Kent State professor storms out during pro-Israeli speech

John Milligan

Former Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi’s lecture was going smoothly until an altercation with a Kent State professor threatened to derail Tuesday night’s event.

After the speech at Bowman Hall ended, Khaldi opened the floor to a Q-and-A session. The first person to ask a question was history professor Julio Pino.

Standing at the back of the auditorium, Pino asked Khaldi how he and his government could justify providing aid to countries like Turkey with blood money that came from the deaths of Palestinian children and babies.

This is not Pino’s first brush with controversy. In 2002 he wrote an opinion column for the Daily Kent Stater praising a suicide bomber. In 2007 he made national headlines when The Drudge Report featured a story accusing him of contributing to a blog called Global War, which refers to itself as a “jihadist news service.”

The crowd fell into an awkward silence as the two continued to exchange words from across the auditorium.

“It is not respectful to me here,” Khaldi said.

Pino responded by saying “your government killed people” and claimed Khaldi was not being respectful to him.

“I do respect you, but you are wrong,” Khaldi said. “It’s a lie.”

The exchange ended as Pino stormed out of the auditorium shouting “Death to Israel!”

One person in the crowd retaliated by shouting “Shame on you!”

Khaldi came to Kent State to talk about his journey from a Muslim Bedouin minority living in a tent to a respected diplomat in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Khaldi discussed the current state of the Middle East and the many misconceptions he said American citizens have concerning Israel and its people. He made special mention of Israel’s attempts to provide aid to Turkey, which was recently devastated by an earthquake.


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“We see a country in need and we stand up to help,” Khaldi said.

After the altercation with Pino, Khaldi moved on to more questions, but he still referred back to his thoughts on the heckler.

“Let’s respect each other; it starts from there,” Khaldi said. “By the way, this is not respect.”

Khaldi said he thinks people misunderstand what’s happening with Israel, and it may explain some of Pino’s comments.

“Is this what that professor is telling you?” Khaldi said. “It is my responsibility to tell you the truth and build relationships.”

After the speech ended, the remaining students in the auditorium could be heard admonishing the professor’s behavior.

One student in attendance said, “I get it’s freedom of speech and all that, but that guy just makes us [the university] look bad.”

Contact John Milligan at [email protected].