Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The UCI "intifada" my response to Ahmed

My article last week on the anti-Israel demonstrations at UCI has provoked a response from Ahmed, a UCI Muslim student who objects to my criticism of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and their speakers.

The first point raised by Ahmed was my use of the word "anti-Semitic", which Ahmed feels I confused with "anti-Zionist". Ahmed, I know the difference between being anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish. As you well know, Arabs are also considered Semitic people. But as you also know, the term "anti-Semitism" is popularly used to refer to anti-Jewish feelings. Do I think "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Semitic are identical? No I don't, though I think some use the former as code for the latter.

As for the event "I did not personally observe", as a retired law enforcement officer, I know full well what hearsay is as opposed to personal observation. I made it clear in my original blog that the account of the person holding a sign reading: "Death to Israel-Death to America" was given to me second hand- but I trust the source since it was a fellow teacher. Who was the person holding the sign? We don't know since the person's face was covered by a head scarf. (Maybe you know.) But regardless, don't you understand how such a sign could be so offensive-even on a university campus? Believe it or not, there are some people on this campus who love America and take great offense at such a sign. If I linked this incident to the MSU, it was because it happened during an MSU-sponsored event. By the same token, when the MSU brings in speakers like Malik Ali and Ward Churchhill, then I will make the obvious connections.

I freely concede that the Middle East situation with Israel is complicated and there are two sides to the issue. I only want what is the official position of our own government- a 2-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace if not immediate friendship.

However, I must tell you that I am very sensitive to the issue of anti-Semitism. This comes from my own life experience. When I was a young man your age, I was a young Army soldier stationed in Germany, in a town just outside Nuremberg, the so-called "shrine of Nazism", in the late 1960s. Nuremberg was the site of the Nazi party rallies, the Nuremberg laws and the post war Nuremberg trials. In the years since, I have visited places like Auschwitz, Dachau and Buchenwald. Indeed, I have become sort of an amateur scholar on the Third Reich. I am also old enough to remember anti-Jewish feeling in this country-even from my own father- and I don't want to see a resurgence because of events in the Middle East.

Ahmed, I understand that you are trying to defend your religion. You not only should, but you must defend your religion. However, there is no need to defend Islam from me or other Americans or non-Muslims. Our country has a great tradition of religious tolerance. Muslims like you need to defend Islam from those who are using Islam to promote a campaign of hatred, violence and terror-all in the name of God. We really want to believe that this is all an aberration being carried out by a small group of fanatics that are rejected by mainstream Islam. I am sure you will agree that Islam today is facing one of the greatest crises in its history. I would hope that young people like you will bring it through this crisis.

But if the MSU continues to bring in speakers who bash not only Israel, but America as well, then what are we to assume? The MSU is not helping its cause by bringing in inflammatory speakers.

Final point, Ahmed. Unlike so many university teachers, I am not in the business of trying to teach my students what to think about the world. I consider that to be the tactic of the left. I teach my subject and keep my personal opinions out of the classroom. But when I see my own country demeaned on campus, I will speak out in the other campus forums.

I hope this puts it in a little more light, but make no mistake- I stand fully behind what I said.

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