Palestinian protesters interrupted the two former Israeli solders invited to speak at the Cal Poly Pomona university Hillel with cries of “baby killers,” “rapists” and “terrorists,” the school’s newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Israeli Soldiers’ Stories program, organized in conjunction with StandWithUs and the Multicultural Council, hosted soldiers Matan and Tamir on Thursday afternoon to a crowd of nearly 100, according to the Poly Post, which did not use last names out of fears for participants’ safety.
Palestinian students attended the event in what began as a silent protest, as students sat in the crowd with tape over their mouths, holding aloft signs decrying the treatment of the Palestinians. However, the demonstration quickly escalated as protesters began to shout and chant, drowning out the lecturers as soon as they began to speak.
Abdul Rehman, a senior, called the lecturers “two oppressors and killers.”
Josef, a student participating in the rally, said the IDF soldiers “kill innocent people for [their] personal pleasure and as part of their Zionist goal.”
“People deserve to know that these are terrorists and kill innocent people, just like my grandfather,” Josef told the paper.
Hillel President Doron Feuer described the event as “a disruptive and chaotic experience.”
“It was extremely difficult for people to hear what the soldiers were saying, even for the people sitting at the very front,” Feuer said.
As the auditorium emptied out, Matan and Tamir, the two former soldiers, were escorted out of the building by campus police.
“It was supposed to be a civilized dialogue, but I heard hatred and I saw hatred in their eyes,” said Tamir. “We came to talk about peace and I wish this conflict would end and we could all live together. I really hope people left this event with the message that there is a chance for peace, so let’s not ruin it and let’s work together to achieve it.”
Hillel International came under fire in past months for its policy to bar speakers who “deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.”