Zahr painted wrong picture of Israel, Cornel West

BY JEREMY MENCHIK

Published March 15, 2001

In Amer Zahr"s recent column "Palestine: Lessons from the Holocaust," (3/14/01) he passes off half-truths and slanderous remarks as legitimate commentary. The Daily should have higher standards for their columnists.

Zahr claims that the questions posed to Dr. Cornel West went unanswered. In fact, Dr. West answered the question of both Zahr and other Palestinian supporters who used the question and answer period as an opportunity to bash Israel and proclaim their own views rather than respond to the content of Dr. West"s speech. Furthermore, those questions are another demonstration of the rudeness and inappropriate behavior of many supporters of the Palestinians, who use every Hillel event to attack Israel and rarely listen to the answers to their belligerent questions. The Department of Public Safety was even forced to remove one Palestinian supporter from Rackham.

Zahr claims that the American Jewish woman who asked about Israel"s violations of human rights received no reply except that the Conference on the Holocaust would be a fine opportunity to address these questions. Dr. West answered her query by illuminating the fact that Hillel does a wonderful job trying to open dialogue and discussion, rather than simply attack like Zahr does in his column. Only with an evenhanded and balanced perspective on the current violence can this university come to terms with opposing viewpoints and the current violence.

Unfortunately, on this campus the supporters of Israel find only belligerence and rejection when we try to open a dialogue that could lead to mutual understanding. Sadly, Israel is in the same position, finding children"s school busses blown up and ruthless lynching of soldiers when they reach out their hand in peace. While Sharon, Barak and Clinton have clearly tried to reach out to the Palestinian leadership to stop the current violence and normalize relations, Yasir Arafat will not even attempt to stop the violence, nor condemn the continued attacks on Israel. Instead he promotes the violence by brandishing a weapon.

Finally Zahr claims that his question concerning apartheid and the merits of Zionism were dodged. In fact, Dr. West replied to each part of the question. Zahr has a misunderstanding of Zionism, which is an umbrella term for a variety of viewpoints and political associations. There is Environmental Zionism, Left Zionism and Right Zionism, not to mention Religious or Cultural Zionism. Dr. West quickly pointed out this flaw in Zahr"s question, a fact that is absent from Wednesday"s column.

Regarding Apartheid and Zahr"s comparison of the Palestinian tragedy to the Holocaust, these comments are propaganda rather then historically accurate. Zahr talks about a "Holocaust in Palestine." The Holocaust was a purposeful attempt to exterminate an ethnic group, hardly the case in the Middle East where the Israeli government strives to resolve the conflict through the peace process, bolstering of the Palestinian economy and constructing a modern, democratic Palestinian State alongside Israel. Meanwhile the Palestinian Authority has not held an election since 1994, hardly a democratic organization preserving the rights of its citizens.

Just like Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, Zahr seeks to attack Israel without presenting a complete picture of the conflict or working towards a peaceful solution. While Hillel and Israel make repeated strides for beneficial dialogue and mutual understanding, Zahr and the Palestinian leadership on this campus prefer to lash back with hateful, biased and Anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Jeremy Menchik

LSA junior The writer is a member of the American Movement for Israel.