Asaf Romirowsky, manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, discovered this when he was abruptly uninvited from an Oct. 24 panel discussion on "Anti-Americanism in the Middle East" at the University of Delaware in Newark.
According to Romirowsky, and other news reports, another panelist, political-science professor Muqtedar Khan, expressed reservations to student organizers about sharing the stage with someone who'd served in the Israeli military. The reason? The Israel Defense Force's role as an "occupying" force.
Romirowsky, who holds dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship, was an international-relations liaison officer during the mid-1990s. He said that he'd been asked not to show up on the day of the event by a student, and was told that Khan had only glimpsed his biography earlier that day and complained to a program organizer.
Khan is the director of Islamic Studies at Delaware and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The third panel member was Stuart Kaufman, a staff member at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. He and Khan participated in what was billed as a university-wide event.
"It's a different form of academic boycott," said Romirowsky, who was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Jerusalem.
He noted that the IDF does not make policy and carries out the wishes of Israel's democratically elected government.
"It's quite clear where he is coming from," said Romirowsky. "It wasn't about what I was going to say; it was the fact that I was in the IDF."
According to Michael Gilbert, vice president for student life at the university, the program was organized by several student groups, including the College Republicans, College Democrats and the Western Civilization Club.
Gilbert said that the facts were still not clear, but Khan may have told one of the students involved about his issues with the IDF. Gilbert said that Khan had not asked for Romirowsky's invitation to be rescinded, and that the students apparently took that step on their own.
"We see this as an issue to follow up and get clarification on. We are viewing this as a 'teachable moment' with our students," said Gilbert, adding that they would look into who made the decision regarding Romirowsky, and how that decision was made.
"We have a lasting commitment to academic freedom and speech," he said. "In the future, if we have a panelist who feels uncomfortable, I think it's in the best interest to excuse the person who is not comfortable."
Gilbert declined to comment on whether the university would look into Khan's views.
"I don't know yet what the professor said or wrote, and I'm not in a position to judge this at this point," he said.
Khan declined to comment.
According to Romirowsky, he'd been invited — and uninvited — specifically by the College Republicans. E-mail to that group went unreturned.