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Hecklers Flee Israeli Speaker at U of Florida

"I'm used to sitting in jail cells with serial killers, did they think I would be intimidated by some American college students?" Berko said in a phone interview on Wednesday evening with The Jewish Press.

Anat Berko, shown speaking at Binghamton University on Oct. 6, spoke at the University of Florida, Gainesville on Oct. 10.

Anat Berko, shown speaking at Binghamton University on Oct. 6, spoke at the University of Florida, Gainesville on Oct. 10.
Photo Credit: Binghamton Univ. Pipe Dream

Anat Berko is a small-framed woman known for her ubiquitous yards long braid.  She is also one of the world’s leading counter terrorism experts who has sat in prison cells next to some of the most dangerous serial killers and attempted homicide bombers who ever lived.

A handful of anti-Israel University of Florida students chose the wrong speaker to interrupt.

Berko was at the Gainesville campus on Thursday, Oct. 10, as the guest of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

According to CAMERA fellow Avia Gridi, with approximately 7,000 Jewish students, the University of Florida has the single largest number of Jewish students at any university in the United States.

This is Gridi’s first year as a CAMERA fellow and the “More Hummus, Less Hamas” evening with Berko was her first event.

The Smarter Bomb is Berko’s second book about homicide bombers.  In it she tells the story of the women and children who are induced to attempt to become homicide bombers.  Berko knows the experience of those women well.  She spent decades inside Israeli prisons interviewing the women who failed to martyr themselves either because of a technical malfunction or because the authorities were able to disrupt the plans.

Berko gained the trust of dozens of such women in Israeli cells. Her particular interest in writing The Smarter Bomb was to uncover the motivation of the women and children to attempt to commmit such acts, especially the difference in motivations between women and men.

Having as your laboratory the prison cells of people who attempted to kill – they say “martyr” – themselves in order to murder Israeli men, women and children is not the choice of someone who is easily frightened.  But in addition to being a social scientist, Berko is also a Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the Israel Defense Forces. That is also not a career choice for people who are easily intimidated. And Berko isn’t.

So eight minutes after Berko began speaking at Pugh Hall last Thursday night, when four students, who had arrived late, suddenly stood up, removed their outer shirts and began chanting accusations, Berko was having none of it.

“Hamas is not the Problem, the Israeli Occupation Is!” and “The IDF kills women and children!” were the slogans drawn on the students shirts, and chanted by the students.

“What is wrong with you?” Berko sharply addressed the four. “Sit down and listen to what I have to say and wait for the question and answer portion of this event to raise your issues!”

But the four students who later identified themselves as members of the seemingly ubiquitous, but certainly infamous, Students for Justice in Palestine were not interested in listening to Berko.  They came to make their own voices heard.

“She seemed disgusted by the display,” Gridi told The Jewish Press.

And then Berko really let them have it.

“You think the IDF kills children? You should go to Syria, where everyone knows they are murdering thousands of children with gas and other cruel weapons!  Go to Syria where there are actually thousands of real refugees. They need you to demonstrate in Syria, go!” Berko lectured the SJP hecklers.

And with that, the hecklers left the room and Berko continued her lecture. The people who came to hear about what could possibly motivate women and children (that’s the “smart bomb” Berko means) to want to kill themselves were able to hear from her first hand observations and watch video clips of many who attempted to be smart bombs.

And the four hecklers? They left the room with their tails between their legs, unable to grab the spotlight for their inane chants, unable to disrupt a carefully prepared evening of education which Gridi and CAMERA’s co-sponsors for the event, the ICC, MEMRI and the Gainesville Hillel put on.

“I’m used to sitting in jail cells with serial killers, did they think I would be intimidated by some American college students?” Berko said in a phone interview on Wednesday evening with The Jewish Press.

When asked about the Berko event, Gridi was both pleased and a bit nonplussed.

“The event went really well, although none of it went as expected.”

