Former IDF Commander Says Anti-Israel Activists Laughed as He Described Coming Out

Says student accused him of 'pinkwashing'

An Israeli man holds his country's national flag

An Israeli man holds his country's national flag / Getty Images

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A former Israel Defense Forces commander told the Washington Free Beacon anti-Israel activists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) laughed at him as he gave a talk describing coming out of the closet as gay.

Hen Mazzig, who has been on the pro-Israel campus speaking circuit for seven years, said Monday was the first time he has ever been mocked while revealing "my very personal story to a room of strangers."

"One student told me I'm ‘pinkwashing,'" said Mazzig, a term referring to Israelis hiding behind the country's equal rights for LGBTQ individuals to redirect attention from human rights violations. "They told me that I'm pushing propaganda, because I'm not talking about the conflict, but about my personal life. So, I can't talk about being gay because I'm Israeli."

The student activists were affiliated with the UIUC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), said Mazzig.

SJP UIUC is currently holding "Trans Awareness Week," and on Wednesday hosted a talk with the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace purporting to explain the face of modern day anti-Semitism, and how Israel is divorced form that issue.

Mazzig often faces protesters, but he said he has rarely faced the level of "disrespect and hatred" that he found at UIUC.

"I talk about how my grandfather was killed in Iraq in 1951 after being accused of being a Zionist spy, just because he was Jewish. My grandmother found the body," said Mazzig. "While I was telling the story, SJP was laughing."

When Mazzig discussed the need for greater, organized support for the LGBTQ community being oppressed in Gaza and the West Bank by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the activists began to chant for Mazzig to get out.

Holding signs reading, "Fascists off our campus, " and "Israel Occupation Forces," the approximately one dozen activists chanted "Free Palestine" for an extended period, before finally marching out.

"This was not just anti-Semitism—which, unfortunately, people don't really seem to care about when it happens—but it was homophobic, too," said Mazzig, who added that he heard a student make a homophobic slur.

He called on the university to respond, saying "silence is unacceptable."

A UIUC spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mazzig was brought to UIUC by its chapter of Students Supporting Israel, as part of a multi-campus tour supported by the national organization.

Illini SSI said, "There is a line between distaste for the Israeli government and complete disdain for those that support the State of Israel, and SJP UIUC has crossed it time and time again."

In September, SJP UIUC held an anti-fascism rally in the center of the campus, where they waved an Israeli flag covered in fake blood and promised to use "any means necessary," including "full-scale armed conflict," in their mission to oppose the "unholy union of American fascists, white supremacists, and Zionists."

SJP UIUC did not respond to request for comment. The group has previously told the Free Beacon, "We appreciate your contacting us, but our first priority is to reputable publications without a history of smear campaigning and fear mongering. If you like you can take a ticket and we can get back to you in about 69 years. It's a long wait, ask any Palestinian, but it shouldn't be too hard for a Zionist such as yourself. I mean, holding something that isn't yours for long periods of time."

Rachel Frommer

Rachel Frommer   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Rachel Frommer is a staff writer with the Washington Free Beacon reporting on campus issues, including anti-free speech and anti-Israel activity. Prior to the Free Beacon, she was the senior campus correspondent at The Algemeiner. Her work has been picked up by Fox News, Newsweek, and the New York Post. She graduated from Touro College in 2016 with a BA in English literature. Her Twitter handle is @Rachel_Frommer, and her email address is frommer@freebeacon.com.

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