Some people say that there are no coincidences, that all things are connected, that each event--no matter how small--ultimately affects and illuminates every other event. Perhaps they are right. This means that every good deed counts--but so, too, does each act of cruelty. Good and evil both have profound reverberations in the world.
Consider three seemingly separate events that took place on three different continents during the first two weeks of October. Just as Islamic terrorists were busy bombing Israelis and other tourists on vacation in Egypt, dignitaries at the Frankfurt Book Fair were busy honoring the Arab League, which, in turn, was proudly displaying more than a dozen anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist publications such as "Sins of the Jews and Judaism," "The Global Tentacles of the Mossad" and "The Jewish Role in the 9/11 Destruction of the World Trade Center." Simultaneously, Duke University in North Carolina was preparing to host the fourth annual Palestine Solidarity Movement conference.
Germany's laws against Holocaust denial and the use of hate to incite crime are very good, but when the Simon Wiesenthal Center called upon Germany's prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into the Arab League, the Germans said they couldn't do it. Although the Arab titles and book jackets were anti-Jewish in wild and vulgar ways--one cover displayed a photo of the World Trade Center exploding in flames, overlaid with a star of David and a fingerprint; another had the star of David covering the Statue of Liberty, which held a sword dripping blood--the Germans refused to judge the as-yet-untranslated books by their covers. Thus, the Germans granted these books the same intellectual credibility and marketplace potential as those written by Nobel Prize winners and other fact-driven writers.
Similarly, Duke has draped anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hate speech in the glorious colors of free speech.
I agree that the best way to oppose free hate speech is with free true speech. I oppose censorship for this reason, as does the Duke administration. But unless the administration takes matters in hand, it will merely have delegated the dirty task of censorship to its campus Jews. It is with a very heavy heart that I write this. But what else can I conclude when I know that at least one of the speakers at the Jewish rally for peace was told by a young representative of Hillel International that they could not name the Palestinians or Arab Muslims as terrorists because "that would not be sensitive and we don't want to say anything bad about anyone."
I must now say something true and therefore "bad" about some people who are probably not "bad" people, who are, in fact, "good" people trying to do the right thing but who are, in my view, tragically and dangerously misguided. They are not the enemy, but they are aiding and abetting terrorists--in the name of "fairness" and "balance."
That good people are also something of a problem is not unique to Hillel or to Duke, which, to their credit, have both been fine-tuning the programs in response to suggestion and criticism. (Duke has corrected Web site material; the Freeman Center has invited formerly unwanted speakers, etc.)
The problem is bigger than Duke. For example, Aviva Michelman, a student at Vassar College, which has a large Jewish population, recently found that the Vassar Jewish Union and Jewish literary magazine "do not affiliate themselves with the Vassar Students for Israel group so as not to take a stance on the issue and risk losing or isolating members of their organizations." Further, in Michelman's view, the Vassar students, both Jews and non-Jews, who identify themselves as "anti-war” are only "pretending." "Once we began to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they talked aggressively, calling 'pro-occupation' persons 'enemies of peace.'" The "anti-war" group invited two Palestinian speakers but refused to invite anyone--not even from the David Project--to present the Israeli point of view.
Do such heartbreakingly frightened Jews believe they will be spared the wrath of Jew-haters because they themselves are "good," i.e., are the first to adopt an anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist position? Are they so ready to sacrifice the other, "bad," Jews in order to hold onto their own illusions for a while longer? If so, their psychology is pure German Jewish psychology circa 1936.
Have centuries of persecution permanently deranged some of my people? Are they suicidally shortsighted and historically illiterate? Are such Jews denying that Palestinians and Islamists hate Jews, Zionists and infidels out of fear, and are they psychologically identifying with the aggressor for this reason? Do they think that by adopting the politically correct point of view they will be spared?
Jews are assisting the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) conference at Duke. To the best of my knowledge, no Palestinians are assisting Jewish groups in quite this way.
For example, an Israeli Jewish graduate student at Duke, Rann Bar-On, belongs to Hiwar, the student group that invited the PSM to Duke. ‘Hiwar’ means ‘dialogue’ in Arabic. In response to questions about why he is supporting a group that endorses terrorism, Bar-On has been quoted as saying, "We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence" and "We're not Palestinians, so we don't have the right to endorse a solution." At least three Jews are speaking for PSM.
Emily Antoon, the president of Hiwar and a Duke junior, has refused to co-sponsor the "Jewish" rally for peace and against terrorism. Antoon has been quoted as saying: "I think it's specifically a counter concert to the PSM conference. I think it implicitly endorses state terrorism."
The Hillel Jews (and so many other worthy, progressive Jews) apparently agree with her. In their view, the Palestinian terrorists really want peace, but Sharon's military policies have frustrated their every peace-loving and non-violent effort. The Palestinian terrorists are, by nature and training, diversity counsellors and ardent followers of Gandhi who have been forced into becoming suicide bombers by Israeli "apartheid" and "colonial occupation." Obviously, these terrorists love their people so much they are willing to kill themselves.
But what if these terrorists don't love their people at all? What if they are haters and nihilists who lack a political program and diplomatic goals? What if Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are not composed of serious political actors who are motivated by compassion for their suffering people and who have been elected, in some sense, to represent their people? What if they exist simply to inflict terror and humiliation on envied scapegoats, and to exact eternal vengeance against the infidel?
If true, this is too frightening a possibility. One cannot appease such psychological actors; one cannot even sacrifice the "bad" Jews to them in order to save the "good" Jews. One must fight them with every means at one's disposal and one must win.
Why is the Duke administration and Hillel at Duke (and last year at Michigan, which hosted the PSM conference) so invested in the concept of "balanced" programming? Let me quote Israeli-born, Los Angeles-based Rachel Neuwirth, who has been struggling to update and transform the Hillel Mission statement. She writes: "[Balanced programming] is not simply about balance in the abstract. There is no 'balancing' of truth with falsehood … it is about telling the honest truth in defense of Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people. Hillel is a campus organization but today the campus has now become a political battleground in which there is an assault upon Israel and the Jews."
Sometimes a non-Jew may have a perspective on Jew hatred that even Jews might listen to.
Brigitte Gabriel is a Maronite Christian, which means she is the descendant of Phoenicians, whose presence in the Middle East pre-dates that of the Arabs. Today, Brigitte owns a successful American media company with national and international clients. She grew up in southern Lebanon under Palestinian tyranny. Israeli soldiers and doctors literally saved her life and that of her mother. She does not want to see Israel or America "Islamized" or "Palestinianized," as Lebanon was. She desperately wants to wake Americans up to the danger of this happening.
Brigitte says, "When you refuse to condemn suicide bombers and terrorism and violence, your hands are soiled with the blood of the innocents just as much as any suicide bomber who blows himself up."
I managed to persuade the Freeman Center at Duke to allow Brigitte to speak. They have agreed to do so but have given her only five minutes. (Probably each speaker against terrorism has only five minutes). Brigitte is an exceptionally passionate and powerful speaker. I think that what she has to say deserves more than five minutes.
Therefore, as my contribution to more free true speech, I am posting on my Web site Brigitte's 45-minute video, which she has generously prepared for just this purpose. You may view it at on my website today (October 13, 2004). My good friend Jerry Gordon is assisting me in this effort.
I invite the Duke administration, the Freeman Center and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement leaders to view it as well. I would welcome a conversation with them all.
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., is the author of 12 books, including her latest, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It. She is working on a new book for Palgrave Macmillan (St. Martin’s Press) about the importance of independent thinking among women. She may be reached through her Web site www.phyllis-chesler.com.