Thaer Ahmad after confronting Ehud Olmert during his speech.(Maureen Clare Murphy)
Chicago gave former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert a proper greeting once again yesterday. Outrageously, the former Israeli premier was invited to speak at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs about “peace.”
Approximately 100 Chicagoans, many of them students, protested former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s appearance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs yesterday. Olmert’s talk, an exclusive event for ticket-holders only, was also disrupted by a courageous activist who attended the 45-minute speech focusing on the “peace process.”
Thaer Ahmad disrupted the talk during the question and answer part of the program, when it became clear that all questions were pre-arranged and he would not be allowed to ask a question.
“I decided to interrupt as he was answering a question about predicting the future two to three years from now. I asked him if he thought that two to three years from now, justice would be served and he’d be tried as a war criminal for the murder of 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza in 2008 and 1,000 Lebanese in 2006.”
Ahmad added, “[Olmert] stopped and looked at me in surprise. Everyone was quiet and [security] grabbed me and while they escorted me out, I said there was more than 300 children who were killed [in Gaza].”
Demonstrators’ chanting and drumming were heard inside the venue throughout Olmert’s appearance, forcing him to acknowledge the protest. Olmert remarked that he was surprised that there was a protest of his appearance. However, it should have been no surprise as Chicagoans made international headlines in 2009, the last time Olmert appeared in Chicago. His speech at the University of Chicago was constantly disrupted and the protest caught on video that went viral on the Internet and was broadcast by Al Jazeera and even Israeli Army Radio.
Attendees of yesterday’s Olmert event were given mock programs as they entered the downtown Chicago Club. Inside the mock program was a warrant for Olmert’s arrest for war crimes perpetrated in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Demonstrators were still chanting as attendees filed out of the building approximately two hours after the action started.
Where Olmert goes, controversy follows
Olmert also spoke at the liberal Zionist J Street conference last week. His participation caused the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem to come under fire after the group sent out an email saying they were a “proud sponsor” of the conference.
The former prime minister also gave a speech at Princeton University. My colleauge Ali Abunimah, an alumnus of the university, took Princeton to task for giving such a venerable forum to a war crimes suspect: