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Dal hosts ‘the most optimistic man in Israel’

 

Gil Hoffman, who has been named the “most optimistic man in Israel” according to his press release, spoke at Dalhousie University on Nov. 18. Hoffman is a political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post as well as an Israel advocate. His lecture focused on the current situation in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“There will be peace in the Middle East,” Hoffman said with confidence at the start of his speech, a statement that formed the theme of the lecture organized by Israel on Campus and the Jewish National Fund. Hoffman, who lives in Jerusalem, gives talks on Israel across the globe.

Hoffman’s lecture covered a wide range of topics, and true to his claim to optimism, for every negative he created a positive spin. The rockets, ‘terror tunnels,’ boycotts, sanctions and suicide bombers that have been directed towards Israel have all failed, Hoffman said. Even ISIS, by awakening the world to the situation in the Middle East, has helped Israel.

“No matter what they try to do to defeat Israel, it doesn’t work. Israel continues to thrive … I have a lot of optimism that things are going to continue to get better,” he says.

The battle between Israel and Palestine is age-old, with both parties claiming ownership of the land. When the state of Israel was declared in 1948, Palestinians were only left with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, until 1967 when Israel occupied those territories as well.

Since then there has been ongoing violence between the two groups. In 2005 Israel reportedly relinquished the Gaza strip, though many refute this claim by pointing to continued Israeli control of Gaza’s borders.

Despite the complexities of the conflict, Hoffman feels peace is achievable. He is careful, however, to distinguish between a peace agreement and peace itself. A peace agreement is Israelis and Palestinians living separately and safely, with no military presence or fear of attack.

On the other hand, Hoffman says true peace is “Israelis and Palestinians eating hummus together in public squares. I don’t expect that to happen tomorrow or the next day.”

To Jewish students struggling to find their own peace on campus, in the face of anti-Israel activism, Hoffman said to “keep in mind how pathetic it all is…because we’re just and we’re right.”

Activists have interrupted several of his speeches at universities, including at his alma mater in Chicago. To protect against such interruptions, a police officer was present at the lecture.

Hoffman recommends that Jewish students arm themselves with positive facts about Israel. Know your audience, he says: “If they’re environmentalists, tell them what Israel does environmentally … if they’re gay, tell them what Israel does to help gays.”

Arielle Branitsky, director of Hillel Atlantic Canada, a Jewish organization that helped coordinate the event; says the purpose of the lecture was education.

“I think that what this campus community and any campus community really needs is more opportunities to hear both sides. I think we need to hear all the voices involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Hoffman also believes education is vital, and whether he’s writing for the Post as a journalist or lecturing around the world as an advocate, as long as he’s informing people, it’s all the same to him.

Hoffman said he covers internal Israeli politics and does so without bias.

“But when it comes to Israel against its enemies, then I can be a patriot.”

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