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October 19, 2002

Ambassador gets earful

At least in this instance the Israeli speaker was allowed to have his say. And the Palestinian student who wonders about the Palestinian people? Well guess who is encouraging the bombers and sending very young children out to throw stones.

There were some tense exchanges between Haim Divon, Israeli Ambassador to Canada, and about 50 Dalhousie University students who attended an hour-long lecture yesterday in an auditorium at the Sir Charles Tupper Building, under the watchful eyes of several plain-clothes security people.

Some students questioned Divon’s assertions there would be peace between Israel and Palestine if only the Palestinians would accept the Camp David accord worked out by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, and if they would recognize Israel as a bona fide country.

Divon, who described Israel as having 7,000 missiles pointed at it, said security is, and must be, its top priority.

“Every day, an Israeli meets and confronts a very hostile environment,” he said.

Israel has tried “everything” to live peacefully with Palestinians, Divon said, but nothing has worked, and that is why they have turned to reprisal attacks on refugee camps to counter suicide bombers.

“If there’s another way, tell us about it,” he said.

“No one is holding (Palestinian chairman Yasser) Arafat accountable. I think Israel is the only country in the world where there are mortar and missile attacks daily. Where else in the world would you tolerate such attacks from neighbours?”

Divon said that until the “Iraq issue” is solved, there won’t be a major breakthrough between Israel and Palestine, and charged Iraq has been funding Arafat.

“No one wants to live in such a crazy situation. The international community shouldn’t be so soft on Arafat,” he said.

Divon said there are so many Palestinians living in refugee camps because the Palestinian government wants to use them “to better bash Israel.”

He said that since the Second World War, there have been 50 million refugees and most have been resettled, “except the Palestinians.”

“We didn’t keep Holocaust survivors in a refugee camp to say: ‘Look at what they did to us,’” he said.

An Egyptian student in the audience asked Divon why he kept on “pointing the finger” at Palestine for the problems.

“I’ve been living here seven years and every time I put on the TV, all I hear is suicide bombers ... What about the Palestinian people who are dying every day from bullets?”

Divon said Israel is pointing the finger at one person, Arafat, “but the Palestinian people have to point the finger, too.”

“So, you’re pointing the finger again,” replied the student