Thursday, October 12, 2006

University Of Michigan: Dearborn

It's come to the forefront lately that Dearborn, Michigan is becoming a hotbed for jihadi groups.

Michael at My Not So Random Thoughts has been conversing with UofM over the Student Government's anti-Israeli divestment resolution.

So far, it has resulted in a few emails being shot back and forth, and the latest is, I feel, worth sharing!

The text of the letter is in red, Michael's response is in black. Here goes:

And We're Heading Back to UofM-Dearborn

That's right, it's not over yet. At this point, almost 25% of this blog has been devoted to the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government's anti-Israel divestment resolution.

In my last post, I said that I didn't think I'd be hearing from Tarek Baydoun, the Student Government (SG) President. Well, I did hear back from him.

I took most of the content of my last post on this issue, "Divestment Resolution Dissected," and formed it into an email, which I sent along to Mr. Baydoun; the SG Executive Board; the Michigan Journal, the UM-D student newspaper; the Chancellor of the UofM-Dearborn; and the President of the University of Michigan. I got a prompt reply from Mr. Baydoun.

So without further ado, here is Mr. Baydoun's reply, and my comments thereon:

I think it is fairly obvious that you are incorrect in claiming that anyone in SG is "anti-semitic" or working against the state of Israel [Why is this obviously incorrect? I never called the SG anti-Semitic (check my previous emails: I said that the SG had passed a biased and anti-Semitic resolution), and the resolution at hand is, in fact, designed to work against the state of Israel; that is its admitted purpose. In the resolution you aim to have the University remove 12 million USD worth of investments from the Israeli economy.]

(since these two are apparently synonymous in your vernacular). [They frequently are used synonymously. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, on this subject, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” From an article in Encounter, Dec 1969, pg. 24.]

Since the goal of divestment is peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and the focus of our activism is on our own democratic institutions, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, by your own admission on your blog, you assumed that we were anti-semitic and "biased" before you even read the resolution. [No, I assumed that the SG had passed a biased and anti-Semitic resolution. Upon reading the resolution, I was proven correct. See my detailed critique of the resolution.]

Your history of anti-arab blogging online [Has lasted less than one month. Your history of public utterances, including letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, quotations to newspapers, and previous support for divestment moves stretches back at least two years. Please see my previous email for some citations.

In addition, when I went looking for your public record on this subject, I sought out just that: a public record. I purposely excluded from my search all posts and responses to Web forums, bulletin boards, and blog sites. It has been my experience that people frequently use such sites to “blow off steam,” and as such will use language, and express opinions, much less temperate that they would normally. I was looking for your more considered opinion.

However, in these missives, I have found frequent use of provocative and inflammatory language. To use your letter to editor of 13 Dec 2004, to the Michigan Journal, as an example, you used phrases such as “racist state,” “fascist Zionist agenda,” and “apartheid state.”] ,

and the fact that you are a self-described "radical zionist" who "loves Israel" [I have never denied either. I also love the states of Maryland and Michigan, and must confess to a deep fondness for the United States in general, as well as a strong streak of civil libertarianism.].

and lives in occupied Palestine, [Here is an important point, so read it carefully: I beg you, please, to define “occupied Palestine.” You have read my blog, so you know that I live in the town of Karmiel, in the Central Galilee. I invite you check a map; you will find that Karmiel lies inside the so-called “Green Line,” Israel’s 1949 to 1967 borders. The city of Karmiel was established in 1964 (per the Karmiel City Offices), before there were any “occupied territories.”

The Green Line is the most commonly recognized Israeli border, and the one which most Arab states want to see Israel resume; take a look at the recent Qatari initiative presented to Hamas and the PA. By the logic of these Arab states, then, I do not live in “occupied Palestine.” I live in the State of Israel. Several Arab states have extended official recognition and diplomatic relations to Israel.

Unless, of course, you agree with Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO. According to the US Department of State, these are a state sponsor of terror, and three terrorist organizations. None recognizes that Israel has any right to exist at all. To give an example of these bodies’ view, here is the Hezbollah spokesman, Hassan Ezzedin, in an interview with the New Yorker Magazine, published 14 Oct 2002:
"Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine," he added, referring to the year of Israel's founding. The Jews who survive this war of liberation, Ezzeddin said, "can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from."

