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March 14, 2001 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-03-14

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
daily. letters@umich.edu

Palestine: Lessons from the Holocaust
AMER G. ZAHR Tt E PROGRESSIVE PEN

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

GEOFFREY GAGNON
Editor in Chief
MICHAEL GRASS
NICHOLAS WOOMER
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the
Daily s editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily

I sat and listened to Cor-
nel West for over an
hour in Rackham
Auditorium on Monday
night. I listened attentively.
I took notes. And I thought.
I saw my fellow students,
for the most part, sitting in
the auditorium, entranced,
listening to arguably the
most prominent African-American intellectual
today.
I heard him talk about genocidal mentality. I
heard him say that it is the arbitrary use of
power to murder another people. I heard him
say that scapegoating the victim is a component
of the genocidal mentality. I heard him say that
we must have the courage to call into question
all forms of genocidal mentality and practices.
He said that we need to fight against all forms
of apartheid. I heard him describe a term I had
heard before: "Blues sensibility." This way of
thinking accepts that the courage to fight for
justice is against the grain; it is both invigorat-
ing and unnerving.
Cornel West was invited to speak by Hillel,
the Jewish umbrella group on campus and the
various other groups that are sponsoring the
Holocaust Conference.
I heard him say nothing about Israel. I stood
and applauded for him when he was finished
with his lecture and I felt revitalized by his
words. He is an engaging figure. I applauded
for him for a long time because I thought he
deserved it. I quickly scampered to the front of
the line at the microphone to ask a question.
Somebody got there before I did. There were
two microphones. I quickly calculated that I
would be asking the fourth question. The sec-
ond question that was asked came from a secu-
lar American Jew who asked Dr. West how he
should grapple with being a humanist alongside
with being a member of a religious community
that was committing numerous violations of
civil rights against Palestinians. He got a long
response, riddled with applause, but he didn't
get an answer. The third question came from an
American Jewish woman who asked Dr. West
why he had not mentioned Israel and its gross

violations of human rights in his descriptions of
genocidal mentality. Dr..West told her that the
Holocaust Conference would be a great oppor-
tunity to explore these various viewpoints. She
also got a long response, but once again, no
answer.
Then my turn came. I greeted Prof. West
and thanked him for coming. I told him my
name and that I was a Palestinian. I said that I
was interested in his opinion in particular, and I
proceeded to ask him how we could, in an aca-
demic and intellectual environment, talk about
so many forms of genocide and apartheid and
neglect to talk about the Palestinians. I also
asked him what he thought about Zionism,
whether he was a Zionist and how we can view
the lessons of the Holocaust in Palestine. I
informed him that as a result of the creation of
the state of Israel, there are today almost 6 mil-
lion Palestinian refugees living without a home-
land, routine house demolitions and a system of
apartheid that relegates Palestinians to less than
second-class citizens in their land.
My questions were also, for the most part,
dodged, although I did get him to say that unlike
Garvey and King, he was not a Zionist. But of
course, as he noted, it is only because he is not a
nationalist of any kind and since Zionism is a
form of nationalism, he couldn't subscribe.
i was disappointed. I had almost wanted
him to redeem himself. But he didn't. In fact,
he talked just like a politician running for
office, looking not to offend anyone.
I can't understand any of this. How can we
sit around like intelligent people and talk about
the European Holocaust, East Timor, the
Armenian genocide, Rwanda and other situa-
tions, without ever bringing up one of the most
horrendous cases of ethnic cleansing this centu-
ry, namely the Palestinian tragedy of 1948 to
the present.
The lessons of the Holocaust are there. Eth-
nic supremacy, scapegoating the victim and
attempting to destroy a national identity are all
bases of the Jewish state. At birth, citizens are
pigeonholed according to ethnic backgrounds.
Only Jews are able to obtain permits to buy
land. Furthermore, only Jews are able to take
advantage of Israel's right of return. Any Jew

from anywhere in the world can return to Israel
and immediately gain citizenship and govem-
ment subsidized housing and employment.
Palestinian refugees from all over the globe,
who have been displaced for almost 53 years,
are afforded no such rights. In the common
political jargon, we have a name for this type of
government: Apartheid.
Apartheid is seen as a dirty word and right-
fully so. But it is clearly applicable, especially
when Israel, like many other states which the
United States routinely condemns and sanc-
tions, gives one ethnic group numerous civil
privileges while battering the human rights of
another. South Africa functioned in almost the
same way, with the main difference being that
South Africa was a minority-controlled
apartheid, while Israel is a majority-controlled
apartheid. And they still have the nerve and so
does our government, to label themselves a
"democracy." Let it be known that the Pales-
tinians are acting no different than any other
colonized people: They are rebelling against
their oppressor.
Palestinians are living under a brutal mili-
tary occupation and just about every worldwide
human rights organization has affirmed this
fact. I have viewed this occupation up close,
and I would not wish it upon my enemy. Pales-
tinian suffering has its nuances, but it is defi-
nitely not unique. Native Americans,
African-Americans, Bosnian Muslims, Rwan-
dans, Armenians, Kurds, East Timorese -
shall I go on? - have all been treated in the
same way. We have our Emmett Tills. We have
our suffering. And it has been seen throughout
modern times in Palestines all over the world. I
am proud to be a Palestinian, and I am sad-
dened as well when I realize that my land, a
land that met and shaped so many cultures, is
also the center of such affliction. It is the focus
of both my digffity and my pain. Let the lessons
we have learned from human tragedy through-
out our history not be lost on Palestine.

