One soldier’s struggles
In what was undoubtedly a very emotional and sensitive presentation, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Sgt. Benjamin Anthony visited Laurier “to have a frank discussion of what transpires on the Israeli battlefield.”
Through the reaction that the presentation garnered at other schools such as the University of Western Ontario, it is easy to see that Sgt. Anthony’s talks are not without contention.
Although Sgt. Anthony speaks of his own accord and his presentations are not subsidized or supported by the IDF or the Israeli state, his position was obvious to audience-goers, many of whom were pro-Palestine and attended the lecture to ask tough questions of Sgt. Anthony.
Healthy and dialogue-driven discussion like that which occurred in the Bricker classroom on Jan. 18, has not happened at some of the other events at which Sgt. Anthony was the speaker and despite the differing opinions and polarized opinions present, discussion at his Laurier lecture remained poised and respectful when it could have easily dissolved.
“I appeal for a civil discussion,” Sgt. Anthony told the audience, who were all-around generally respectful of the lecturer and his stories, though they asked tough questions of the soldier after he had concluded.
Despite lecturing about how little time Israeli boys have before they must become men, Sgt. Anthony continued, “I have not come to regale you on the tales of heroism for Israeli soldiers.”
Sgt. Anthony described the immense guilt and fear that is associated with serving with the IDF. “In the context of warfare, [the dead] are the fortunate ones,” he said.
In an attempt to put a human face to the IDF and many other soldiers, Sgt. Anthony explained the emotional toll of battle and even pointed out how the IDF is vilified in the news.
“I’m here to dispel some of the myths of IDF soldiers immediately after battle,” he said. “They don’t dance, they don’t carve trophies out of their enemies….They write wills, all of which are concluded with a prayer for peace.”
Questions from the audience became heated as many of those in attendance wanted answers regarding the politics behind the Israel-Palestine conflict, though Sgt. Anthony’s lecture had been largely derived from his emotional account of soldiering the war.
“He did a good job in taking [everyone’s opinions] in and countering with what actually happened there from his personal experience being in the face of everything that we are only reading about,” said second-year business student Rachael Biranbaum after the lecture. “And it is important to recognize the media bias and all that.”
Although those like Biranbaum supported what Sgt. Anthony had to say, others from the audience were less impressed with his stance.
As with an overwhelming majority of events that surround the Middle Eastern conflict, all parties involved pointed fingers regarding the biases of others in the room.
“That he was saying that he doesn’t want to talk politics when he’s touching on subjects of war didn’t really make sense to me,” said one fourth-year student from the audience.
Discussion at the Jan. 18 lecture was a demonstration of a healthy academic atmosphere where opposing sides could come together create an arena of dialogue and critique without resorting to the stifling of one party or another.