Any Israeli speaking abroad anticipates some kind of negative reaction. But having to parry words is not quite the same as being hit in the face with a paint balloon.
That’s what happened last week to IDF Capt. Jacob Dallal while addressing a group of Hillel students at the University of North Carolina.
Chicago-born and educated, Dallal recently completed a four-year stint as a career officer with the IDF Spokesman. He is currently on a month-long lecture tour of American university campuses.
While he was talking to some 25 students, “someone” opened the door of the lecture hall, held it momentarily in place and threw in two red paint balloons. One missed Dallal; the other hit him. Both burst, spilling red paint all over his jacket and face.
A note that accompanied the balloons stated the paint represented Palestinian blood. It also mentioned International Solidarity Movement member Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer in a Gaza refugee camp while trying to stop soldiers from demolishing a house.
Dallal had defended the army’s actions in that case during his lecture.
The students were shocked, but Dallal kept his cool. He went to the restroom, washed his face and continued with the lecture, even though some members of the audience were still shaken.
“Nothing like this had ever happened before on this campus,” Dallal told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. “It was an unpleasant experience,” he said, “but it is important that it doesn’t recur and that people feel free to attend lectures of this kind. I don’t want to see the scared looks that I saw on the students’ faces.”
A student standing in the corridor outside saw the perpetrator make off on a bicycle, but could not identify him.
The Hillel students lodged a complaint with the police and wrote a letter of complaint to the chancellor of the university.
Dallal, a former staff member at the Post, who also worked with CBS News in New York and ABC News in Paris, and who has appeared as an IDF spokesman on major American and British television networks, surmised that the perpetrator knew more about him than had been advertised in the lecture blurb.
In the past, at other campuses, Dallal had encountered pro-Palestinian groups whose members asked loaded questions, but up until last Thursday, no one had thrown anything at him.
The “strange incident” has not deterred Dallal from continuing to lecture. Considering where he stands in relation to his audience, he may not have to watch his back, but in future he will take greater care with his face.
Greer Fay Cashman, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 6, 2005