“The ironic thing is that Dr. Berko really provided us with so much information about the lives of these [attempted or trained homicide bomber] women, she gave them a voice no one else has,” Gridi marveled, “yet these SJP students who walked out without listening to what Dr. Berko said complained that those woman should have a voice and that’s why Berko should not have been invited to campus.

“You know, it’s a perfect metaphor for the peace process,” Gridi continued, “they like to yell and scream, but they won’t listen.”

Gridi was also referring to an op-ed by what purport to be three of the four SJP students who walked out of Berko’s talk. The op-ed was published on Sunday, Oct. 13 in the Alligator, the school newspaper.

The hecklers complained about the event “they attended” and went on to describe Berko’s talk, her “faux feminism” and described Berko, a “representative of the occupation,” as screaming and threatening them and having “a zero-tolerance policy for any sort of dissent.”

There must be something in the water in the great state of Florida (in addition to alligators), because the student responses to the op-ed summarily reject the flabby SJP demonstration, their empty rhetoric and the absurdity of criticizing a talk which the authors even acknowledge they hadn’t attended.

Go ‘Gators!

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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42 Responses to “Hecklers Flee Israeli Speaker at U of Florida”

  1. Great article. Will go on my FB

  2. PLEASE Ms BERKO, COME & SPEAK TO THE AFRICAN & MUSLIM STUDENTS HERE IN SOUTH AFRICA. THEY ARE SO BRAIN-WASHED & IGNORANT. CONTACT OUR USELESS ISRAELI EMBASSY.

  3. No Pasaran from Brighton UK
    Taking the fight to the BDS hate brigade
    https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521248807933259&ref=m_notif&__user=1767854095

    A fantastic cross community effort in order to counter the bigotry , lies and propaganda disseminated by the local chapter of the fascistic BDS

  4. Good on her…dear lady we cheer you on, you champion the lives of every Jew in the face of such evil and disrespect as comes from islam…and a very few 'secular' Jews who have lost their souls to ignorance!

  5. Deborah Sampson Webb says:

    Typical.

  6. Cody Flecker says:

    Any Jew who still maintains a residence in South Africa along with the Zombies who live there, should be excommunicated from the Jewish religion.

  7. LeeWarren says:

    Kudos to Ms Berko.    Well said.

  8. Stephen Morgan says:

    Even Duct Tape won't fix "stupid." (Hmmm, but if you put it over their mouths and noses…)

  9. Dan Silagi says:

    I personally would challenge the heckler to come on stage, look me in the eye, and repeat his comments. He'll be waking up in 5775.

  10. Alan Kardon says:

    Maybe you can help get them out with all their belongings. Your smart enough to attend the prestigious school of management. Your solution doesn't sound like a person that is learning much.

  11. Michael Danziger says:

    May God Grant Her Long life and health

  12. MaryDullinger says:

    Good show!

  13. Julie Stein says:

    I would have loved to have attended her lecture. Is there a video available by chance?

  14. Julie Stein says:

    I would have loved to have attended her lecture. Is there a video available by chance?

  15. Brent Tollman says:

    Cody Flecker The Jews of South Africa would respond to your brilliant comment but we're currently being chased by the Zombies that live here. Please send Brad Pitt and some management consultants to help urgently. Thank you.

  16. Steve Loeb says:

    They are even more ignorant than you believe …. have a look at this – and then do something about it wherever you live or whenever you hear the usual protestations from those who think we've had enough of hearing about the holocaust – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V4bmm6yJMw#t=842

  17. Phil Welcker says:

    unfortunately if more Jews would stop voting Democrat, Israel would have friends in the white house instead of enemies that support Israel's enemies. the protesters were Democrats……do you finally get it? Stop voting Democrat. They are not friends of Israel!

  18. Vingore says:

    Thank you Anat Berko!

  19. Bernard Baars says:

    Excellent. More power to her, and all who follow in her footsteps.

