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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Good News: Rutgers is responding

Rutgers' Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Emmet A. Davis, has set up a website: Concerns About Student Conference, which offers a place to send comments and/or inquiries. It also includes FAQs, copy of the president's statement about the conference, etc. He's obviously smart, and I appreciate it.

While anything less than cancellation of the conference will not satisfy me, I am grateful that attention is being paid to the matter. Just the fact that they built the website defuses some of the angst. This is a great improvement over Michigan last year, the response from which was canned and lame.

Make this website worth their while, and take full advantage of the opportunity represented by the comments and inquiry page. "Free speech" is not for the enemies of Israel only. And it is not the issue here. We need to keep pointing out the fact that free speech entitles one to speak their mind on any street corner -- IT DOES NOT ENTITLE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US TO THE USE OF PUBLIC UNIVERSITY FACILITIES.

We all know that there are conferences Rutgers would not allow. They wouldn't allow a KKK hate-fest, they wouldn't allow pedophiles or child pornographers, they wouldn't allow white supremacists, they wouldn't allow a conference centered on the position that Canada has no right to exist! There is a line drawn, and I, for one, want to know why it's drawn in such a way that Jews are not protected. I'm going to give them comments as often as possible, and will copy them to Prof. Dennis, as below.

From: Anne Lieberman
To: Emmet Dennis <dennis@oldqueens.rutgers.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 6:28 PM
Subject: Re: Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement

Dear Prof. Dennis,

I am very grateful to see that you've built a website for discussion of the upcoming conference. It represents a far greater response to the problem of this conference than the University of Michigan was able to provide last year. Already you have defused some of the angst surrounding this event. But do not think that it is sufficient response in and of itself. I will not be satisfied until the conference is cancelled.

Perhaps you do not understand the bad spot that Jews are in, in the world right now, or you would never allow such a Jew-hating conference to take place. I say Jew-hating because I believe quite certainly that much of today's anti-Zionist, anti-Israel commentary and activism is merely age-old antisemitism in a new cloak, a politically correct garment. If allowed to go ahead, this conference will empower the notion that "politically correct antisemitism" is acceptable and legitimate.

There was a syndicated political cartoon by Tony Auth, published last week in American newspapers, that is almost identical to a poster produced in the mid-1930s by the Nazi propaganda machine. If you are a Jew, this is very frightening.

The Belgian affiliate of Oxfam, a very politically correct feed-the-hungry global organization, is promoting a boycott of Israeli produce. Their poster, recently removed from the website, showed an orange dripping blood. If you are a Jew, this is very frightening.

National Public Radio portrays a bias against Israel that is unfathomable. NPR consistently refuses to use the words "terror" "terrorism" or "terrorist" in conjunction with Palestinians. It is Palestinian "activists" or "militants" who blow themselves up to murder Jewish grandmothers and babies in strollers. As if that weren't bad enough, recently NPR has begun to use the word "terror" -- for Jews! There are allegedly two, maybe three, Jewish "terror cells," in Israel, consisting of about three persons each, which stand accused of planning terrorist acts against Palestinians. These people, less than dozen, who have not been proven to have committed a single illegal act, are "terrorists" according to NPR, while Palestinian suicide bombers are not. If you are a Jew, such bias in the mainstream press is very frightening.

That a public univeristy would allow a conference in their facilities that centers on the proposition that Israel, the only safe haven for Jews in the world, does not have the right to exist, is likewise, frightening. Can you imagine a conference focusing on how Canada does not have the right to exist? It sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? But Israel's right to exist is being questioned - in mainstream circles - all over the world right now. Israel is the Jew among the nations, and has no friends, except perhaps the United States, and that seems somewhat tenuous. Once again, the Jews stand alone.

Please let me remind you that this is not a matter of free speech. The Solidarity-with-Palestinians people can say all they want all over the internet, in marches down any street, they can freespeak to any reporter who will listen to them, from any street corner or basement hovel. Their right to free speech does not include access to Rutgers lecture halls and microphones. To hold a conference at Rutgers is not a right but a privilege. I would think that in a sane world, a group would have to prove worthy of such a privilege, would have to at least have a constructive message to offer. The conference you intend to support will endorse terrorist suicide bombings and the destruction of a nation. What good will that do in the world? What harm? Has academia devolved to such a state where simple right and wrong are no longer discernible?

Jewish existence should not be a matter of debate at any time, or any place. Our right to exist, to have a state obligated to protect Jewish life, has already been decided, at great expense. We continue to defend it, also at great expense. It is shameful that we must further defend ourselves at a public university in America. If it weren't true, I would say it is unthinkable. But then, we've had demonstrators in front of a synagogue in Denver chanting "Death to the Jews." Nothing is unthinkable anymore. You'll see, these "solidarity" folks will be chanting for my death on your campus come October. I have no doubt.

NEVER AGAIN we often say, but these days our mantra seems to fall on deaf ears. Rutgers and the state of New Jersey have an opportunity to stand up for something good in the world. Please summon the necessary courage to cancel this event. If you do not, then you will have to live with the consequences of having nourished an evil and dangerous sickness in the world. As a Jew, I will probably have to live with those consequences sooner and more directly than you, but one day you too may feel threatened by this sickness. And then you'll understand what I was talking about, back in '03.

Most sincerely,

Anne Lieberman
Boulder, Colorado

----- Original Message -----
From: Emmet Dennis
To: Anne Lieberman
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 12:05 PM
Subject: Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement

July 22, 2003

Dear Ms. Lieberman

Thank you for your correspondence concerning the status of a conference entitled the “Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement, tentatively scheduled to be held at Rutgers facility in October 2003.

In response, I am pleased to refer you to a statement below by President Richard L. McCormick to the Rutgers community that addresses the substance of your communication.

As is the case with the hundreds of other programs, conferences, and events held at Rutgers facilities each year, we will continue the review process for this event in accordance with the various policies and procedures with which any program must comply before approval of a reservation for use of the facility.

I sincerely appreciate your interest in this matter. I will continue to work closely with those involved and affected by the Conference emphasizing safety, civility and respect. A number of teach-in’s are also planned by our faculty during the time of the conference. Our campus ministries will also be involved.

Yours truly,

Emmet A. Dennis

Emmet A. Dennis, Ph.D.

Professor and Vice President for Student Affairs