Tuesday, April 12, 2005

University Ministry and the Palestinian Issue: A Fit of Balance?

The University Ministry’s “Soup With Substance” has a long history of leftist bias. During this calendar year, for example, they have sponsored a film about the “Cuban Five” that in fact is propaganda from the Cuban Communist government and a priest who supported Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

This past fall, the series included a speaker who is an apologist for Cuba’s Communist government, and a parade of speakers who presented the standard litany of leftist causes, including abolition of the death penalty, an attack on the School of the Americas, and a leftist view of the Palestinian issue.

Other programs have been less inflammatory, but still range from innocuous to liberal/left. What is entirely missing is the discussion of any issues from a conservative perspective, and this includes issues where the Catholic Church takes a clearly conservative position. There is nothing on the evils of abortion, nor any speaker opposing gay marriage, nor any discussion of the case of Terri Schiavo. There is a program on “living with AIDS,” but no hint of the view that people shouldn’t engage in immoral sexual behavior – which would be a dandy response to the spread of AIDS.

In this context is isn’t surprising that Soup With Substance hosted a woman named Jennifer Lowenstein at the April 5th session. Lowenstein is virulently anti-Israel and anti-American, and has said the following about American policy toward Israel:
Forget about the Road Map. Don’t be seduced by the talk of peace. Israel is an offshore US military base and weapons testing ground. It is a westernized colony for white supremacists seeking ways to discreetly dispose of its nigger [sic] population. It is an American franchise for the new global economy, a consumer outlet, an ad for Disney-World-gone-native, a terrorist training camp for Jewish fundamentalists, the most well-funded terrorist organization outside the mainland United States, a strategic foothold in the Middle East for oil-thirsty, power-hungry neo-cons.

It is suicide’s most willing accomplice.
The Lowenstein event was part of a larger Arab Heritage Celebration that likewise had an anti-Israel and anti-American bias.

Some minor good news came in e-mail yesterday, in the form of a message that Soup With Substance will sponsor Daniel Levy and Rafi Dajani in a program one week from today.

Both are moderates, and might be part of an actual Middle East peace, as opposed to more conflict.

Did the University Ministry all of a sudden get sensible?

No. The program was arranged in response to a request from the Jewish community, which noticed the extreme bias in campus discourse. In this particular case, Harriet McKinney, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee called Madeline Wake and a person at Wake’s office called Natalie Gross in the Office for Student Development who arranged for the talk. The two speakers happened, by a fortunate coincidence, to be coming to Wisconsin at a time when more moderate voices were badly needed to balance the extreme positions in the University program.

The local Jewish community has taken considerable interest in what’s happening at Marquette, to the extent, for example, of sending representatives to record what some of the more rabid anti-Israel speakers have to say. The Jewish activists respect academic freedom, so don’t look for any demands that any speakers be cancelled.

But do look for more attempts from Jewish students, faculty and community organizations to extend the scope of the debate on campus to include more speakers friendly to Israel, and indeed friendly to the views of Palestinians who respect the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

We suppose it’s good that the University Ministry will accomodate a request from the Jewish community and allow at least one balanced program. The point, however, is that their instinct is not to provide balanced programming. Their instinct is to be stiflingly politically correct.


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