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October 11, 2002 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

that the conference tears down Israel rather than builds
up a Palestinian movement to achieve statehood and
peace with Israel. Hillel's "Invest in Israel, Invest in
Democracy, Invest in Peace" campaign was designed to
make these differences in approach crystal clear.
Jeffrey Levin, executive director of the Jewish
Federation of Washtenaw County, expressed his admi-
ration for the Hillel students and credits them for tak-
ing the lead in crafting a response to the anti-Israel
conference.
"Our Community Relations Committee has met
repeatedly with the students and has been roundly
impressed with their dedication, savvy and work ethic,"._
he said.

Leaders Weigh In

On Oct. 4, the presidents and executive directors of the
metropolitan Detroit and Washtenaw County Jewish
federations, the Jewish Community Council of
Metropolitan Detroit, and the U-M Hillel, met with
U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, some of her top
staff and Regent Lawrence Deitch.
The purpose of the meeting, according to a memo
sent to Jewish community leaders, was to "share our
deep concerns about the upcoming Palestinian confer-
ence and to discuss the university's plans for dealing
with it."
Lawrence Jackier, president of the Jewish Federation
of Metropolitan Detroit, served as the prime spokesper-
son for the group. He termed the meeting "excellent,
very open, very positive."
-
"I told her that there is a very significant long-term
relationship with the university and this is just one inci-
dent and one event where the U-M and the Jewish
community intersect," recalled Jackier, noting he also
told her, "We will express our concerns in only the
most constructive way."
Coleman told the group that despite misgivings
about the conference, she felt bound to allow it to pro-
ceed given that proper procedures had been followed.
While U-M officials have met with the student organ-
izers to discuss concerns about hate speech, intimida-
tion and security, she vowed to speak out forcefully —
personally and publicly — if the need arises.
She told the group she shared their concerns about
safety, and that visible security and other university per-
sonnel would be present throughout the conference.
She also assured the group that all sessions would be
open to all registrants as required by U-M policy.
"It is difficult to anticipate what will happen, but
they are tuned in and prepared," said Jackier. "It was
clear that they welcomed our input and are interested
in our feedback" after the conference takes place. She
also told us that she plans to bring up the issue of
divestment at the American Association of Universities
meeting next month in order to develop an across-the-
board approach" to oppose it.

Different Interpretations

Hussein Ibish, communications director for the
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
(ADC) will be speaking at the conference on Saturday.
Contacted Oct. 8, Ibish did not realize that his national
office had endorsed the conference, but was non-
plussed when told they had.
"We enthusiastically endorse the conference; it is a
good idea," he said, while making it clear ADC does

not endorse all the statements in the conference's "mis-
sion statement."
"It is willfully foolish to assume because an organiza-
tion endorses the conference they endorse all their
statements," Ibish maintained.
"ADC does not take the position that Zionism is
racism. I . think it stigmatizes a large number of people
we should be talking to, and it is beside the point.
"I don't think that Zionism is inherently racist," he
said, mentioning a few Zionist thinkers he doesn't con-
sider racist. But to Ibish, "the policies of the Israeli gov-
ernment are manifestly and overtly racist.
"We're not interested in lectures," he said. "We don't
have to answer to anyone who is a supporter of Israel."
Additionally, Ibish says the ADC does not support
divestment from Israel or consider Israel an "apartheid
state." But he does see the issue of divestment as "a use-
ful tool for raising the issue about the way Israel has
ruled the occupied territories," which he described as

Dismissing concerns that the conference calls for the
destruction of Israel by labeling it inherently racist and
calling for Israel to relinquish all "Palestinian land" and
all 'Arab lands," he maintains that the ADC "supports
a secure Israel within recognized borders; w_e are for a
two-state solution."
The co-chairmen of the campus group, Michigan
Student Zionists (MSZ) Adi Neuman and Rick
Dorfman, sued U-M in an attempt prevent the partici-
pation of five speakers and the conference organizer,
who are known to "openly encourage violence" against
ethnic groups, Dorfman maintained.
In a statement to U-M administration Oct. 9, the
plaintiffs clarified that their "lawsuit is targeted at the
incitement of violence by speakers at the conference,
not at the University."
It continued, "We do not wish to limit the free
speech of pro-Palestinians. While we may view much
of their viewpoint to be inaccurate, and at times even
anti-Semitic, we respect and encourage the right of Pro-
Palestinians to speak their position — as long as they
do not incite violence ... This is what we stand against,
not the University that we call home and love.' ,
Filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Oct.
8, just days before the conference, the suit claims the
university is "allowing a clear and present danger to the
physical well-being of [Neuman and Dorfman] and
other similarly situated parties."
"There were 50 incidents of violence against Jews on
campus and in the surrounding areas following the
conference held at [University of California] Berkeley
[last February]. This was a significant increase in such
incidents," said Detroit-area political analyst and attor-
ney Debbie Schlussel, who is representing Neuman and
Dorfman in their lawsuit.
At press time, the suit was still awaiting a hearing.
Ben Berger of U-M Hillel called it "not the most con-
structive approach" and affirmed "we trust and expect
the university to be able to provide security for all stu-
dents."
MSZ also has organized a "Rally and Counter-
Conference Against Divestment, Terrorism and Anti-
Semitism" for Sunday, Oct. 13. The rally will begin at
noon on the Diag in the center of the main campus.
The counter-conference, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at

RALLY on page 18

Campus Debate

Harvard president's remarks,
Web site ignite campus wars.

RACHEL POMERANCE
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York

E

ven before Daniel Pipes arrived at the
University of Oklahoma for a speech
last week, his opponents were waiting
for him.
The Oklahoma Daily.campus newspaper carried
two letters to the editor on Oct. 1 blasting
Campus Watch, a Web site Pipes created that
monitors professors and institutions it deems anti-
Israeli or anti-American. The launch of Campus
Watch in September and the next-day speech by
Harvard President Lawrence Summers warning
that anti-Israel movements on univer-
sity campuses smacked of an
' ti-
Semitism created a furor.
Opponents of Israel and the
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee say Israel backers are try-
ing to limit their free speech.
In the Oklahoma Daily, a letter to the
editor signed_ by 19 UO history profes- Harvards .;
sors — out of 26 in the department — Lawrence
said groups like Campus Watch inhibit Summers
the "free and open exchange of ideas
.
and beliefs. Indeed, compiling dossiers on professors
and universities threatens to poison the climate of
intellectual engagement at a time when we urgently
need measured discussion and debate."
Another- letter — signed by just one member of
the history department; who helped coordinate
Pipes' visit — applauded Campus Watch for fighting
"false speech." According to Norman Stillman, direc-
tor of Jewish studies at the University of Oklahoma,
some of those criticizing Pipes — the director of the
Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum — were in
fact the ones guilty of "intellectual fascism."
One Jewish studies professor, who asked to
remain anonymous, said universities' Arab-domi-
nated Middle Eastern studies departments routine-
ly blacklist Jewish or pro-Israel scholars. "Most stu-
dents know that, given the nature of the field, they
have very little chance if they don't hold certain
views," the professor said.
Anti-Israel protests on campus have grown
increasingly ugly, with Israel routinely compared to
_Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa and anti-
Jewish blood libels revived. It was in that context
that Summers lashed out at the anti-Israel move-
ment on college campuses.
"Where anti-Semitism and views that are profound-
ly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary pre- .
serve of poorly educated right-wing populists, pro-
foundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding sup-
port in progressive intellectual communities,"

DEBATE on page 18

2002

17

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