Scourge of liberals speaks at Stanford

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In marked contrast to recent demonstrations at other Bay Area universities, Stanford's celebration of the 55th anniversary of Israel's independence was a largely festive affair where students gathered to eat free falafel and listen to radio talk-show host Dennis Prager and other speakers.

Prager, known for his religion-based commentary and his conservative viewpoints (a story in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal referred to him as "the scourge of liberals"), delivered a brief speech before a crowd of approximately 150 students and community members May 8.

"This is a great day in world history…an optimistic development in history, where a people were able to maintain their culture and religion and return to their historical homeland," he began. "There's nothing more progressive, more liberal."

The noontime celebration was organized by the Stanford Israel Alliance and Stanford Hillel. The hour-long event included a lively performance of Israeli folk dances and a brief appearance by Israeli Consul General Yossi Amrani.

About 50 pro-Palestinians were there to represent their views on the conflict, but they simply held their flags aloft and did not disrupt any part of the event.

"When I look at the Palestinian flag, I am not upset," said Amrani, gesturing at the pro-Palestinian group. "I expect in the future for Israelis and Palestinians to live together. One does not come at the expense of the other."

Later on, Prager referred to Amrani's words, claiming the high moral ground was Israel's. "You heard Yossi Amrani talk about two states," he said. "You'll never hear that anywhere at a pro-Palestinian rally," he said. The Palestinians "want us destroyed — to go away, die, drown in the Mediterranean…There needs to be a crisis of conscience in the Arab world."

However, Stanford law student Shirin Sinnar, a demonstrator, offered another view. "I think it's important to remember that the destruction of Palestinian villages and lives went hand-in-hand with [the founding of] the state of Israel," said Sinnar, who wore a headscarf and carried a Palestinian flag. "When people celebrate, they should also remember that their history is not something to be proud of."

A few Jewish students took the podium to speak about their personal connections to Israel. Freshman Adi Jakubovits talked about Yom HaZikaron, the day before Israeli Independence Day. "Here, when we think of Memorial Day, we think of barbecues and three-day sales. In Israel, on Memorial Day, everyone looks back and reflects on the sacrifices Israeli soldiers have made for the Israeli state."