Amer G. Zahr's column runs every
other Wednesday. Give him eedback at
www.michigandaily.com/Jcrum or via
e-mail at zahrag@umich.edu.

Despite Tietz's claims,
he doesn't compare
to Franklin Roosevelt
TO THE DAILY:
I was horrified recently, seeing the ultra
right-wing Republican Michigan Party's
campaign sign for the first time - a sign
with a large picture of Franklin Delano Roo-
sevelt, the most formidable U.S. President
ever and prominent Democrat with the slo-
gan "A New Deal with Michigan." Students
should not be fooled by the Michigan
Party's deceptive and hypocritical propagan-
da that hides its reactionary conservative
agenda behind a picture of a compassionate
and visionary Democrat such as FDR.
Roosevelt championed workers' rights,
women's rights, and the rights of minority
groups in America. Observing the little
work that Michigan Party-candidates Doug
Tietz and Chip Englander have done on
campus with their cohorts in the College
Republicans and The Michigan Review,
they represent the exact opposite politics
and social vision of FDR. For example,
Tietz was one of the three people on the
assembly to not stand up for workers who
make Michigan apparel in Mexico and were
hit with hammers by their supervisors and
brutally beaten by riot police. FDR, who
signed the National Labor Relations Act into
law in 1935 - the most important piece of
modern legislation for workers' rights -
would have been the first to stand up for
these workers.
While some believe that the Michigan
Student Assembly should be apolitical -
most of them are conservatives who oppose
all efforts to support women's, minority,
students', environmental and workers' rights
- student government does play an impor-
tant role in voicing students' interests on a
range of key issues that are indeed political. -
Issues such as women's health and
access to contraception, the repressive Code
of Student Conduct, the environment, affir-
mative action and racial discrimination,
meaningful employment for students and
campus workers are all critically important
to our enjoyment and enrichment at this uni-
versity. These are not just abstract issues the
assembly chooses to pontificate upon -
these issues affect our lives and the assem-
bly should represent our voices.
Unfortunately, the Michigan Party lead-
ers do not stand up for students on issues
that matter to us. For example, Tietz, tried
to prohibit any proceeds from the Vagina
Monologues from going to Planned Parent-
hood, an organization that provides repro-
ductive health care services for millions of
women nationwide.
Tietz and his Republican friends using
the name and picture of FDR without articu-

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Racism in the firing
of Brian Ellerbe?

NAACP wrong on
retaining Ellerbe
To THE DAILY:
Although I am black, fully supportive
of the efforts of the Detroit NAACP and
sympathetic to their concerns about cam-
pus support for black coaches, I feel that
the organization is mistaken in insisting
upon the retention of basketball coach
Brian Ellerbe ("Some call firing of coach
racial discrimination," 3/12/01). Under
Ellerbe, Michigan has experienced the
worst four year stint of college basket-
ball that we've seen in the past two or
three decades. I attend a law school with
numerous alumni who agree that the Uni-
versity's basketball program has become
an embarrassment to the school. This sit-
uation becomes unbearable when Duke
alums gloat in our faces on a daily basis.
It's important to realize that there are
many, not only qualified, but superb
black college basketball coaches who
would jump at the chance to coach at the
University. Two of the top candidates,
Mike Jarvis and Tommy Amaker, are
prime examples. I will not be surprised if
the next coach is an African-American. If
this is this case, look for students and
alumni to claim reverse racism.
TREVOR GARDNER
Alumnus
Not all blacks agree
with NAACP, BAA

Fisher's. Unfortunately, in a wrong-
headed and misplaced attempt for racial
justice, the NAACP and the BAA are
expending precious political capital on a
situation that clearly does not call for it.
Kevin Gaines, Jamal Crawford, disci-
plinary problems and recruiting miscal-
culations are indicative of either bad
judgment on Ellerbe's part or a lack of
team control and direction. It is also
clear that Coach Ellerbe came into a
tough situation and seems like decent
man. But the University is a proud insti-
tution that demands more than the social
malcontents and disciplinary nightmares
that have accompanied his tenure.
I am saddened that race has become
an issue. It saps the credibility of a fun-
damentally important organization such
as the NAACP. There are many more
instances of racism in our society that
demand attention than the baseless and
unfounded charge of racism being lobbed
at Athletic Director Bill Martin.
I am also incensed that the BAA has
chosen to speak for thousands of
African-American grads, such as myself,
who do not agree with them one iota.
Ellerbe's dismissal does not seem at all
relevant to race and the suggestion that
there is a monolithic and united front of
support for him based on skin color is
insulting. Clearly, Ellerbe has taken the
high road and not invoked such an
inflammatory suggestion.
Michigan is a place -that has fought
for diversity at every level and I dare
anyone to find a more progressive uni-
versity in terms of race and fairness. As
most University grads will tell you, there
is no finer atmosphere for the collegiate

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