Even those audience members who had to stand for the entire two and a half hours of Norman Finkelstein's lecture last evening listened quietly and attentively, for the most part.
But both before and after the lecture, his opinions were the subject of heated debate.
Finkelstein, a DePaul University professor, presented his controversial views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last night in Stitler Hall.
His visit, presented by the Penn Students for Justice in Palestine, among other groups, has raised controversy over the last week because of what some see as his radical opinions and the Political Science department's decision to sponsor the talk.
Finkelstein, a staunch critic of Israeli policy, says Israel is at fault for its conflict with Palestine.
"The Israel-Palestine conflict is remarkably uncontroversial," he said, adding that he believed the complexity of the conflict is mostly "fabricated," and that Israel's actions against Palestine violate international law and in some cases qualify as terrorism.
"The only differences between Israeli and Hamas terrorism are that Israeli terrorism is four times as lethal, and that no demands have been made for Israel to end it," he said.
He added that Israel's human-rights violations are abominable, but that the nation can get away with such actions because Jews can "play the Holocaust card" or call critics anti-Semites.
For positions such as these, Finkelstein has frequently been called a Holocaust-denier or -revisionist.
But he countered vehemently such allegations, citing the fact that both his parents were Holocaust survivors.
"No rational person disputes that five to six million Jews were systematically exterminated," he said, but he added that he thinks the Holocaust has been incorrectly used to absolve Israel from blame in modern issues.
Finkelstein said he believes the best solution to ending the violence is for Israel to withdraw all territory it acquired after 1967. He said he agreed with Jimmy Carter that peace will come only when Israel submits to international law.
"The major obstacle to progress seems to be Israel's refusal to do so," he said.
He defended Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He called the The Case for Israel, the 2005 book of one of his foremost critics, Alan Dershowitz - who spoke at Penn last Wednesday - "a hoax."
Most of the questions during the Q and A were geared toward criticizing Finkelstein's positions.
However, some students thought Finkelstein wasn't as radical as they had expected.
"He didn't say something I've never heard before," College and Engineering senior Raffi Cohn said, adding that "I'd say I disagree with some of the conclusions he draws from his facts."
College freshman Sam Adelsberg said that, while he did not think the Political Science department should have sponsored the event, he thought it right that Finkelstein be allowed to speak.
Karim Abdel-Latif, a student representing Students for Justice in Palestine, agreed about his right to speak.
"Students should have access to various political opinions," he said. "And he's a legitimate scholar."