The Harris School and Ehud Olmert

Little discussion is taking place about the Harris School’s decision to invite Ehud Olmert to campus.

By Nadia Marie Ismail

This Thursday, the Harris School of Public Policy is inviting former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to speak at a leadership conference. It is interesting that a man like Ehud Olmert would be asked to speak on leadership, considering he is regarded within his own country and across the globe as a corrupt leader and a criminal.

The Harris School seems terribly misinformed about Olmert: They introduce him, on their event site as “one of the most respected leaders in Israel’s history.” This is a shocking description considering Olmert is the antithetical opposite of respected: He is actually the first, and only, Israeli prime minister to have ever been brought to criminal court by his people. He was charged with multiple counts of corruption including fraud, breach of trust, fraudulent registration of corporate documents, concealing fraudulent earnings, and more. His people repeatedly called for his resignation, causing him to step down as the leader of his political party, and proving that he is, in fact, one of the least respected leaders in Israeli history.

The Harris School advertisement makes another, much more appallingly ignorant statement when claiming that “Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister with a courageous vision: achieving prosperity through peace.” This is absolutely ridiculous. It is especially absurd when one takes into consideration the fact that just last month Ehud Olmert was found to have committed war crimes, as reported by the United Nations Goldstone Report, which spent months investigating international law violations made during the Israeli attack on Gaza last year. UN Justice Goldstone reported: “We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza,” operations lead by Ehud Olmert.

Last year during the attack on Gaza, Olmert lead his army into the densely populated neighborhoods of Gaza, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounding 5,300 others by indiscriminately attacking mosques during prayer services, schools, homes, ambulances, and hospitals, all of which are civilian targets.

Olmert began his term as Prime Minister with the invasion of Lebanon, which was described by his own government as a “serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility, and prudence.” He held the ruthless collective punishment that was the siege on Gaza (in response to the Gazans’ democratic election of Hamas) throughout the middle of his term, leaving more than 80 percent of the Gazan population hungry and devastatingly impoverished, and ended his term with the war on Gaza. His “vision” clearly did not lead to peace.

Despite all of this, I’ve found that the overall reaction to this event on campus has been silence. To me, the lack of buzz surrounding this event is shocking. It is extraordinarily shocking when one takes into consideration that just months ago when the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) co-sponsored an event that brought two local professors (one being our own John Mearsheimer) and a journalist to speak on the crisis in Gaza, that University center was put under unprecedented pressure for weeks before and months after the event, with claims that University centers and schools should not host “one-sided” speakers. I doubt Ehud Olmert will present an unbiased opinion, and I wonder how there is not a single word of consideration to be heard by the campus community just days before the speech of a war criminal who destroyed thousands of lives. The Harris School is not receiving even a tiny fraction of the response or the heat that CMES received, and I am utterly confused as to why.

Nadia Marie Ismail is a third-year in the College majoring in the biological sciences.