An Israeli army veteran did not participate in a panel discussion after a fellow panelist expressed discomfort at sharing the stage with an Israeli soldier.
Muqtedar Khan, a political science professor at the University of Delaware, in an e-mail to organizers of the panel at the school last week said he was "not sure that I will be comfortable occupying the same space" as Assaf Romirowsky, a doctoral candidate in Mediterranean Studies at King's College in London. Khan noted that Romirowsky had served in the West Bank, which some consider occupied territory.
Romirowsky said the College Republicans, who organized the event, asked him not to participate in the panel but to speak at the university on another occasion. He declined that invitation.
"This was not even about my political perspectives but about the fact that I served in the Israeli army," Romirowsky told JTA, noting that military service is mandatory in Israel. "In essence you're slighting an entire population."
Khan told JTA that the e-mail was misunderstood. He said he intended to make a pun on the word occupation and the space where he would be uncomfortable is the West Bank, not the panel. He further noted that he has written favorably about Arab-Israeli coexistence and debated conservative thinker Daniel Pipes.
Khan showed up to the Oct. 24 panel as planned expecting to find Romirowsky there.
"I did not invite the person. I did not organize the event. I did not disinvite the person. I had nothing to do with it," Khan told JTA. "This whole idea that he was censored and not allowed to speak is all incorrect."
Hal Ossman, the executive director of the Hillel at Delaware, said he thought Khan's comments were "very unfortunate." Ossman said he was working proactively with the university administration to figure out an appropriate response.