Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Marquette’s Manresa: Attacking Israel, Defending Terrorism

It’s something that sounds nice enough: Marquette’s Manresa Project is sponsoring a conference titled “Justice and Mercy Will Kiss: A Conference on the Vocation of Peacemaking in a World of Many Faiths.”

But what is one to think when speakers on the program seem not to want peace, but more violence. And what is one to think when they encourage hate?

This issue is raised by one of the panels on the program, called “Jews of Conscience: Voices for Justice and Peace, Hope and Obligation.”

The speakers are:
  • Marc Ellis, Baylor University
  • Hedy Epstein, author, speaker
  • Keren Batiyov, poet, activist
  • Jennifer Loewenstein, Oxford University
The panel is, in fact, unbalanced, consisting entirely of people who view the Palestinians as victims of racist, bloodthirsty and indeed fascist policies on the part of Israel.

The mere name of the panel is an insult to Jews. As an e-mail correspondent of ours observed:
I especially love the title: a small panel entitled “Jews of Conscience,” implying that Jews don’t ordinarily have consciences, but these few, who bravely stand up to Israel, do. I’m sure the sponsors would deny that implication, but how would they respond to a three-person panel entitled, “Arabs Who Aren’t Terrorists,” or a panel of a few Jesuits entitled, “Priests Who Don’t Molest Children?” I’m sure they’d be appropriately offended by the implication of the title.
Indeed.

But the panel is not unbalanced merely in the sense that only one view is presented. Some of the participants seem to be mentally unbalanced, so deep is their hatred of Israel and indeed of the Jewish people and of the United States.

Let’s take them in no particular order:

Jennifer Loewenstein

Loewenstein spoke this past April at Soup with Substance. She is not merely somebody who believes that Israel should make concessions to the Palestinians. She is somebody who believes that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. For example, she signed on to a statement rejecting the December 1, 2003 Geneva Accord. Why? First, because it allows Israel to exist as a Jewish state, but also because (in the words of the statement):
10. Most importantly, it weakens the national unity and resolve of the Palestinian people leading to the potential defeat of the current Intifada in the same manner Madrid and Oslo destroyed the first a decade ago.
Translation: Palestinian terrorists might stop killing people. Palestinians might settle for a Palestinian state. She wouldn’t like that.

It’s not surprising to find somebody like this accusing Israel of using nerve gas.

It’s also not surprising to find somebody this radical is also virulently anti-American:
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.
One of the events of Arab Heritage Month this past April was a “Jenin Massacre Display” consisting of photographs by Loewenstein.

The “Jenin Massacre” was actually fierce battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin in April 2002. In the “massacre” 56 Palestinians (the vast majority of them armed terrorists) were killed, as were 23 Israeli soldiers.

Marc Ellis

Marc Ellis is a Marquette graduate, who left the university with his Ph.D. in 1980 to go to the Maryknoll School of Theology in New York. Maryknoll was a center of “Liberation Theology” – a fusion of Christian rhetoric and Marxist substance – that was sending its graduates to Central American to promote Marxism and try to install Marxist regimes.

Ellis fit right in, adopting Liberation Theology and writing several books on the subject.

As is typical with leftists, Ellis cannot mention Moslem terrorist acts against the U.S. and Israel without claiming that both nations are, in fact, somehow to blame. In an essay written less than a week after the 9/11 attacks he asserts:
Yet this club is haunted by unanswered and, for the most part, unasked questions. Are the solidarity of America and Israel and the fraternity of the civilized the only lessons to be learned during these days where images of destruction are omnipresent? Is repentance to be demanded only of the “other”? Are America and Israel innocent? Do the “real” Judaism, Islam and Christianity project civilization and righteousness and nothing else? Do “they” – the shadowy and violent world of terrorists – only symbolize darkness and chaos?
The simple answer, of course, is “yes, they do symbolize darkness and chaos.” But that’s not the answer Ellis wants.
To see the rote lesson of the Jewish day of atonement – that as victims of terrorism and approbation Jews can now support Israel and America without thought of misdeeds and culpability – is simplistic. The systematic assassination of Palestinian leaders and the invasion of Palestinian territory by Israel, using helicopter gunships built in America and funded by American taxpayers, can hardly be justified as a war for civilization.
As is typical among the anti-Israel crowd, Ellis seldom makes any mention of the attacks against Israel that have provoked a military response. Rather, the image is of an Israeli military that kills Palestinians just because it hates Palestinians.

If Ellis can’t mention the 9/11 attacks without also attacking the U.S. and Israel, he can’t discuss the Holocaust without insisting that the treatment given the Palestinians is just as bad.
To speak of the Holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews. Surely, the ultimate trivialisation (sic) is the use of memory to oppress others and this . . . is responsible for the difficulties facing those who seek to communicate the historic suffering of European Jews.
Given this, it is no surprise that Ellis excuses Islamic terrorism. According to an article in The Press (Christchurch):
Professor Marc Ellis, the director of the Centre of American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University, Waco, Texas, is on a worldwide personal “quest for justice for Palestine” tour.

