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The Wayne State University-
Damascus University partnership is an
affront to all Americans and Jews.
Packaged in the lofty over-wrap of
"academic freedom," it has dangerous
and far-reaching ramifications.
By conferring favored status upon
Damascus University — an extension
of a hostile, terrorist-sponsoring
nation — we legitimize Syria's
heinous regime. Shame on anyone
who helps Syria's campaign to remake
itself as a "moderate" state deserving
of beneficent treatment.
This whitewash of Syria's record of
terrorism sponsorship (including
Hamas and Hezbollah), repression
and human rights abuses, occupation
of Lebanon, aid to Iraq, drug traffick-
ing, anti-Western propaganda, devel-
opment of weapons of mass destruc-
tion and a too-long litany of other
sins, could well undermine Capitol
Hill passage of the Syrian
Wayne State's embrace of Damascus
University will be a template for other
universities and may gain the frightful
momentum of the anti-Israel divest-
ment campaigns. One has to question
what are the unique and compelling
advantages of this partnership that are
not available at any other university in
this country or elsewhere?
Against the backdrop of a totalitari-
an dictatorship, the governance of
university affairs — as with the gover-
nance of press, speech and assembly
— is tightly controlled in Syria.
Curriculum and books are infested
with anti-Semitic vitriol. Hate-incit-
ing propaganda poisons the educa-
tional system. Syria bars Israelis from
Such a hostile climate that represses
dissent and prohibits truly open for-
eign exchange corrodes genuine aca-
demic freedom. Can you imagine the
outcry if an American university
encouraged an exchange with a gov-
ernment that promoted racist ideolo-
gies and supported terrorism against
blacks or any other race or religion?
Why not a partnership with the
government in Sudan, which is guilty
of unspeakable atrocities against black
non-Muslim civilians? Any agreement
with a government that supports ter-
rorist organizations that target the
killing of Jews is no less reprehensible.
This is no time for conciliation.
Our Jewish leadership must assert
strength and moral clarity. Israel —
Jett'itueits/,./vitNitecrtt:. cr \cV.neerre:i leyrvaetetliiiemriitgehdt ttoo
indeed World Jewry — is under
assault. We don't have the luxury of
time or dissonance on our side.
If we expect America to stand firm
with Israel against crushing world
pressure, we must be able to demon-
strate the same fortitude in fighting
nascent pressures locally. We must
respect ourselves enough to demand
that others do the same.
Do Not Oppose
There are certain wise and experi-
enced people whose opinions, based
as they are on the depth and detail of
insights acquired through decades of
insider experience, one may defer to.
When coupled with such a person's
qualifications is decades of demon-
strated loyal allegiance to one's people
and cause; even if one disagreed, one
is compelled to defer to the views of
such a person.
Although I would defer to him and
his knowledge in any case, in this
case, Board of Governors member
Eugene Driker's rational and cogent
assessment of the situation regarding a
cooperative agreement between
Wayne State University and Damascus
University speaks for itself as com-
pelling and convincing ("Building
Bridges Of Understanding," Feb. 14,
page 34). He believes we should not
oppose the effort and is joined in that
opinion by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-
Mich., and others.
Let's pick our battles and let's
depend on our activists to bring these
issues to our attention; for such
efforts at inspiring debate and discus-
sion, we are indebted. As for the pro-
posed alternatives to the agreement,
another day and another issue is our
only viable option.
Michael H. Traison
Governors member Eugene Driker
("Building Bridges Of Understand-
ing," Feb. 14, page 34) regarding the
JN editorial on Wayne State
University entering an educational
agreement with the University of
Damascus ("Syrian Ties Misguided,"
Jan. 24, page 33).
The castigation of WSU President
Irvin D. Reid was unwise and unfair.
I was pleased to see that Hebrew
University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
University are part of the League of
World Universities [to which
Damascus University belongs].
The observation regarding the
power of education is so true and
should be obvious to all thinking peo-
ple, especially us Jews.
Much credit to you for the two
powerful opinion pieces against your
own editorial. We must continue to
build bridges of understanding, espe-
cially with our enemies.
Finding Good In
The. alliance between Wayne State
University and Damascus University
seems puzzling to say the least, rather
strange bedfellows ("Syrian Alliance
Worthwhile Step," Feb. 14, page 6).
When I received online a petition
directed at the president of WSU in
opposition to this program of cultural
and scientific collaboration between
the two learning institutions, I signed
I did agree to the premise of the ini-
tiators of the petition, mainly that
Syria is an unmitigated enemy of Jews
and Israel. As an Israeli, no one knows
better than I of Syria's cruelty to
Israelis in its captivity — and that an
agreement with Syria can lend it legit-
I also wanted to abide by an old
Hebrew adage that says Al tiff-osh min
hdtzibur —. Don't separate yourself
Detroit from the public. Yet after signing, I
wrote the author of the petition and
explained why I think that there are
also some good aspects that could
result from this seemingly unholy
My husband heads neurology serv-
ices for the Veterans Administration
Medical Center in Detroit. We've had
Mazel toy to the Jewish News for
many fellows and residents from Arab
printing the letter by U.S. Sen. Carl
lands, including Syria, as guests in our
Levin, D-Mich., ("Syrian Alliance
house, even for family seders. For the
Worthwhile Step," Feb. 14,.page 6)
great majority, I was the first Israeli
and commentary by WSU Board of
they met. It always filled my heart
With Our Enemies
with hope when I heard them express
their own hope that one day they will
be able to visit Israel freely and Israelis
could visit Syria or Lebanon, which
are so close and yet so far.
On our wall there is an ornate
plaque of "God Bless Our Home"
which one such Syrian friend brought
us from a visit home to Damascus.
Yet, as another old Hebrew adage
goes, Kabdehu v'hashdehu — Respect
him and suspect him. Wayne State
University should make sure that this
purely cultural and scientific alliance
isn't misconstrued by the Assad
regime as legitimizing it. It should
rather see it as a golden opportunity
to expose the Syrian people to
American society and the democratic
freedoms denied them.
Sadly, Jews Are
Easy To Blame
In 16th century Venice, commerce
flourished. The Christians, because of
religious beliefs, frowned on book-
keeping and the handling of money.
Jews were ideal for this purpose
because of their expertise.
A quarter was formed to house the
Jews and to keep them at arms'
length. This quarter was the original
This seems to parallel America and
its so-called alliance with Israel.
During the Gulf War, the Jews of
Israel were also kept at arms' length.
They were told to stay out of the war
and the allies would handle the situa-
tion. Well, we all know how that
President Bush is looking far a
coalition to rid the world of Iraq's
Saddam Hussein. I do not believe
Israel is on the invited list. After all, it
might offend our friends in the Arab
world — countries like Saudi Arabia,
which house many of the terrorists
and will refuse us use of their air
Let us also note that Germany and
France are not jumping on the band-
wagon either. How easy it is to forget
how instrumental America was in
ending the Cold War and bringing
down the Berlin Wall. Who knows
where France would be today if we
had not aided it in both world wars.
In these countries, anti-Semitism
flourishes. The idea is when things go
wrong, blame the Jews; it's infectious.