Michael Oren

Michael Oren
Michael Oren
Israeli Ambassador to the United States
Assumed office
July 20, 2009
Preceded by Sallai Meridor
Personal details
Born 1955
New York, United States
Citizenship Israeli
Alma mater Columbia University
Princeton University
Religion Judaism

Michael B. Oren (Hebrew: מיכאל אורן; born 1955) is an American-born Israeli historian and author and the Israeli ambassador to the United States.[1] He has written books, articles, and essays on Middle Eastern history, and is the author of the best-selling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, which won the Los Angeles Times History Book of the Year Award. He was a Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a contributing editor to The New Republic and the Shalem Center's quarterly journal, Azure.


Early life

Oren was born Michael Bornstein in upstate New York. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army who took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944 and fought in the Korean War.[2] Oren grew up in West Orange, New Jersey in a Conservative Jewish household. As the only Jewish boy in a heavily Catholic neighborhood, he says he experienced antisemitism on a daily basis. In his youth, he was an activist in Zionist and Jewish youth groups such as USY and a gold medal winning athlete in the Maccabiah Games.[3] At age 15, he made his first trip to Israel with youth movement Habonim Dror, working on Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.[2]

In 1977, Oren completed his undergraduate degree from Columbia University. He continued his studies at Columbia, receiving a Masters in International Affairs in 1978 from the School of International and Public Affairs.[4] After college, he spent a year as an adviser to the Israeli delegation to the United Nations headed by Yehuda Blum.[2] In 1979, Oren immigrated to Israel.[5] A few years later, Oren returned to the United States to continue his education, studying at Princeton University. In 1986, he earned a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies.[6]

Military service

In 1979, Oren joined the Israel Defense Forces. He served as a paratrooper in the 1982 Lebanon War.[7] His unit was caught in a Syrian ambush on the second day of the war. His commander was killed and nearly everyone was wounded. He then joined a unit stationed in Sidon. Oren married in the summer of 1982 and returned the next day to Beirut.[2] During the 1991 Gulf War he was Israeli liaison officer to the U.S. Sixth Fleet.[7] He served as an army spokesman in the IDF reserves during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[7] During the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, he was a media relations officer.[8]

Academic career

In 2006, Oren was a visiting professor at both Harvard and Yale University. He continued teaching at Yale in 2007. Beginning in 2008, he became a visiting professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service for the 2008–09 academic year as part of the faculty associated with the Program for Jewish Civilization.[9][10]

President George W. Bush appointed Oren to serve on the honorary delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[11]


On May 3, 2009, Oren was appointed as ambassador of Israel to the United States by Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, succeeding Sallai Meridor. Ambassador Oren had to give up his United States citizenship in order to assume this post.[12]

Oren strongly condemned the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict report, which determined Israel was guilty of possible war crimes. In an October 2009 op-ed in The New Republic, he stated, "The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves."[13]

In October 2009, Oren declined an invitation to attend a conference hosted by J Street, a left-leaning Israel advocacy group, which has been critical of the Israel government's foreign policy and relations with the Palestinians.[14] He continued his criticism after the conference, calling J Street "a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It's significantly out of the mainstream."[15] However, the two have since come to a more congenial understanding, with Oren stating that "J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman's Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone Report; it has denounced the British court's decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream."[16]

On February 8, 2010, Oren spoke at the University of California Irvine. During his speech Oren was interrupted by 11 protesters who shouted, "Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech,"[17] and "How many Palestinians did you kill?"[18] The outburst and subsequent arrest of the protesters sparked controversy over whether the protesters were exercising free speech, as they claimed they were, or whether it was a suppression of free speech (i.e. of the right of Oren and his audience to a free exchange of ideas), as university officials claimed.[19] On September 23, 2011, a jury convicted 10 Muslim UC Irvine students of disrupting Oren's February 2010 speech. The students were sentenced to 56 hours of community service and three years of informal probation, which could be lessened to one year if the community service is completed by the end of January 2012. [20]

Following the Gaza flotilla raid in May 2010, Oren wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace", in which he accused the organizers of the flotilla of attempting to "create a provocation" in order to "put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo". He further made the claim that the Mavi Marmara was "a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means".[21]