Speaking in Christchurch yesterday, after the death of 15 Israelis in a suicide bombing at a crowded restaurant in Jerusalem, Professor Ellis said Israel used helicopter gunships to intimidate Palestinian settlements and towns and made no secret of its assassinations.

“If Palestinians had helicopter gunships they would have the right to use them. The suicide bombers are their helicopter gunships,” he said.

“Were the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto responsible for the actions they took against the Nazis? Don’t people have the right to fight for their freedom?

“Are you going to hold those who fight for freedom responsible for the death of those that oppress them?” (August 11, 2001)
In Ellis’ world, of course, Israeli gunships only shoot at innocent civilians, and never at combatants.

If Ellis is willing to implicitly (but clearly) compare Israel to the Nazi regime, he’s willing to call Israeli Jews “facist.” According to The Herald (Glasgow) Ellis said “the Israeli establishment has been liberal towards Jews, but towards Palestinians has been fascist” (May 38, 1998).

But it is not just the Jewish state nor the “Israeli establishment” that has been at fault. Ellis blames Jews generally.
Today Palestinian and Israeli scholars alike acknowledge that something terrible happened to the Palestinians in 1948. And more than a few Jews recognize that something terrible is happening to Palestinians today. Why then is this the province of the few rather than a collective awakening? And why does this vanguard of Jews, Jews of conscience, many of them who relate to Palestinians as brothers and sisters in struggle, exist in exile from the Jewish community rather than form its core. . . .

I have often wondered how Jews justify the memory lapse that equates the Palestinian struggle with Israel and the Nazi assault against the Jewish people. And how Jews, even many in the peace movement, speak of the need for Palestinians to guarantee Jewish security. Have they lost their ability to think or has their memory entered a place of denial that limits thought and compassion? Is this deliberate, like a smoke-screen, or so deeply felt that there seems to be no other way to understand the reality as it is today than in terms of power and aggression? And why can some Jews understand while others cannot?
Yes, most Jews can’t “understand,” but the “vanguard” – which of course includes Ellis – does.

Hedy Epstein

Epstein is in many ways the Cindy Sheehan of the anti-Israel movement. While Sheehan is presumed to have some moral authority because she lost her son in the Iraq War, Epstein is supposed to have some moral authority because she is a Holocaust survivor.

And while Sheehan has been painted by the media as an apolitical mother who “just wants answers” from President Bush, Epstein has been painted as merely a woman who wants justice for the Palestinians.

But the simple truth is that neither surviving the Holocaust nor having a son killed in battle prevents one from being a crackpot. And both women have a long history of political activism.

In the case of Epstein, she was active in the late 1980s supporting the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. She went to that country and to Guatemala in 1989 as a member of a Witness for Peace delegation, and came back and wrote a column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled “Where America is the Enemy” (May 1, 1989).

In 1992, she and activist Dick Gregory chained themselves to the door of the Federal Courthouse in East St. Louis to protest U.S. policies on Haitian refugees (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 19, 1992).

In 1993, she and one Patrick Coy published an article called “Putting the Government on Probation” written in defense of Bill Ramsey, who had refused to pay his taxes because he didn’t like government policy. The article mentioned a broad range of issues, especially “U.S. attacks on Grenada, Libya, Panama and Iraq” which supposedly “violated the U.N. and Nuremberg charters” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 9, 1993).

By the late 1990s she was co-Chair of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 18, 1997) a rather unsavory group that, during the Cold War, was an out-and-out Communist front.

Some of her missives remind one of Gilda Radner’s character Emily Litella on “Saturday Night Live” who goes into an extended rant based on a gross misunderstanding. For example, Epstein wrote a letter to the Post-Dispatch that was published on October 6, 1997 under the heading “Nuclear Danger.” She claimed that:
This month, the United States plans to send 72 pounds of plutonium into space on the Cassini aircraft. The ultimate goal of this is to have nuclear-powered battle stations in outer space. However, we would need full all-out war to test these reactors.

The English scientist Sir Isaac Newton said long ago: “What goes up, comes down.” Even a 1 percent failure rate of a nuclear reactor would be catastrophic to the entire world as radiation comes raining down. It would be like Chernobyl falling out of the sky.
She was quickly corrected, since Cassini was a space probe to photograph Saturn and its moons. It was not an “aircraft” and had no “reactor” (but rather a nuclear powered thermal generator), and most certainly would never return to earth.

She was wrong on all counts.

