Israeli Soldier Speaks of Politics and Personal War Experiences

Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a former paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces, delivered an account of recent Israeli-Palestinian conflicts from both a historical and personal perspective on Nov. 7 in a presentation titled ‘The Seventh Arab-Israeli War: Course and Consequences.’

In his presentation, Oren contrasted the characteristics of the current conflict to previous conflicts.

‘This war was fundamentally different from any other Arab-Israeli war that had gone before,’ Oren said. ‘Most Arab-Israeli wars … were standard wars, ‘sterile’ wars.’

Oren explained that the terms ‘standard’ and ‘sterile’ referred to the fact that most of the previous wars were fought by members of the military, whereas recent conflicts involve more civilians.

‘[The war] was fought in the cities and in the neighborhoods and in the streets,’ Oren said.

According to Oren, the main aspect that made this war similar to previous wars between the Israelis and Palestinians was that it was a proxy war, in which both sides were supported by larger countries.

Palestinians sought to destroy Israel in the conflict, according to Oren.

‘[The Palestinian attackers] aspired to wreck Israel’s economy, to unravel civil society, to break its civil morale, and ultimately unwind the state itself … to annihilate the state,’ Oren said.

Oren also shared personal war experiences. He described the experience of leaving home on very short notice for safety reasons, as well as the alarmingly close proximity of violent attacks.

‘The level of sniper fire at night was so intense that my family sitting across the dinner table literally couldn’t hear each other speak,’ Oren said. ‘The entire house was shaking.’

Oren concluded his presentation on a hopeful note.

‘Israel has a well-understood and fundamental interest in seeing stability and the creation of a viable Palestinian state that can live side-by-side with us,’ Oren said.

Many students asked questions and voiced concerns after Oren’s presentation.

Mansor Jaber, a fourth-year international studies major, said that the presentation was similar to what he expected.

‘He’s talking from the Israeli perspective, so [the things he said] were one-sided,’ Jaber said.

Sandy Ayou, a first-year political science major, took issue with the emphasis that Oren put on Palestinian suicide bombers.

‘There aren’t only suicide bombings going on in Israel. There are suicide bombings going on [around the world] and so many people have died from them,’ Ayou said.

Although students and faculty at the lecture held differing opinions about the content of Oren’s presentation, most agreed that it is important to be aware of the conflict.

‘Everything that goes on in the world is eventually going to affect us at home,’ Jaber said. ‘They may have to send people who are most likely our age [to different countries] as soldiers to resolve conflict. … As long as we know what’s going on, we can have an opinion and our voices will matter.’