Filmmaker speaks about Israel, Palestine

IRVINE — Pro-Palestine Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni gave a speech Wednesday evening at UC Irvine that advocated bi-nationalism.

Aloni addressed a group of about 30 concerning his recent book, "What Does a Jew Want?," and about putting on a production of "Waiting for Godot" with people in a refugee camp in Jenin in the West Bank.

Event organizers said Jewish groups on campus boycotted the event because Aloni supports a Palestinian state. Aloni had harsh words for groups who did not attend.

"They are not for a dialogue," he said.

He later added that he was "so sorry they're not here because they can learn what courage is" from Jenin refugees. He also said people should not boycott individuals, but protest against institutions.

"… California students who have never suffered anything in their lives — they could come here and learn something," Aloni said. "It's a pity they are not here."

Matan Lurey, a former president of the UCI Hillel group, said there was no protest.

"I can say for sure there was no 'intentional boycott,'" he said. "We are very fortunate at UCI to get a wide variety of perspectives on the Middle East and Arab-Israeli conflict; unfortunately it is not possible to be involved with all of them."

Representatives for Anteaters for Israel or UCI Hillel did not response to requests for comment.

During his talk, Aloni drew a Jewish star on a white board behind him, calling it a star of redemption. He said there is a sense of responsibility from the individual toward the world, toward the environment and to one's neighbors.

He said his Jewish identity compels him to act from a place of grace and justice toward Palestinian neighbors, not aggression.

"The Jew within us will save us, and the Palestinian within you will save you," he said.

Ending his talk, he said various groups together can create a sort of Noah's Ark of "strange animals" all supporting human rights but coming from different backgrounds.

"When the flood will stop, we will offer this language to the world, this language of justice and equality," Aloni said.

Almothan Alzanki, a graduate history student, was impressed with the talk.

Alzanki, from Kuwait, said the issue hits close to home.

Asaad Traina, one of the "Irvine 11" students criminally charged with disrupting a visit by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last year, also attended the talk.

"I thought it was great," said Traina, who is in his first year of a master's degree in biotechnology. He added that it was different from any other Israeli speaker he has seen. Traina said although some people refer to Palestinians as "brothers," he thinks Aloni is genuine in his sentiment.

"A lot of people say things like that, but I think he believes it," Traina said.

In an interview, Aloni said he was totally opposed to the criminal charges the Irvine 11 faced.

"What's happened here is so unacceptable," he said.

Aloni also recently spoke at UCLA, and gave a presentation on his book at Columbia University in October.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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