Allowing SAFE to read victims’ names disrespectful
To the Daily:
The goal of the Conference on the Holocaust is to demonstrate the importance of tolerance, educate our community about the horrors that arise through racial and ethnic prejudices and most importantly, to encourage students to take a stand against genocide. The annual 24-hour Holocaust vigil and reading of names of victims is devoted to remembering and honoring those who perished at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. I have been forced to think about what this means in the past few days after having learned that Students Allied for Freedom and Equality had requested to sign up for an hour time slot to read names one day after it invited Norman Finkelstein to give the keynote address at their 1st Annual Free Palestine Banquet.
It is for this reason that I denied SAFE’s request to participate as a group in the vigil. I would feel hypocritical and, more importantly, disrespectful to those affected by the Holocaust if I had agreed to let SAFE co-sponsor a Holocaust commemoration vigil after it invited Finkelstein to speak on campus earlier this week. Finkelstein’s presence on campus offended and hurt many in the Jewish community, especially as his lecture took place during a week devoted to Holocaust education and commemoration. SAFE has every right to bring him to campus, but I do not believe it then has a right to expect to participate as an organization in the vigil. I do not assume that Finkelstein’s skepticism of the sincerity of Holocaust commemoration or his references to Elie Wiesel as the “resident clown” for the Holocaust “circus” are representative of every SAFE member’s attitude; however, actions speak louder than words. On Tuesday night, he spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; however, inviting a man who has written that the Holocaust is “used to justify criminal policies of the Israeli state and U.S. support for these policies” sends a clear message: SAFE either agrees with Finkelstein or is at least willing to ignore a dominant aspect of his ideology in favor of his other beliefs.
Additionally, SAFE has a recent history of promoting Holocaust denial. In March 2002, the Muslim Student Association held a conference, “Perspectives on the Muslim World.” SAFE sponsored a table that sold Roger Garaudy’s book, “The Founding Myths of Modern Israel.” The book includes a chapter entitled “The Myth of the Holocaust,” which states that the fact that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust is a gross exaggeration and that what Hitler did does not warrant the label “genocide.”
I have already said that I would feel hypocritical and disrespectful if I were to agree to SAFE’s participation, but frankly I would hope that those members of SAFE who decided to promote a Holocaust denial book would feel the same. Although I could not in good conscience attach SAFE’s name to the vigil, I have informed SAFE that any individual members who wish to remember the Holocaust are encouraged and welcomed to participate. I assume that anyone who would take the time to read the names of Holocaust victims does so out of a sincere belief in the significance of remembering the Holocaust.
Chair, Conference on the Holocaust