Michael Oren

Reference: Wikipedia

Michael B. Oren (Hebrew: מיכאל אורן; born Michael Scott Bornstein; 1955) is an American-born Israeli historian, author, and the Israeli ambassador to the United States. He has written books, articles, and essays on Middle Eastern history, and is the author of the New York Times best-selling Power, Faith and Fantasy and Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, which won the Los Angeles Times History Book of the Year Award and the National Jewish Book Award. Oren has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown Universities in the United States and at Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities in Israel. He was a Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a contributing editor to The New Republic. The Forward named Oren one of the five most influential American Jews and The Jerusalem Post listed him as one of the world’s ten most influential Jews.

Military service

In 1979, Oren began his military service in the Israel Defense Forces. He served as a paratrooper in the 1982 Lebanon War. His unit was caught in a Syrian ambush on the second day of the war. His commander was killed and nearly everyone was wounded. He then joined a unit stationed in Sidon. A day after his wedding, in the summer of 1982, Oren returned to Beirut.

Following his regular military service, Oren volunteered to work with the Zionist underground in the Soviet Union. Sent to make contact with Zionist groups in the Ukraine, he was repeatedly arrested by the KGB.

During the 1991 Gulf War he was Israeli liaison officer to the United States Sixth Fleet. He was called up for reserve duty for the 2005 Gaza disengagement, and participated in the evacuation of settlements. He served as an officer in the IDF Spokesman’s Office during the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2008-2009 Gaza War.

In February, 2009, he delivered a lecture at Georgetown University on “The Gaza Operation: A Personal and Historical Perspective.” The Today Show broadcast a special segment, “The Oren Family at War.”.

Academic career

In the 1980s and early 90s, Oren taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University. In 1995, during the government of Yitzhak Rabin, Oren served as an advisor in inter-religious affairs at the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

In 2006, Oren was a visiting professor at both Harvard University and Yale University, returning to Yale in 2007. Beginning in 2008, he became a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service for the 2008–09 academic year as part of the faculty associated with the Program for Jewish Civilization.

President George W. Bush appointed Oren to serve on the honorary delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.

Ambassadorship

On May 3, 2009, Oren was appointed as ambassador of Israel to the United States by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, succeeding Sallai Meridor. Ambassador Oren had to give up his United States citizenship in order to assume this post.

Oren strongly condemned the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict report, which determined Israel was guilty of possible war crimes. In an October 2009 op-ed in The New Republic, he stated, “The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves.”

In October 2009, Oren declined an invitation to attend a conference hosted by J Street, an Israel advocacy group, which has been critical of the Israel government’s foreign policy. Oren called J Street “a unique problem” and that “it’s significantly out of the mainstream.” However, the two have since come to a more congenial understanding, with Oren stating that “J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone Report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

Oren has initiated Israel outreach events for Irish Americans, Latino and LGBT leadership, and the Chinese embassy. He hosted the Israeli embassy’s first Iftar dinner.

On February 8, 2010, Oren spoke at the University of California Irvine. During his speech Oren was interrupted by 11 protesters who shouted, “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech,” and “How many Palestinians did you kill?” The outburst and subsequent arrest of the protesters sparked controversy over whether the protesters were exercising free speech, as they claimed they were, or whether it was a suppression of free speech (i.e. of the right of Oren and his audience to a free exchange of ideas), as university officials claimed. On September 23, 2011, a jury convicted 10 Muslim students, 7 from UC Irvine and 3 from UC Riverside, of disrupting Oren’s February 2010 speech. The students were sentenced to 56 hours of community service and three years of informal probation, which could be lessened to one year if the community service is completed by the end of January 2012.

Oren has continued to lecture at universities across the United States, including Tufts University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Emory University, University of California, Davis, University of Chicago, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Penn State, Rice University, Dickinson College, Florida International University, Columbia University, University of Maryland, American University, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and the United States Naval Academy.

Following the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, Oren wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, “An Assault, Cloaked in Peace”, in which he accused the organizers of the flotilla of attempting to “create a provocation” in order to “put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo”. He further made the claim that the Mavi Marmara was “a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means”.

Oren attempted to influence a critical 2012 CBS report by Bob Simon about Palestinian Christians in Israel, with some calling his interference an attempt to silence the American media. Oren responded that at no point had he tried to prevent the 60 Minutes report rather that he offered suggestions for balancing the segment.

Oren has received four honorary doctorates and has delivered commencement speeches at Brandeis, Monmouth University, and Yeshiva University. In 2011, he received the Outstanding Achievers with Learning Disabilities Award from the Lab School of Washington, D.C. He delivered the keynote address at 2012 Equality Forum on LGBT rights in Israel.

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