American Students Pay $50,000 to Hear and Shout at Olmert

( Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received $50,000 from University of Arkansas students to deliver a 45-minute lecture Tuesday night, interrupted by a protest inside the hall while dozens of other demonstrators shouted outside.

The students were given the opportunity to ask Olmert pre-submitted questions for half an hour after his speech.

They claimed that their Student Union coughed up nearly $100,000 for Olmert’s appearance. Annual tuition fees range from $6,500 for in-state students to more than $15,000 for out-of-state students, not including an additional fee of several thousand dollars for room and board.

Olmert, who has pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking tours since resigning as prime minister, spoke as part of the university’s Distinguished Lecturer Series. Halfway through the address, a protestor held up a sign calling on Israel to “investigate war crimes under Goldstone” before security guards ushered him out of the lecture hall.

Demonstrators outside held other signs calling Olmert a "war criminal” with “bloody hands.” He said inside the hall, "If someone wants to protest outside and say he doesn't agree with me, or that the policies of Israel are wrong, he's entitled to do it.”

Security was tight, and videos cameras were not allowed into the hall. Sniffer dogs were used to check the audience for bombs before entry.

Olmert’s term in office was marred by the disclosure that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and in discounts from friends, and he faces several charges of bribery and breach of public trust. If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of up to five years.

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