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USF Hillel’s guest speaker addresses small crowd on Israel’s media coverage

American-Israeli speaker Gil Hoffman addressed a small crowd to “hopefully correct some misconceptions about Israel” and the coverage of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

USF Hillel hosted Gil Hoffman, the first Jewish speaker to attend campus after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, in a room with over 200 seats and eight people at the Marshall Student Center (MSC) on Monday. 

Hoffman said he was “very disappointed” to see there were no Muslim students. He said he would be happy to speak to “them” over Zoom at any time.

“Why don’t they want to learn?” Hoffman said. “Do they only come when they want to make Jewish students uncomfortable? Their parents pay a lot of money for them to learn in this university.”

Related: ‘We are scared’: Jewish students feel unsafe amid Israel-Palestine conflict

Hoffman is an American-Israeli journalist, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson and executive director of HonestReporting (HR).

HR describes itself  as a media “watchdog” over “bias” coverage on the ongoing “Israel Hamas conflict” and reports on “journalistic breaches” committed while reporting on Israel, according to their website

Two police officers were present in the room at the time of the address. University Police (UP) sent a university-wide email on Nov. 8,  informing that there would be an increase in police presence on campus amid “conflicts in the Middle East.”

Hoffman said he was in Israel during the time of the Oct. 7 attack.

Accompanied by his 7-year-old daughter, Hoffman was walking to his synagogue when sirens went off at 6:25 a.m. in the streets of Jerusalem. They ran back home and settled in the bombshelter, Hoffman said. 

After a couple of minutes, he told his daughter to go back upstairs with her mother. Although he was planning on going back on his own, his daughter insisted they go back to the synagogue and pray together, Hoffman told the intimate room. 

“We had several sirens, but I didn’t touch my phone… I have no idea what is happening but my little girl just told me to keep on praying,” Hoffman said. 

Hoffman said the “coverage of media” regarding the on-going conflict between “Israel and Hamas” has translated to college campuses. Hoffman said the media on Israel looks “really bad,” and it encouraged protests and demonstrations at universities.

Related: ‘Keep speaking out’: USF students host rally to advocate for Palestine

“The fact that they thought that Israel would indiscriminately bomb a hospital and they believed Hamas saying 500 people were killed, mostly women and children, as if they knew within minutes what happened,” he said.

In order to answer questions from the audience, Hoffman came down from the podium and pulled up a chair, sitting between the two first rows. 

When a student asked Hoffman how to create safe spaces for Jewish students amongst “anti-Israel” protests on campus, Hoffman told her it was “too soon.”

“I wish it was possible. It is not currently,” he said. “I wish at this time, more could be done to protect you.”

Julia Saad, NEWS EDITOR

Julia Saad started as a news correspondent in fall 2022. During Saad's tenure at The Oracle, she has covered a variety of news. However, Saad's favorite topic to cover is being able to place readers in the ambient environments of USF events.

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