stopped restricting the inflow and outflow of goods, there would be peace? Do you really think the barrage of rockets would stop? Do you think Palestine would be content to live in peace next to Israel? Do you think it would all of a sudden be a happy democracy with equal rights?

        If you or anyone else thinks so, please let me know.

        • Can’t dwell in hypotheticals especially when Netenyahu and his goons use every trick in the book to steal Palestinian land everyday.

          • Yes, but hypotheticals are important if you ever want “Netanayhu and his goons” to stop stealing Palestinian land. You can’t expect Israel to unilaterally withdraw if it expects more attacks from an unstable neighbor.

          • Promote continuous instability by stealing their land and imprisoning their people for decades. Then blame the instability for stealing more. Yay !!!

    • well, shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

  7. Reva —-> ” it’s not about targeting minorities for exclusion, though by inviting only individuals with the time to become politically involved there is an inherent exclusion of those individuals who are busy trying to fund their college education and thus unable to commit the time and energy to work, succeed in their classes, AND not just participate in, but lead a political organization”

    Reva and The Brown World Journal or whatever does not wish to confront the fact that the Hillel racially profiled and excluded certain minorities. These were the minority groups that would make time to show up whenever one of these pro-Israeli shills showed up. Not this mumbo of “busy trying to fund their college education”.

    Those groups showed up. Every time. Reva and the Brown World Journal are downplaying it / avoiding it because it would lead to hard questions about their future collaboration with the Hillel and this racist policy.

  8. Did anybody protest Palestinian terrorism, blowing up buses, launching rockets into southern Israel schoolyards? Of course not. I’d be willing to bet none of these protesters would ever dare to don the uniform of their country and serve like the speaker did.

    Hopefully, Brown university will not become known as The Brown University (reference to the Brown Shirts/SA).

    • Not only will they not protest Palestinian savage acts like the slitting of the throats of the Fogel family in the middle of the night, they’ll never address the Palestinian culture of hate. Mein Kampf is #4 on the West Bank Palestinan’s best seller list. The Fogel family killers & their families get stipends as do all Palestinian’s who murder Jewish Israeli civilians to a tune of $5 million monthly or $60 million annually while the US gives the the Palestinan Authority $500 million each year. Our tax dollars are at work openly paying terrorists who do nothing but have Jewish blood on their hands. But the only protests you’ll hear are about Israel defending itself from this culture of hate.

      • Yourallignorant says:

        Dude shut up.. Seriously cause you sound like a complete moron. The only savage acts are by the Israeli government and military.. I didn’t say Israeli people but the government and military. Those are the true savages. I saw a documentary the other day where Israeli’s who protest government action get beat up by their own people for not supporting the oppressive military actions against the Palestinians.

        I know what I’m talking about because I’ve lived it, it’s funny how all of you keep talking as though your the people having to live through what’s happening. None of you pro-Israelis know what it’s like to have your freedom and land taken from you by force so I suggest you stop talking.

        To whoever posted that quote by Benjamin Netanyahu.. Yeah when you come take a land by force and act oppressively against it’s people, your definitely looking for peace.

        And to all you ignorant morons, Palestinian weapons don’t even compare in the slightest to the weapons the Israeli military has.

        Just look at the Lebanese summer war in 2006. 2500ish Lebanese and Palestinians were killed whereas only 160 Israelis were killed. Of those 2500, 2000 were civilians whereas only 40 Israeli civilians were killed. Thisispalestine, you wanted facts? Those are facts for you.

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