  20. AC Stubbs says:

    And worse, so many ignorant professosrs

  21. Stanley Feldman says:

    I am an independent. Israel will do what israel needs to do regardless of the party in power in the U.S. I am not enthralled with our current foreign policy, but I do not think having the Tea Party in power is a panacea for Israel or anyone else.

  22. Would love to have been there, must get hold of Dr. Berko's books! More speakers on the subject of the Middle East with Dr. Berko's credentials will be extremely useful. Silly air headed girls!

  23. vivgolda says:

    Would love to have been there, must get hold of Dr. Berko’s books! More
    speakers on the subject of the Middle East with Dr. Berko’s credentials
    will be extremely useful. Silly air headed girls!

  24. Helen O'Leary says:

    Powerful woman and due great respect!

  25. Helen O'Leary says:

    Wish we had women like Dr. Berko in our Congress!

  26. Michelle Dan El Carr says:

    Good for her …there are always a few idiots around.

  27. Amanda Nelson says:

    This group is not "Anti-Israel", and they were peacefully protesting – just because you do not agree with their point of view does not mean you can misrepresent them as a bunch of heckling "American college students".

  28. Right-wing Israelis and Zionists downplaying the significance and value of peaceful protest is nothing new. They're so used to using bullets and white phosphorus that it's hard for them to find another outlet of expression and instead resort to collectivizing an entire resistance movement as a group of disgruntled hecklers.

  29. MARGARITA:

    I AM AN AMERICAN, BORN AND RAISED, IN THE USA. I AM AN EISENSTEIN, HOWEVER, WE SPELL THE NAME DIFFERENTLY.
    PARENTS MIGRATED FROM THYEN RUSSIA/POLAND FROM A VILLAGE CALLED KRINKI IN 1910. HAVE RELATIONS ON MY MOTHERS SIDE WHOM LIVE IN ISRAEL THEIR AMERICANIZED NAME WOULD BE ROUTBART. DO YOU THYINK THERE IS ANY RELATUIONSHIP.

    LEONARD EISENSTEIN
    NEVADA_LEN@HOTMAIL.COM

  30. Barry Shaw says:

    Kristalnacht 1938 – Israel 2013.

    This weekend is the 75th anniversary of Kristalnacht – the Night of Broken Glass – when over a thousands synagogues were destroyed and 30,000 Jews were taken to concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
    Listen to this powerful and poignant presentation by Barry Shaw about Kristalnacht and its significance today as he speaks on Pastor Jerry Clark's 'A Christian Voice for Israel.'

    https://soundcloud.com/pastor-jerry/a-christian-voice-for-israel-5#!

  31. What a silly thing to say. If they want to "protest," they could protest outside, or, basically wherever they want to go. What they cannot do is attempt to stifle the free speech of someone they disagree with.

    Also…they aren't anti-Israel? They are, by definition, anti-Israel. Come on now.

  32. Amanda Nelson says:

    you make a good point, and yes they are "anti-Israel". Honestly, you made a good point – and after reading my comment, it doesn't make sense! I'm sorry about that.

    I still think that their protest was misrepresented in this article, however. I would like to draw attention to the fact that the leaders of this group are motivated by a search for justice, not for a "spotlight". The walkout is not trying to suppress the other group's free speech, but rather it is a way of drawing to attention that these events – which appear normal and innocent to many people – are actually a way of normalizing the Israeli government's mistreatment of the Palestinians.

  33. Brian Schwartz , what you said directly reflects SJP's actions – they wanted to protest AT the event (not outside), so they did just that. They were not attempting to stifle Anat Berko's freedom of speech, just countering her argument as well as bringing up relevant truths to the dialogue. If Berko's agenda was morally sound and the state that she represents was not currently enforcing an apartheid upon a million people that the world is slowly starting to become very aware (and displeased) of, then these "heckling American college students" would not have been "heckling" at all.

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