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February 28, 2003 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

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

Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:
www.detroitjewishnews.corn

Dry Bones

Terrorizing The Campus

r

or most of last year, a university in Tampa,
Fla., tried to find a good way to fire a com-
puter science professor who, in his spare
time, ran a think tank devoted to "Islamic
Studies." In trying to get rid of Sami Al-Arian, the uni-
versity said the professor's public statements justifying
Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians had endan-
gered the campus by making it a likely target for retali-
ation. Al-Arian said he wasn t actually fomentinc,
fomenting vio-
lence but simply exercising his academic freedom and
lence
his free speech rights as a permanent U.S. resident.
So the matter rested until last week when federal
agents arrested Al-Arian and charged him with being
the head of North American fund-raising for
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the groups
most responsible for terrorist acts against
Israeli civilians. A 121-page indictment
against him and seven others laid out a 10-
year history of how they allegedly transferred hun-
dreds of thousand dollars to the Damascus-based PIJ
to pay the families of suicide bombers.
Al-Arian and his co-defendants are entitled to the
presumption of innocence as the charges against
them proceed through the courts. But the action
against him provides another proof — as if another
one were needed — of just how irresponsible some
American colleges and universities have been about
the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Repeatedly since Israel's victory in the Six Day
War of 1967, academics have allowed Arab sympa-
thizers to blame the Jewish state for all the ills that
have befallen the Palestinians. The professors have
generally remained silent about the hateful, despotic
nature of most of the Arab states. And they have
turned a blind eye to the anti-Semitic filth that
pours out of the Palestinian mosques and schools.
They have conspired in the myth of Palestinian vic-
timhood and the lies about Israeli brutality in the
"occupied territories." Campus-sanctioned "think
tanks" like Al-Arian's World and Islam Studies
Enterprise (WISE) have provided an academic cover

not for serious study of Mideast
. issues but for propaganda and for
raising money that has been used
to prolong the conflict rather than
help resolve it.
One particularly serious conse-
quence has been a generation of
American higher education stu-
dents raised on totally mistaken
beliefs about Israel's history and
conduct. The current — and hap-
pily mostly ineffective — student-
led campaign to get universities to
sell their endowment investments
in Israeli companies is a
direct result of this intel-
lectual corruption.
The
Would that campaign
blv6s?
have even started if the professors
had been more careful to explain
to students that the funds raised
for Palestinian organizations were
TE-RRo .R I ST
being used to set the bombs at
AVA&S P6SPOND?
Hebrew University that killed,
among others, American students?
The willingness of the professors
to ignore plain truths about the
Palestinian backers was particularly
dramatic at Al-Arian's campus, the
University of South Florida in
Tampa. Even though the Tampa
Tribune reported exhaustively in
1995 about what WISE and Al-
Arian were doing, the faculty senate
refugees, but in the last two decades, the intellectual
just last year voted strongly against the university's
pendulum swung way too far in the other direction,
efforts to fire him. The national American Association
toward a Palestinian sympathy that would not dare
of University Professors threatened to censure the uni-
criticize the Arab failures.
versity if it got rid of this obvious hate-monger.
Maybe the case of Sami Al-Arian and his co-
In the 1950s and 1960s, American campuses
defendants will provide a useful spur to get campus-
probably gave excess praise to Israel's post-partition
es back on an intellectually honest track about the
struggles and ignored the serious problem of Arab
Middle East.

Grim Reminder

national origin."
It's hard to believe in today's more tolerant, inclu-
sive society that someone can be so spiteful they
would make the effort to strike fear in the heart of a
college student walking in Ann Arbor and talking by
cell phone to his mother in Boston.
It wasn't just a matter of the convicted teens hurl-
ing insults at Danny Aghion, a Jewish U-M junior of
Egyptian descent, and driving off. They
took the time to throw a bottle at him,
then stop their car and get out ready to
fight, causing Aghion to, for the first time
ever, fear. for his life.
Senseless. Cruel. Begging for trouble.
That sums up the mindless acts of two high school
students taught to taunt instead of embrace a
stranger just because he openly displayed his Jewish
identity. The assailants, both of Arabic descent, ele-
vated religious insults to a near physical attack. So
their vulnerability to arrest grew as the encounter

il

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START? (A)146K)
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AFTEK?

eD

EDITORIAL

University of Michigan student's successful
ethnic intimidation case against two
teenagers who attacked him off campus
because he was wearing a kippah and an "I
Stand With Israel" T-shirt, making him easily recog-
nizable as Jewish, underscores the state's
commitment to celebrating diversity
among residents and visitors, not stifling it.
It's sad but apparent that people who
hate Jews only because of their religious faith still
live in our midst. And that's why the 1988 state
statute designed to protect people against violence or
threats based on race, religion, ethnicity or gender
continues to be vital. The law makes it illegal to con-
front a person physically, or to damage, destroy or
deface a person's property, "because of that person's
race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or

A

cosT/m
HUMAN

-

oR HOW
(A,C, SAMAR'S

-



EDIT ORIAL

worsened.
Anti-Jewish incidents are rare in Ann Arbor, a city
where Jews not - only are welcome, but also become
involved in the community. Still, the Aghion case
reminds us that Jews, no matter where, can fall vic-
tim to myth, stereotype and pent-up hate.
Aghion could have dismissed the attack as isolated
ignorance and, though shaken, returned to campus,
where there's a critical mass of Jewish students and
educators. But he chose to stand up for justice and
say discrimination is repulsive in America.
He prosecuted because he wanted to send a mes-
sage that resonated. He wanted his assailants to
know felonious intimidation is a crime, not a right.
Hate crimes are among the worst because they aim
to strip away a person's dignity. Danny Aghion,
whose parents fled religious persecution in Egypt,
preserved his dignity. He reminded Jews that, cultur-
ally rich as this state is, we aren't immune to preju-
dice.



2/28
2003

29

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