Author: Brandi Trapp
Source: The South End
Student groups ready for debate after anti-Semitism lecture
Sparks didn't fly during an event hosted by Students for Israel (SFI) and attended by members of Anti-Racist Action (ARA). Students from both groups said the meeting on campus anti-Semitism and civil rights was productive, and though they will not give up their personal beliefs, they are ready for debate without name-calling.
The event was held in the Student Center yesterday with speakers Kenneth Marcus, staff director at the
U.S Commission on Civil Rights, and Aryeh Weinberg, a research associate at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.
The speakers said students in both groups experienced communication problems.
"Clearly the debate is poisoned now," Weinberg told the audience. He said what could have been an
"intelligent" debate on Middle East conflicts had been reduced to name-calling and personal insults.
Weinberg said people lose their voices when healthy debate goes sour.
"It went off without a hitch," said SFI president Ari Drisman about yesterday's event. He said things could have gone wrong, but he was happy with yesterday's turnout.
ARA members were satisfied to denounce anti-Semitism.
"ARA clarified that we have consistently been on the frontlines of the fight against anti-Semitism," said ARA member Micke Stauch. "Hopefully, no one can ever again accuse us of this."
Members of SFI and ARA said they feel tensions between the groups have been reduced only slightly because of yesterday's event.
Weisman said there was a civil breakdown when student groups protested outside Marwil Books, where Stauch works.
"Clearly there is a civil breakdown," Weinberg said. "The university should do more to offer you guys a place to have a civil debate."
Stauch said someone sent his boss an e-mail congratulating him for hiring the biggest "Jew hater" in Detroit.
Marcus suggested that both groups persuade the university to give them an opportunity to discuss their differences. Drisman said he talks with WSU administration and has extended an invitation to ARA for a debate. Stauch said SFI did contact ARA once, but they didn't participate in a debate that day because they were holding a demonstration. Drisman said SFI will invite ARA to future debates. Stauch said ARA is willing to debate with SFI.
Middle East Law Students Association co-founder Evan Leibhan, a third-year law student, said students should befriend those of other ethnicities to alleviate tensions.
"I don't believe anybody is ready for this debate," Leibhan said. "Students need to know the facts and not take things personally."
Jonathan Schwartz, a third-year law student and secretary of the Jewish Law Students Association, said the event helped to give some Jewish students a sense of security.
"We feel like we're being discriminated against," he said. "They want the destruction of Israel, which is the center of Jewish life."
Marcus said campus anti-Semitism is a growing problem across the U.S. He said students at some universities have passed out flyers and posters promoting stereotypes about Jewish students being too rich, too powerful and even baby-killers.
Marcus said some people are "cloaking their bigotry" by claiming to be anti-Zionists or anti-Israel. He said anti-Zionist, and even anti-war, ideologies can lead to anti-Semitism.