Political commentary

Oren has written many articles commenting on current political issues. He is a frequent contributor to The New Republic.[22]

Middle East history

Power, Faith and Fantasy, a history of American involvement in the Middle East, was published by Norton and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. Power, Faith and Fantasy earned positive reviews from Newsweek, The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Willamette Week.[23][24][25][26][27]

Oren's Six Days of War is an historical account of the events of the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The book was widely praised by critics and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. It spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.[28] The New York Times Book Review wrote positively of Six Days of War,[29] as did the Washington Post, which called it "not only the best book so far written on the Six Day War, it is likely to remain the best."[30]


Oren ventured into fiction. His book Reunion was published in 2004. According to Publishers Weekly, it tells of how "[f]ive decades after an unforgettable winter at Saint-Vith in Belgium's Ardennes Forest, the surviving members of the 133rd Infantry Battalion receive invitations out of the blue to an on-site reunion. None of the men, despite age and its array of related obstacles, believes that it's an offer he can refuse. And in every case, the invitation opens a Pandora's box of guilty memories and recriminations. Oren captures the rhythms of these melancholy reveries with nicely observed portraits of lives nearing completion."[citation needed]

Published work

  • Oren, Michael (2002). Six Days of War:June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Presidio Press. ISBN 978-0345461926.
  • Oren, Michael (2003). Reunion. New York: Plume. ISBN 978-1931561266.
  • Oren, Michael (2007). Power, Faith, and Fantasy: The United States in the Middle East, 1776 to 2006. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0393330304.
  • Hazony, David; Hazony, Yoram; and Oren, Michael B. (Eds.) (2007). New Essays on Zionism. Shalem Press. ISBN 978-9657052440.


  1. ^ "Michael Oren appointed to US envoy role", Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2009
  2. ^ a b c d "Enjoying Every Minute", Haaretz
  3. ^ C-SPAN Transcript of 2002 Interview with Michael Oren
  4. ^ Michael Oren's Profile on WritersReps.com
  5. ^ "An interview with Michael Oren", The Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2007
  6. ^ Princeton Weekly Bulletin, November 18, 2002
  7. ^ a b c Archive copy at the Wayback Machine Michael Oren's Official Website
  8. ^ Oren as media relations officer during the 2008–09 Israel–Gaza conflict
  9. ^ Georgetown.edu Georgetown University website
  10. ^ Georgetown University News, February 27, 2008
  11. ^ http://www.nysun.com/foreign/bush-visit-may-boost-olmert/76303/
  12. ^ Mark Landler (09-25-09). "Israeli Ambassador Draws on American Roots". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/26/world/middleeast/26oren.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1302927177-wG/jzTaQSKtOXSX1KAMWNQ. 
  13. ^ Michael B. Oren (06-10-09). "Deep Denial: Why The Holocaust Still Matters". The New Republic. http://www.tnr.com/article/world/deep-denial?page=0,1. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ Raja Abdulrahim (February 9, 2010). "11 students arrested after disrupting Israeli ambassador's speech at UC Irvine". Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/02/11-students-arrested-for-disrupting-israeli-ambassadors-speech-at-uc-irvine-.html. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  18. ^ Natasha Mozgovaya (9 February 2010). "Muslim students scream 'killer' during Israel envoy speech in Irvine, California. Afterwards the students were peacefully escorted out of the hall, given citations, and let go.". Ha'aretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1148561.html. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  19. ^ "On campus, is heckling free speech? Or just rude?"
  20. ^ "US court: Students guilty of disrupting Israeli envoy". http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4126663,00.html. 
  21. ^ Michael B. Oren (June 2, 2010). "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/opinion/03oren.html. Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  22. ^ From The TNR Archives: Michael B. Oren, The New Republic website, April 21, 2009.
  23. ^ Newsweek review
  24. ^ Wash Post review
  25. ^ NY Times review
  26. ^ sfgate.com review
  27. ^ wweek.com review
  28. ^ "BEST SELLERS: August 18, 2002". The New York Times. 2002-08-18. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E01E0D8163AF93BA2575BC0A9649C8B63. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  29. ^ Bernstein, Richard (July 17, 2002). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Short Conflict, Far-Reaching Consequences". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CE0D71439F934A25754C0A9649C8B63. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ Wash Post article

External links

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