To the Daily:
Solving the “core issue” without violent measures
As our university looks toward next semester, we must seek new expectations for campus dialogue on contentious issues. As progressive students eager to live in a world of equality, we must understand that violence against civilians is never a legitimate method to attain a goal. When the authors of Thursday’s viewpoint about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wrote of the Palestinians’ use of terrorism to fight for a Palestinian state as “not the cause, but the symptom of the core issue,” they sought to justify a means that will never lead to a productive end (Focusing on the core issue, 04/10/2008). If the Palestinian goal is to achieve “freedom, equality, and self-determination,” then Palestinians must recognize that using violence is both irresponsible and ineffective.
Granted, the writers of the viewpoint acknowledged the necessity for co-existence, and the significance of this declaration should not go unrecognized. However, the plea is delegitimized when they write, “Until there is equality, we can only expect more vengeful violence.” Since when, in modern society, is violence expected? And worse, accepted?
No country in the world other than Israel would ever be asked to sacrifice the security of its citizens to assist a community that denies its existential rights. The Israeli government must protect its people (a diverse populace which includes many Muslims, Christians, atheists, Bahai, Druze, Arabs, Africans, Europeans, Asians and Americans, among others), and has every right to defend itself against acts of terror. Israel does not have the right to inflict human rights violations on innocent people, but its ability to deal with security threats is often jeopardized by the fact that Hamas (an integral part of the Palestinian governing coalition and, as far as America and many European countries are concerned, a terrorist organization) uses innocent Palestinians as “human shields” by sheltering their rocket launchers and militants among civilians. Were Hamas to undertake non-violent resistance instead of endangering the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, there is no doubt a Palestinian state would be created quickly.
Mahatma Gandhi may have been opposed to the creation of Israel, as the viewpoint quoted him as writing, but he would undeniably be dismayed at the methods used by the Palestinian leadership to reverse what has been established. The “core issue” is not the establishment of the State of Israel, but rather a question of how the Palestinian people can gain autonomy in a productive way, given the current realities on the ground. Terrorism has only accomplished a stalemate of bloodshed on both sides. New, more reasonable tactics are in order.
The letter writer is an executive board member of the American Movement for Israel
If YAF wants to help America, join the Army
I read Wednesday’s viewpoint by the University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom with both surprise and disgust (The war at home, 04/09/2008). The one clear idea that resonated throughout the viewpoint was YAF’s gung-ho, pro-war, chicken-hawk agenda and its contempt for the soldiers who are actually fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While YAF used the typical neo-conservative tactics of mentioning the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (which our own government has determined had no links to Iraq), discussing the suppression of minority rights (although the Bush administration continues to support the Saudi Royal Family’s despotic regime) and continually using words like “freedom” to describe its agenda, this group did not speak for me as a veteran.
War, unfortunately, is a complex and occasionally necessary way to confront the greed, corruption and evil in our world. But chastising an entire region by calling mainstream Middle Easterners “jihadists,” many of whom I served with, only serves to unnecessarily enflame the disaffected population I worked to assist. If YAF really wants to help our country, I encourage its members to visit www.goarmy.com and join the “brothers and sisters” the group claims to support. In lieu of that, perhaps YAF will advocate deploying troops with proper equipment, a clear mission and veteran’s benefits when they return from war, something the group’s fellow neo-cons forgot.
Make no mistake, the people who attacked us were, and still are, in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But for reasons unclear to me, my commander in chief has decided to ignore these threats. YAF’s members continue to cover for our incompetent leaders, who place America’s military at risk to further their own self-interests, all the while advocating others to fight and die in their places.
The letter writer served as an infantry officer with a Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan from May to November 2007. He is the Michigan state captain of VoteVets.org, an organization representing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
A new race box is a long-needed option
After reading the front-page article Thursday about adding “North African/Middle Eastern” to the race and ethnicity section of admissions applications (Students push for new race option, 04/10/2008), I would like to thank Project: Check It and the Michigan Student Assembly for passing a resolution to add this new check box. As MSA representative Muhammad Alghanem said in a news story about the topic Wednesday (Tuition allocations to shift for undergrads, 04/09/2008), students from that region aren’t white.
As an Arab, I tell people all the time that I’m not white, but people often scoff or think I’m joking. I’m actually half Arab and half Polish. During the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe in the 13th century, some Mongols mixed into the Polish genome, leaving at least one indelible mark for many Polish people: the epicanthal eye fold, a small flap of skin along the inner corner of the eye, which I have. This makes me part Mongolian too and makes me less than 50 percent white.
Many Arabs, myself included, don’t like having to identify as white on official documents. I think the University should be aware of and recognize our racial identity.
Graduating seniors, take survey to improve ‘U’
Over the next week, graduating seniors will receive an e-mail from the Office of the Provost inviting them to fill out a Senior Survey. The message will explain the survey’s purpose and provide a link to the online survey. Participation is voluntary, but as the co-directors of this survey project we encourage everyone to take part. The Class of 2008 is the first complete graduating class in more than a decade to be surveyed in this way. We are hoping to hear from students enrolled in every undergraduate school and college.
The survey will ask about your future plans and key aspects of your undergraduate experience. What are we hoping to get out of this survey? The University will use the results to learn more about undergraduate education from the student point of view, and target improvement areas for future students. This can only happen, however, if students take the time to share their perspectives.
We hope that when the invitation arrives, you will give it your consideration. It can be taken at your convenience over the Internet and should take less than 20 minutes. Please know that your responses will be kept confidential. As a further incentive and a token of our appreciation, we will randomly select seven participants to win either one of four $50 gift certificates or one of three $100 gift certificates redeemable at Amazon.com.
Ben van der Pluijm and Karen Zaruba van der Pluijm is a professor of geology and is the director of the Global Change Program. Zaruba is the senior counselor to the provost and a senior institutional research analyst.
Students are more aware than often given credit
In response to Ashlea Surles’s column Friday about the prevalence of illiteracy and poverty in America (America’s other reality, 04/11/2008), I would like to state my disdain for the piece’s condescending, pedantic tone and lack of meaningful sentiment.
Like several of Surles’s previous columns, the article was full of gross oversimplifications and suggested that individuals from “society’s middle and upper crust” are blissfully unaware of problems plaguing this nation like poverty, illiteracy and educational discrepancies. I find this line of reasoning offensive, narrow-minded and reductive.
To suggest that students from the middle and upper class arrive at this university as mindless drones, gleefully skipping through life without a care in the world, belies the diverse student body and the work being done to make college more inclusive. Just because Surles was unaware of illiteracy’s prominence in this country until last week does not mean the rest of this university is as frighteningly oblivious. Furthermore, by suggesting that because students who have attended this university will be “the ones who are most likely to hold the Senate seats, shape policies, and be in positions that affect change,” Surles plays into elitism that she supposedly challenges.
In the future, I hope that Surles spends a bit more time thinking these large issues through before attempting to pigeonhole and arrange students according to her own arbitrary standards.
Standards for athletes, but not minorities?
I find it hard to believe that in his column last Monday Karl Stampfl did not notice the obvious parallels between his point about not lowering academic standards for athletes and the argument against affirmative action (The scandal that wasn’t, 04/07/2008). While I agree that some athletes admitted to the University “simply can’t keep up academically,” it is also true that some under-qualified students admitted because of affirmative action cannot perform at a level necessary to attend the University.
How can Stampfl support affirmative action and at the same time label the lowering of admission standards for athletes as a problem?