Protestors sat in the audience, mumbling under their breath in reaction to the Israeli politicians’ statements.
“They don’t want to acknowledge that the occupation is illegal,” said Miriam Thompson, a Chapel Hill resident and spokesperson for the Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East.
Many residents sent emails to the town council, asking them to cancel the meeting with the international visitors.
“If we’re going to call ourselves inclusive, that means everyone,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said.
Thompson said the Israeli occupation of Palestine in the West Bank will destroy Israel.
“They believe in expunging all Palestinians in Israel,” Thompson said. “They don’t want to acknowledge that in one year alone they’ve demolished 18,000 homes.”
Thompson compiled a fact sheet for the meeting, citing Amnesty International and No Way to Treat a Child, a campaign to stop the detention of Palestinian children. She said the Israeli military is detaining, abusing and torturing Palestinian children.
Orange County resident Tom Trueblood said Israel was founded on military might.
“It’s always been predicated on might versus right,” Trueblood said.
Sharren Haskel, one of the Israeli politicians in attendance, said Israel makes human rights issues a priority.
“Israel is the only country in the Middle East that respects freedom of individuals, freedom of religion,” Haskel said.
“If you see a gay or lesbian walking in Gaza and not hanging there, then you are speaking about human rights,” Meirav Ben-Ari, another Israeli leader in attendance, said.
Raleigh resident Jim Rice said meetings like this in foreign countries are a way for the Israeli government to whitewash.
“It’s the systematic policies of the Israeli government and military that systematically oppress Palestinian and Israeli citizens of basic human rights and democratic freedoms,” Rice said. “Which Israel claims to profess of practice, but in reality it does not.”