Michael Oren, an American-born Israeli historian, author and a former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, speaks to JLife’s Kirsty Plowman ahead of his appearance at the UJIA Annual Dinner.
Name: Michael Oren
Citizenship: Israeli (1979-present), American (1955-2009)
Michael Oren is the retired Israeli ambassador to the United States, serving from July 2009 to September 2013. He has written books, articles and essays on Middle Eastern history, and is a best-selling author including winning the National Jewish Book Award.
During the 2014 summer conflict, Oren voluntarily defended and advocated Israel on many international news channels.
Q: What led you to become Israeli Ambassador to the United States? Is this something you always aspired to?
A: Yes, ever since I was 15 years old and met Yitzhak Rabin – Israel’s then ambassador to the US – during a youth group trip to Washington. It has been my life-long ambition to follow in his footsteps since the moment I shook his hand.
Q: As ambassador what did your role involve?
A: It was my duty to maintain communication and cooperation and deepen understanding between the US and Israeli governments, as well as between the Israeli people and US citizens.
Q: Do you think that both the UK and United States’ policies on Israel need to be more proactive?
A: Yes – the US and UK should stand foursquare behind Israel in defending our right to defend ourselves and to exist as a Jewish state.
Q: Following the media coverage of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, how can Israel improve its PR?
A: Israel has to develop significantly more resources for public diplomacy exposing the terrorist manipulation of the media.
Q: What is Israel’s next step?
A: I believe that Israel’s next step should determine our borders as a Jewish, democratic, and secure independent state.
Q: What draws you to speak to UJIA supporters in Manchester?
A: Israel is often criticised in the UK and especially in university cities such as Manchester. I believe it is important to strengthen and reinvigorate pro-Israel supporters in such often-beleaguered areas.
Q: How did your Jewish upbringing influence your career?
A: My career has been informed by being raised in a conservative Jewish family that was very supportive of Israel and appreciative of our Jewish identity.
Q: You experienced anti-Semitism in your childhood. What is your message to young Jewish people who may be experiencing the same discrimination?
A: I’ve learned that Jews must have zero tolerance for intolerance and just as we have tragically learned the price of prejudice, we must fight discrimination wherever we find it.
Q: What is the next step for you?
A: I am pursuing issues in Israeli foreign policy, deepening awareness and understanding of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) threat, and working to improve Israel’s image in the world. I am also completing a book on my period in Washington as ambassador.
Ambassador Michael Oren will be addressing the UJIA Annual dinner on 19th January. Further details can be obtained from Eldan Kaye on 0161 740 1825 or email Eldan.kaye.ujia.org