By 2002 she was accusing George Bush of “using war to divert people’s attention from the economy just as Hitler had.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 29, 2002)

It appears that people in the “bash Israel” crowd can never resist comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. When Epstein appeared at Stanford, her talk was announced as follows:
Hedy Epstein, a survivor of the Holocaust at the age of fifteen (in which she lost both her parents), will describe her experiences during the Holocaust and will describe how that experience made her committed to fighting injustice for the rest of her life. She will describe how the situation on the ground in Palestine today very much resembles the situation in Nazi Germany in 1939 and will compare the egregious violations of human rights that are taking place in Palestine today as a result of the Israeli occupation to the Holocaust.
A huge furor broke out on campus, and Epstein insisted she “did not compare situations” when she actually spoke (Stanford Daily, October 21, 2004). Yet when she spoke at an Islamic community center, her talk was titled “Surviving the Holocaust: Witnessing History Repeated.” What was “repeated” if not the Holocaust?

And when asked about suicide bombers, during her talk at Berkeley, she first said that she was opposed to the practice “with every fiber of my body,” but then said she “understood” why someone would do that, since “everything has been taken away.”

Keren Batiyov

In Batiyov we find the typical vices of the anti-Israel crowd, but one especially stands out.

She is opposed to anything that might make the situation better. Thus, like Jennifer Loewenstein she opposed the Geneva Accord.

When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was pulling Jewish settlers out of the Gaza strip, she labeled the process a “sham.”

She signed a petition to the United Nations that labeled Sharon “a war criminal.”

Batiyov also counts herself among a group called RighteousJews.

That might not seem terribly provocative, until one understands where it came from. The name was inspired by a list of “Righteous Gentiles” compiled by a famous Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem. These are non-Jews who risked their “lives, freedom, and safety in order to rescue one or several Jews from the threat of death or deportation to death camps without exacting in advance monetary compensation.” The organization RighteousJews claims to have been “created to honor those who consider themselves to be Jewish and who have worked for the human rights of non-Jewish Palestinians.”

Yes, the treatment of the Palestinians is being likened to the Holocaust, and the RighteousJews are likening themselves to people who risked their “lives, freedom and safety.” This is chutzpah run amok.

Unlike the other members of the panel, Batiyov fancies herself a poet. But her poetry isn’t any better than her prose. Consider the following piece:
I read this morning
of torture tools;
there were pictures too – remnants of Uday Hussein,
medieval-type incentives
to ensure that the athletes of Iraq
understood fully
that anything less than first
won them iron masks with spikes
and barefoot runs on hot asphalt.
And we will murmur,
maybe,
at this Iraqi outrage,
conveniently forgetting
the hoods and leashes,
the dogs, the beatings,
and the rapes
employed by our own troops.
After all, it’s only torture,
if the enemy does it.
And we’ll not even pause,
because most don’t know,
at what Israel does to Palestinians,
daily, and for over 50 years –
the theft of land, demolition of homes,
detention, destruction, humiliation, starvation,
murder – expedient ethnic cleansing.
So Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is akin to Uday Hussein’s torture chambers, and “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans.

But she really gets wound up when she attacks George Bush on the Iraq War.
Today, as I listen to the boy-king
callously and casually
speak of his plans to Shock and Awe-
plans that will surely make Iraq
our 21st century Herzogovina-
I say once more that I don’t believe in killing
anyone-
not even a murderer of children;
so tonight as fire falls from the skies of Iraq,
I pray justice for our naked emperor,
Poetic Justice:

May he lose a month of sleep
for every life he snuffs;
May the shrieks of those he murders and maims
eternally fill his ears,
to the exclusion of all other sound;
May his flesh rot from the inside out
with the cancers that consume Iraqi children
because of US DU-poisoned water;
May the rest of his life be a ghoulish nightmare,
haunted by the faces of those he has massacred;
stalked by the phantoms
of those whose fate is so frightening
they can only wish they were dead;
Perhaps the Manresa Project sees justice and mercy kissing here.

Just what was Marquette thinking?

The process that produced this panel will be the subject of a future post, but the bottom line is simple: this was a huge blunder.

We have said repeatedly that all kinds of controversial and even vile speech is acceptable on a college campus. But this panel was not put together by some student organization. It was an officially sponsored Marquette panel put together by the Manresa Project. It was supposed to reflect the “mission and identity” of Marquette, and be part of an interfaith dialogue.

How does one promote interfaith dialogue by putting on a panel that offends the vast majority of the Jewish community?

And if Marquette is going to sponsor speech that offends people, shouldn’t both sides be heard, and maybe offended?

We frankly aren’t enthused about the whole mushy, fluffy, goody-two-shoes tone of the rhetoric surrounding the program. So far as we are concerned, tell the truth and if the Jewish (or Moslem or business or feminist) community is offended, let them be offended.

But Marquette isn’t telling the truth here. This panel not only flunks the feel-good test, it flunks every intellectual test too.

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