On March 6, UAA Students United hosted From the Front Lines. Featuring Israeli Defense Forces Major Abdallah at the event. Abdallah, whose full name has not been released for security reasons, is a Druze Combat and Elite Combat soldier who searches for terror tunnels.
Maria Lilly, president of UAA’s Students United, said the event aligned with Students United’s Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestinian human rights mission. Lilly worked with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or CAMERA, to bring Abdallah to UAA.
“[CAMERA has] an on-campus program that sponsors speakers from Israel to come to the United States and speak…” Lilly said. “The goal there is to advocate for Israel and bring attention to the plight of Palestinians in the Middle East because a lot of what we hear in the media is not accurate. A lot of it is biased. It is a very complicated situation… [and] part of our goal is just to bring that to campus, some perspective and to build a community where Christians, Jews, Muslims and even people who aren’t of a particular faith can come together and brainstorm about an issue that’s close to a lot of people and that’s probably one of the most complicated conflicts of our time.”
Abdallah’s lecture was question oriented and members of the community, as well as, UAA students, asked questions about politics between Israel and the United States, terrorism, media reporting on Israel and the West Bank settlements. When asked about media reporting of Israel, Major Abdallah said part of why he does these talks is to give his perspective of what is going on in Israel.
“I don’t really follow the media in the states, [so I don’t] really know what they report…,” Major Abdallah said. “As I said before, meeting with people I can tell the story from my eyes. Sometimes they [are] reporting… We spoke about the [terrorist] tunnels here and that’s not the reality on the ground.”
Abdallah is a Druze which is a small religious sect in the Middle East, Israel in particular, that integrated into the army after Druze leadership decided to be a part of Israel, Abdallah said.
The majority of his question and answer period discussed his role as an engineering combat officer and battalion commander who has destroyed 19 terrorist tunnels. Abdallah’s first language is a Druze dialect, but he also speaks Arabic, Hebrew and, as of three years ago, he learned English in order to talk more about the way he sees the two-state solution reported in the United States.
Eric Tauriainen attended the event and asked Abdallah about the political relationship between the United States and Israel.
“My brother served in the military here, and I think it’s interesting to hear what’s going on. I’m not sure exactly what our media is telling us,” Tauriainen said. “I wanted to find out first hand what this [man] can tell us and what he can’t.”
Students United has hosted several other speakers on campus in the past, including Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, photojournalist Gil Cohen-Magen and Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi.