Saturday, April 01, 2006

Marquette’s Arab Students Have a Problem

When the Middle East, and especially the Israeli/Palestinian conflict gets discussed on the Marquette campus, the discussion is inevitably going to have an anti-Israel bias. Indeed, it has been dominated by people with a visceral hatred of the Jewish state.

Two Jewish Law School students recently went public with a Tribune Op-Ed column objecting to this.

In last Tuesday’s Tribune two representatives of Arab students replied. First, former Arab Student Association President Salma Khaleq:

We explicitly draw a line between anti-Semitism, which would entail excluding speakers, members or attendees of events by virtue of their religious affiliation, and programming that explores a variety of dimensions within the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Events such as Dr. Norman Finkelstein or Julie Enslow (an event we co-sponsored during Islam Awareness Week) are no different. We do not feel that we should censor the works of Jewish scholars such as Dr. Finkelstein because the mainstream disagrees with them. That would mean marginalizing a large portion of the Jewish people who feel just as we do that Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is wrong. That would entail anti-Semitism.
She points out that one of the speakers that the ASA hosted, Norman Finkelstein, is Jewish. That’s true. He’s a Jew-hating Jew.

As for sponsoring speakers that the “mainstream disagrees with:” suppose the mainstream has good reason to disagree with the viewpoint? Would a Klansman discussing race relations be merely somebody the “mainstream disagrees with?”

Then there is former President of the Arab Student Association Khalaf M. Khalaf:

We look for programs that recognize and respect our differences, while also bringing us closer to understanding one another. We believe that embarking on such a task will help shorten the distance that keeps us separate. However, this can only be achieved if our fellow students work with us, and not try to censor the discourse.

But how can one “recognize and respect our differences” if Israel and the Jews are demonized?

Both Kahlaf and Khaleq invoke “censorship,” but that is entirely a red herring in this context.

In the first place the article, by Law School students David Cherner and Brenda Yaskal, doesn’t in the least advocate censoring the Arab Student Association. Rather, its concern is with Marquette’s official endorsement of a biased slate of speakers. Marquette’s Manresa program, the Office of Student Development and the University Ministry (as well as MUSG) have all cosponsored the one-sided panels and presentations. As Cherner and Yaskal explain:
Our concern is not that Arab Awareness or Islam Heritage should be banned from campus. Students have the right to promote certain viewpoints, and while we may disagree with them, our interest in having an open-minded campus outweighs our disagreement. However, as Jewish students and members of the greater-Milwaukee Jewish community, we are truly disappointed with the Marquette administration for endorsing those viewpoints.

We feel that the university is marginalizing Jewish students by endorsing such one-sided events and future sponsorship of such events will only reinforce our concern that Marquette chooses not to abide by its own mission statement. More importantly, we believe that sponsorship of such extreme events will isolate the student body from being properly informed about the Israeli-Arab conflict.
But for the moment let’s leave Marquette aside and discuss what the Arab Student Association has done. While we might expect an Arab student group to side with the Palestinians, it doesn’t follow that they have to apologize for and even support violence. It doesn’t follow that they have to be anti-American. It doesn’t follow that they have to promote bogus claims about the conflict.

There is a difference between censoring a student organization and taking them to task for irresponsible positions.

So now, we offer Arab student activists three pieces of advice. They doubtless don’t want then, and will probably be offended by them, but they are good advice anyway.
  • Eschew Violence – whether it is suicide bombers in Iraq, rioters in France, the nation of Iran wanting a nuclear bomb with which to attack Israel, or killing people in riots over some Danish cartoons, far too many Muslims are sending the message that Islam is a violent religion, heedless of the value of human life and willing to kill at the slightest provocation. Or quite frequently, with no provocation at all. This means that supporting or endorsing spokespeople who advocate violence, apologize for violence, or even are quick to “understand” violence on the part of Muslims directed at non-Muslims feeds into the stereotype.

    It’s long been quite obvious that non-violent tactics and serious negotiation would have gotten the Palestinian people far more than they have gotten through terrorism. The fact that you think Israel deserves to be attacked by terrorists is a problem you need to overcome, not any part of a solution.

  • Eschew Anti-Americanism – Many of the Israel hating speakers you have been promoting are also violently anti-American. Quite frequently, it’s hard to figure out whether they started out hating Israel and then came to hate America (Israel’s ally), or vice versa.

    An increasing number of people in Europe (and some in America) are coming to view Muslims as a fifth column, enemies hostile to Western Civilization and willing, should they gain political power, to oppress others. Happily, this view is still a rather marginal one (especially in America). But continued demonization of America and continued siding with Muslims in any conflict with the U.S. could make this a mainstream view.

    Remember: make it clear that you don’t like America, and Americans don’t like you. Ask the French.

  • Tell the Truth – Last year you featured a “documentary” called “Jenin, Jenin” at the Arab Heritage Celebration. It told about the supposed “massacre” of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli Army. Unfortunately, the “massacre” was in fact a pitched battle between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers.

    Likewise, one of your speakers (Jennifer Loewenstein) had accused Israel of using nerve gas.

    It’s not cool to promote lies in the service of a “greater good.” And if you really believe all these charges against Israel you look at best silly and at worst bigoted.
Finally (this is number four, and a bonus) don’t get lulled into a sense of self-righteousness because leftist professors and leftist University bureaucrats dote on you and make you their pets and give you awards. The posturing that works so well on a college campus won’t work at all in the larger world of American politics, where there is strong support for Israel and little patience for anti-American attitudes and suicide bombers.

So the sooner you escape the campus political sandbox and start playing by the rules of the broader society, the better for you. And the better for the Palestinian cause too.


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