Israeli government brings video roadshow to Kentucky, pushes legislators to limit pro-Palestine protests
Lawmakers at the Kentucky State Capitol are being pressured by Israeli diplomats to limit the free speech and assembly rights of demonstrators expressing solidarity with Palestinians and opposing the genocide in Gaza. | AP

FRANKFORT, Ky.—For over three months now, the world has witnessed Gaza turned into rubble and the Netanyahu government abandon even the pretense of respecting Palestinian statehood. Yet, all is not well within the Iron Dome.

Without U.S. military aid in the field and diplomatic support in the United Nations, Israel’s war against the Gazan population would have run out of steam by now. Israel knows this all too well, which is why the following developments are so worrying to their government.

According to a national NBC News poll from November 2023, 70% of U.S. voters aged between 18 and 34 disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. Protests in favor of a free Palestine have erupted across college campuses, including Berea College. Without young voters, the Biden campaign’s chances of winning the 2024 presidential election are slim to none.

Therefore, even the unwavering support of the Biden administration for Israel has begun to falter in recent weeks.

In response to these developments, the Consul General of Israel to the Southeast U.S., Anat Sultan-Dadon, came to Frankfort, Ky., to an host “exclusive closed door screening” of atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Only legislators, journalists, and other pre-approved persons could view the screening. The Berea Torch, which this reporter writes for locally, requested access to the event and was permitted to the screening. While originally there was going to be one event in the Kentucky State Capitol, the consulate separated legislators and journalists into separate screenings at the last minute.

As we drove to the journalist screening in the evening, the Israeli Consul’s plans were already going awry. Dozens of protesters were holding up Palestinian flags outside the venue. Reportedly, demonstrators were also present at the legislature screening.

When we reached the screening auditorium, it was eerily quiet. Overall, there were fewer than 10 journalists and reporters in the whole auditorium. Consul General Sultan-Dadon, her staff, and an IDF military officer were present as well.

We will not go into details, but the 45-minute video showed alleged atrocities committed by Hamas soldiers on Oct. 7 at the Re’im music festival and multiple Kibbutzes along the border with Gaza against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Twenty-six villages were attacked on that day, and the video showed 139 bodies of Oct. 7 victims.

Throughout the screening, we could hear chants such as “1,2,3,4 occupation no more / 5,6,7,8 Israel is a racist state” and “No justice, no peace, no genocidal police” from the protesters outside. The Israeli officials were visibly irritated and later complained, calling the protest “a demonstration of hate against of Israel.”

In essence, nothing shown or said by the Israeli Consul was new information. Israel has been using the viciousness of Hamas’ actions on Oct. 7 to justify its own genocidal campaign against the entire Gaza population since the conflict began.

After showing us the video, Sultan-Dadon made a speech in which she unequivocally defended Israel’s conduct in the war. She boldly stated, “Every effort to preserve civilians has been made by Israel,” despite all evidence to the contrary. The most ominous comment was that “Gaza will be de-radicalized” after the war.

As for international developments, she said, “There is no logic to South Africa representing terrorists in the ICJ.” Finally, the Consul ended her speech by saying, “We will defeat this evil…we cannot afford to stop fighting this evil.”

So, since nothing the consul said has not already been repeated by other members of the Israeli government, what was the purpose of this whole event? While Consul Sultan-Dadon did not explicitly say it, much of her ire during her speech was not against Hamas, but rather against pro-Palestinian protesters here in the U.S.

The Consul said, “Universities and colleges [in the United States] are safe spaces for all students, except Jews,” and that by allowing demonstrations against Israeli’s war policy, “future generations of America are being taught that hate is okay.”

A confidential source later told us that bills restricting students’ ability to protest for Palestine are being planned in the state, with these events serving to convince politicians and the media to go along.

As we left, we pondered over our notes and the sheer absurdity of the statements made. Did Sultan-Dadon really believe that Israel was preserving civilian life or that her government did not plan on eliminating the Gaza Strip? Was the state of Israel infallible to her? Or was there a point at which even she would have to admit wrongdoing?

Whatever the case, the consul’s actions in Kentucky showcase just how willing Netanyahu and his government are to whitewash their crimes and use the death of innocent people to continue the massacre of Palestinians, with U.S. support. As public pressure against Israel in the U.S. grows, it will only become harder to justify their actions.

A version of this article originally appeared in The Berea Torch, student newspaper of Berea College in Kentucky.

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Ülvi Gitaliyev
Ülvi Gitaliyev

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Ülvi Gitaliyev is an international student currently studying at Berea College. He co-founded The Berea Torch in January 2022 to share the stories of his classmates. After finishing college, he plans to return to Azerbaijan and change his country for the better.