This April, reserve IDF soldiers Hen Mazzig, and Matan Katzman did a two week speaking tour around the Midwest called, “Israeli Soldiers’ Stories.” The tour was sponsored by “StandWithUS,” and included about 10 university presentations as well as a handful of other engagements. On the last stop they spoke in Chicago at a Jewish Community Center. The Chicago Tribune covered the event, as, “a relatively easy one for 25-year-old Hen Mazzig. There was no heckling, no screaming and no one was calling him a murderer.” So, where did this happen on the tour? “Mazzig said a biology professor at the University of Missouri was heckling him from the audience with hostile questions and accusations. “[He said,] ‘Why do you kill Palestinians? How many U.N. schools have you attacked?'” Mazzig was referring to biology professor George Smith, the same man who is going to be teaching a course called, “Perspectives on Zionism” next fall.
But, that was not Smith’s only comments to Mazzig, “at the end, he (Smith) came to me and said, ‘How can you come here and defend Ashkenazi Jews — white Eastern European Jews — when you are an Arab Jew?’” The reason Mazzig mentioned this comment as so offensive, will probably be lost on people who are unaware of the history of modern Israel. Mazzig is of Iraqi descent. Sometimes, Jewish people from Arab countries are referred to as Arab Jews, which can be confusing. But, in this case it meant Jewish people whose families came from Arab countries to Israel. Without going into detail, there have been some instances of Jewish people from European descent treating Jewish people from Arab countries with discrimination. What the comment implies is that Mazzig should realize how racist Jewish people from European countries have been to Jewish people from Arab countries, then he should keep this hate alive, to the point that he refuses to defend his country.
But that is not all. The other soldier, Matan Katzman wrote a brief description of the MU event. “Prof. Smith interrupted several times during the speech, (he) accused us of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.” Smith, “asked why we (were) deliberately firing on schools to kill as many civilians and children.” Katzman wrote that he could feel, “the adrenaline in my body,” when Smith accused him. “StandWithUS” shared a video of Katzman responding to Smith, “You can keep on ranting false accusations… I don’t know you… I don’t know if you served in the American Army… But, war is hell… you think I am happy when Palestinians get hurt in schools… It’s almost hard for me to answer you… I am that offended by the fact that you think I want to hurt people… that is completely not true.”
Sadly, Smith proves the necessity of these events more than anyone. Smith himself asked them why they deliberately try to kill school children. With experiences like these, it is no wonder Mazzig told the Tribune, “I don’t like [sharing my story] actually; it’s tough and it’s hard exposing myself all the time.” So, then why does Mazzig do it, “But in other places… we inspired students to stand up for Israel. I have so many thank you emails that I’m getting from students; they felt so unsafe in their school, and now they feel better to support Israel after they heard our talk.” It should also be noted that Mazzig and Katzman were met by a group of protesters with signs who were screaming at them at one University. But, when asked by the Chicago Tribune where they were treated with the least respect, they chose, The University of Missouri, and one man, George Smith. The same man who is going to be teaching a course called, “Perspectives on Zionism” next fall.