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Chicago protest disrupts speech by Israeli drone war expert

By staff

Hatem Abudayyeh of US Palestinian Community Network leading chants on the picket

Chicago, IL – An Israeli legal theorist and former officer in the Israel Defense Forces spoke Feb. 25 at the University of Chicago. Professor Amos Guiora helped provide the justifications for ‘targeted killing’ programs like the one pursued by the Obama administration. 40 protesters, including ten from the campus’ Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), turned out.

The talk, titled “Legitimate Target: A Criteria Based Approach to Targeted Killing,” laid out a formula developed and used countless times by the Israeli government before ultimately being adopted by the Bush and Obama administrations. Joe Iosbaker, a member of the Anti-War Committee of Chicago, said, “Guiora’s talk shows a clear tie between Israeli atrocities in Gaza and the U.S. drone killing program.”

The Bush administration criticized targeted killings by Israel, but the failure of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made Bush and then Obama turn to killer drones to continue the attacks on people who resist U.S. domination. Like Israel, the U.S. uses self-defense as the justification for the drone wars. “When Guiora was Israel's Legal Advisor for the Gaza Strip, he said Palestinians killed and injured are ‘legitimate targets,’” said Hatem Abudayyeh of the United States Palestinian Community Network. “Guiora’s use of words like ‘collateral damage’ and ‘legitimate targets’ has now been adopted by the U.S. to cover the thousands massacred by extrajudicial U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.”

According to Kait McIntyre, an organizer with the Anti-War Committee, “We are holding this protest to say no to the drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or Palestine; no to the Israeli occupation of Palestine; no to the threats of new U.S. wars in Syria, Iran or in Mali; and we want the money spent on war to go instead to meet human needs.”

After the picket, most of the crowd packed into the talk by Guiora. He criticized the U.S. administration for mishandling the drone killing policy and called for a judicial review of any targeted killings. When he claimed that Israel had always been a model of morality in their occupation of Gaza and targeted killings of Palestinians, the students couldn’t take it anymore. The entire front row of the audience stood up, picked up their folding chairs, turned around and sat back down with their backs to the speaker. A short time later, the protesters walked out.

Leyla Gutierrez of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Chicago made the following statement about the protest:

“The presence of yet another former member of the Israel Defense Forces on the University of Chicago campus should be reason enough to come out in protest, but when said member is also supporting the targeted drone killing by the United States government, resistance becomes imperative. The presence of members of various anti-war and pro-justice organizations around Chicago, including the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)-Chicago chapter and the Anti-War Committee of Chicago was definitely felt at the International House event—“Legitimate Target: A Criteria Based Approach to Targeted Killing”—this Monday.

“Initially we sat down and listened to former IDF member Amos Guiora criticize the blurring of lines within the rule of law that Obama's White Paper on drone policy has created. He voiced opposition to the excess of power the executive branch has when it comes to drone killings. Soon enough, however, he mentioned his 20 years’ experience in the IDF as a foundation to his views on morality in armed warfare. At this point, it became too much to bear and we turned our chairs around in protest to his ramblings. He had lost all credibility. Sami Kishawi, President of SJP-UChicago, explained to the public our reasons for opposing this man's ‘authority’ on the subject of morality in targeted killing, while various audience members also voiced their disapproval of his words. Guiora thanked us in Hebrew for ‘our politeness’ and those of us who speak Hebrew answered ‘you are welcome’ and ‘thanked’ him for his supposedly factual and informative lecture. At this point, we decided it behooved us to walk out since the words of this self-proclaimed ‘peace-lover’ became comical.

“The Administration was not supportive of our measures, encouraging us instead to dialogue through Q & A. Taking part in such a Q&A would not have been a viable option since the University has a history of filtering out difficult questions in controversial events. People who wish to address questions to the speaker are required to write them down and hand them to a third party who then decides which will be asked to the speaker. This policy has been in place since Ehud Olmert, former Israeli prime minister, delivered a speech at the University of Chicago in 2009.”

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