Monday, March 07, 2005

Marquette’s Aggrieved Arabs

When it was announced last fall that Dennis Ross had been given a visiting professorship in the Political Science department, a ripple of discontent went through some of the student body -- and especially members of the left-leaning organization JUSTICE. Ross was thought to be too favorable to Israel.

The discontent has now become public with the publication of an opinion piece by Zieneb Hamdan in the Marquette Tribune. In it she complains:

I am offended by the Political Science Department’s decision to invite Ross to teach a course on politics of the Middle East, which he is intrinsically biased towards as a politician, not a scholar. It is not in the best interest of students to have a politician with a loaded political agenda speak about the Middle East, which is almost exclusively Arab. Politics should be objective by providing both sides of an argument, which the Political Science Department failed to do. The course and his talk are diservices to the Marquette community and students if a different perspective is not provided on an equal scale.
In fact, an anti-Israel bias is extremely common in academia these days, so hiring somebody pro-Israel would be a good idea to provide some balance. But in reality, while Ross may be “pro-Israel” compared to leftist academics, he’s better described as “pro-peace.” As Bill Clinton’s lead diplomat in trying to solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he labored mightily for a decade to produce a settlement. The effort failed, but Ross thinks that developments both on the Israeli side and the Palestinian side may now open the prospect of a peace.

Supporters of the Palestinians need to ask themselves a fundamental question: do we want to nurse a grudge, or do we want a Palestinian state?

That question should have an obvious answer. But for Arabs comfortably ensconced in American academia, far removed from the economic privation and Israeli security checkpoints on the West Bank, the aggrievement option may look pretty attractive.

The campus grievance industry -- the same folks who gave us Ward Churchill -- is always looking for new groups of victims. Palestinians fill the bill pretty well. Thus aggrieved supporters of the Palestinians find themselves pleasing leftist professors and being coddled by student affairs bureaucrats. It may not seem to matter that much that there is no Palestinian state.

There is no doubt that, historically, Palestinians have been victims. (But then, in a longer historical perspective, Jews have been too.) But after several decades of Palestinians (and their Arab supporters elsewhere) doing things that make the situation worse rather than better, Americans eventually become impatient with the grievances.

“Why won’t the Palestinians stop the terrorism?”, the average American is inclined to ask. To say that the Palestinian Authority hasn’t had the power to stop the terrorism is a semi-plausible answer. But the Palestinian supporters don’t seem to want the terrorism stopped. They want to put the whole burden of making peace on Israel. They seem to be insisting that the terrorism will continue until Israel capitulates. But history shows that terrorist attacks harden Israeli attitudes and create harsher Israeli policies.

Why did the Palestinians support Yasser Arafat, a man who clearly didn’t want peace? Why do they condemn a security barrier that makes Israel less vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and therefore more able to compromise and take some risks for peace? In the cozy victim culture of academia, Arab students are unlikely to be asked these questions. But out in the real world they get asked. And failure to provide decent answers hurts the cause.

So again, the question: do you want to nurse a grudge, or do you want a Palestinian state? If the latter, Dennis Ross is your guy. If the former, the real world Palestinians in the Middle East may well suffer because of your irresponsibility.

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