Palestinian supporters vocally opposed University President Mary Sue Coleman’s response to an offensive e-mail sent to more than 1,000 members of the University community last this week and her stance on the University’s financial investments in Israel.

Paul Wong
LSA senior Fadi Kiblawi, co-founder of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, whose e-mail was allegedly spoofed last week, sits outside the Fleming Administration Building yesterday afternoon.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality spokesperson Eric Reichenberger, a first-year Rackham student, said yesterday during a press conference at the Union that Coleman acted prematurely and unprofessionally in responding to the fraudulent e-mail without confirming its origins.

“Rather than seriously address the offensive e-mail and reassure the campus that it did not originate from SAFE, she irresponsibly seized upon this opportunity to advance her own personal and political agenda,” Reichenberger said.

Coleman’s e-mail was sent out one day after unidentified computer hackers used SAFE’s e-mail account to send a “spoofed” e-mail to University faculty and staff members inviting them to the upcoming Second National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement, sponsored by SAFE.

The e-mail was falsely signed by SAFE co-founder Fadi Kiblawi, an LSA senior, and also contained what some students said were anti-Semitic remarks.

“As part of an organized campaign to disrupt next month’s national student conference on Palestine, a viciously anti-Semitic e-mail was spoofed in the name of SAFE and one of its key organizers,” Reichenberger said at the conference, which was attended by more than 40 students, both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian.

Coleman said in the e-mail that the conference does not represent the views of the University and condemned the “spoofed” e-mail’s inflammatory language. She also said the University does not support selling University stock in companies doing business in Israel.

Reichenberger demanded an apology from Coleman for not consulting SAFE before sending her message to the University community.

“As a result of her statement, (Coleman) now has an even more urgent responsibility to publicly exonerate all members of SAFE of any involvement in the offensive e-mail,” he said.

“Her statement outrageously implies that SAFE has either not acted in a civilized manner in the past or that there is reason to suspect that there will be a lack of civility from us in the future,” Reichenberger said in response to a section of Coleman’s e-mail advising conference participants to “respect all University rules concerning appropriate conduct on campus.”

Rackham student Idris Elbakri said, “It was a mistake to link the hacker’s e-mail to our movement. She did not in any way try to explain to the community that the e-mail was the act of hackers,”

As for the upcoming Palestinian Solidarity Conference, Kiblawi said it is still going ahead as planned.

Reichenberger also protested what he said was Coleman’s message that she does not support the conference.

“I think any student organization in our position would feel the same way. We have to protect the rights of all student organizations here on campus to express their views without feeling the possibility of an attack by the president of our University.”

Supporters of the University’s stance toward divestment were also present at the press conference, but SAFE organizers said their focus was not to promote divestment but to protest Coleman’s actions.

“We’re addressing the concern of Mary Sue Coleman threatening the safety of SAFE members and also her expressing her views on an issue she has no right to,” LSA senior Aisha Sabadia said.

The Michigan Student Zionists also distributed a statement, saying that while Kiblawi might not have written the “spoofed” e-mail, “he is guilty of having written and published much more virulent and inciteful anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past.”

“We’re here protesting this rally, which we believe to be a publicity stunt,” said LSA senior Adi Neuman, the president of the Michigan Student Zionists.

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