So Mr. Baydoun, please define “occupied Palestine,” and tell us where you fall on this spectrum. That definition, and your position, lie at the heart of this matter.]

goes even further than your apparent willingness to load false rhetoric into your arguments to raise serious questions about your credibility on this issue. [What falsehoods, Mr. Baydoun? I have tried painstakingly to provide proper documentation, and citations, for every assertion I have made, and for every fact I have presented. So far, I have seen you do neither, nor have I have I seen you try to refute any of my assertions or facts.

You are right that a reliance solely on rhetoric will raise questions about credibility; however, it appears to me that you are the one so relying.]

Sir, with all due respect, you are not the average student on this issue, [You are correct; I am probably better educated on this issue.] and you speak from a point of a perceived Israeli national interest which you seem to place above our own. [No, I see them as congruent. As it appears, from the heat with which you write on the subject, that you see your own interests as congruent with those of the Lebanese and palestinians.]

Our job as student leaders is not to get into a conflict between Arabs and Israelis, but rather to speak out on an issue of morality and justice regarding our financial dealings with companies that may be complicit in the illegal and immoral practices [Again, show the documentation! Assertions without backing facts are merely rhetoric.]

of the state of Israel, among other parties and states. [I am glad to hear you admit that there are “other parties and states” involved in this matter. Will you name them? Will you document the “illegal and immoral practices” they may have engaged in? Will you condemn such practices in language as strong as that which you use against Israel?

There is an irony here, contained in the title to you letter to the editor, quoted above. You called that letter: Taking sides in Middle East conflict is a bad move for student government. You have now taken sides, strongly, against Israel. What happened to your statement, “not to get into a conflict between Arabs and Israelis?”]

Our students demonstrated their desire for such a resolution and some action on the issue, and we have responded. Is the fact that we agree with our students some sort of outrageous occurrence which threatens the credibility of such action? [You care correct that the SG should listen to the students. However, which students brought this up? Was it an overwhelming majority on campus? A plurality? A small minority? How did they bring this to the SG’s attention? Were they supported by large numbers of the faculty and staff? Was most of the student body supportive, or indifferent? Now we are getting into issues of transparency in government, an essential factor in a democratic institution.]

I reject your assumption that Arab American leaders don't have the same right and responsibility as our other American counterparts to speak out on issues of importance to our nation. [Where did I say that? I assumed, and told you that I assumed, that you and the SG allowed personal biases to decide a policy issue. You have yet to show me otherwise.]

Being Arab and having affiliations based on our opinions as Americans of Arab descent should not threaten our credibility. [Again, where did I say that? Anyone can be credible, as long as they back their opinions and positions with facts, supported by evidence. I have seen you offer no facts to defend the divestment resolution, nor any evidence that an unbiased debate was had on it, or even sought. That undermines the yours and the SG’s credibility on this issue.]

On the other hand, being a shameless defender of occupation, murder, and oppression is a credibility problem. [And there you go again, with unsupported rhetoric, and provocative, inflammatory language. Give facts, and support them!]

Mr. Baydoun, I have gone to great lengths to show why I thought that the SG Executive Board and Senate allowed personal biases to determine a policy position; that they did so without any kind of balanced debate, and even without seeking any kind of balanced debate; and, that the resolution produced was full of inaccuracies and hypocrisy. So far, I have not heard any evidence to the contrary.

Mr. Baydoun, do you have any positive defense to the claims I have detailed?

Finally, Mr. Baydoun, ... I will say publicly, and for the record, that I believe an independent Palestinian State is the most likely solution to the current Israeli-palestinian conflict. I believe that such a state will likely encompass all of Gaza and most of the West Bank, and have it’s capital in the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem. I believe that all palestinian refugees will have a right to return to this new State. As I see it, the main obstacles to negotiate are the exact route and nature of a connecting artery between Gaza and the West Bank, and the exact nature of palestinian access to holy sites in Jerusalem. Neither problem should be intractable.

As I pointed out in my last email, I believe also that there are positive and constructive steps that you and your fellow Arab-Americans can take to promote a peaceful solution. Encourage tourism in palestinian-controlled areas. Buy palestinian-made products, and encourage others to do so. Promote real dialogue with groups you oppose; not necessarily to force agreement, but so that you can get to know each other. Donate money to help rebuild palestinian towns and cities.

And that's it. Of course, I'll keep y'all posted.

I think, though, that what is really starting to upset me is how a student from a branch of a major American university still hasn't shown any kind of debating acumen after this long a correspondance. Are American colleges still teaching how to think?

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