Jewish students at Northeastern tremble in fear

November 29, 2011

In News

Dear Mr. President,

It is with great urgency and concern that we write you this letter.  We are writing as certain representatives of the Jewish community at Northeastern and as members of the executive boards of Northeastern Hillel,  and Huskies for Israel.  Firstly, the Jewish community at Northeastern would like to express our sincere gratitude to your working to help develop and grow our community at Northeastern.  Our community has never been larger or more vibrant than in the last two years and we continue to see the results of this growth every day.

The issue for why I am writing is in regards to our relations with and the activities of the Northeastern Students for Justice in Palestine.  This year we have made a concerted effort to build a positive, peaceful and mutually respectful relationship and a trustful dialogue with NU SJP.  Earlier in the semester we even came up with the idea to co-sponsor an event with them called “Stand Up for Peace”, a two man comedy show with  Palestinian and Jewish American friends advocating peace and breaking down barriers through comedy.  The event was a great success and we hoped to further build trust and a working relationship with SJP going forward.  Additionally, Huskies for Israel and NU SJP came together with Barbra Gotshalk, the creator of Seeds of Peace, to begin talks of cooperation. This is why the Jewish community at Northeastern watched with great concern and horror as NU SJP “occupied” the Israeli Consulate of New England at 20 Park Plaza, spewing hateful rhetoric including “viva intifada,” which carries the connotation of the suicidal terror campaigns to blow up civilians in the Jewish State.   As a result of their actions NU SJP (in a YouTube video) has been featured on PressTV, Iranian State News.

The Jewish community at Northeastern is beginning to feel unsafe and uncomfortable on campus and we feel it is the obligation of the University to prevent that.  It is our hope that the University will fulfill its obligation to its students to make them feel safe and secure on campus again and take preventative and punitive actions against those who choose to do otherwise.

With great urgency our community is asking for your intervention with the scheduled lecture of Norman Finkelstein on December 1st in 20 West Village F from 7:00-10:00pm hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine, the Arab Student Association, and the International Affairs Department (Professor Dennis Sullivan).  I am sure you know who Norman Finkelstein is and my question would be this:  What would their motive be to bring such a speaker?  What good will come from paying such a speaker to lecture here?  The university is paying (with our student activity fee) for and funding Finkelstein’s Speech.  A university sanctioned and funded lecture by Norman Finkelstein will be an unprecedented step towards creating an environment that is harmful and hostile to Jewish students on our campus.

In his controversial book The Holocaust Industry, Finkelstein argues that “Jewish elites” have created an “industry” to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust as a ploy to extort money and to gain influence, as well as a tactic “to crush any dissent, any criticism, of the State of Israel.” The New York Times’ review of the book described its premise as a “novel variation” of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the fraudulent essay concocted in the late nineteenth century by the Czarist secret police which purports to uncover a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

As the Jewish leaders on our campus whose own families perished in the Holocaust, we will not stand for such hateful incitement on our campus.  If the University funds this event and allows it to proceed, irreparable damage will be done to the Jewish students on our campus that comprise about 1,000 members of our student body, and the University will ultimately stand accountable for that harm.  At a time when we believe Northeastern is trying to foster growth for its Jewish community, we urgently request that you intervene to cancel and de-fund this event on December 1st.  We see this as contributing towards a growing environment of hostility towards Jewish students that have become rampant in parts of the University of California system and other schools across the country, where Jewish enrollment has drastically decreased.  We are fully appreciative of our first amendment rights, however this does not mean that the university should fund such forms of speech against our community members and express such apathy towards our feelings of security.  We see absolutely nothing positive coming from Norman Finkelstein coming to spew his lies and hate on our campus.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their own facts, especially in an academic environment.   To what end do SJP, The Arab Student Association, and Professor Sullivan want to bring Norman Finkelstein to our campus?   Is it to hide antisemitism behind the fact that Finkelstein was born of Jewish parents?  Just what does the Holocaust have to do with a peaceful solution in the Middle East?  Does Professor Sullivan think he can get away with this, now, because he is stepping down at the end of the semester?

Furthermore, hosting an event such as this will have very negative publicity for the University.  Wherever Finkelstein speaks there is a wave of protests against his presence.  He is the definition of an anti-academic and he has been discredited as a  liar and a radical revisionist of history.  Universities who host him are placed under the scrutiny of many organizations including the Anti-Defamation League for fostering anti-semitism, whether directly or indirectly.  Just as we would expect racial supremacists such as David Duke to not be welcomed to our community, we also expect that Jewish Conspiracy Theorists, and supporters of terror will also not be welcomed on or funded to be on our campus.   Additionally, Norman Finkelstein has openly met with and supports the leaders of the Hezbollah who, prior to 9/11 killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization in history.

Finkelstein lauds Hezbollah, the fundamentalist terrorist group responsible for numerous bloody attacks, including the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argetina which killed 86 Jewish Argentinians and injured over 200 civilians:

Finkelstein states: “I did make a point of publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation. … Indeed, looking back my chief regret is that I wasn’t even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack.” He also states “The US qualifies as the main terrorist government in the world today” Do you think young American men and women who are fighting militant Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan are terrorists?

We are appalled that the university would sanction such hateful rhetoric against a significant portion of the student body.  Another concern is amongst Jewish alumni and parents of Northeastern who have been privy to these events and many are just as displeased.  The fact that Professor Sullivan would sanction such a lecture further outrages our community as Jewish students are now too uncomfortable to enroll in his classes (due to this and other inappropriate actions by him).  If this event proceeds, there will be an organized response from the Jewish community of Northeastern and the wider Boston Jewish community as well  as much publicity of the event and the decisions made to allow Finkelstein an audience at Northeastern.

We will not stand idly by as this is allowed to happen at the school we call home.  We chose to attend Northeastern, and we choose to pay tuition each semester.  Please do not let that money fund hateful speech against us and please stand up for our safety and comfort on campus.  It is our biggest fear that all of the events of the semester will snowball to create a hostile environment for Jewish students like that of UC-Irvine or UC-Davis.  Irvine was once a Jewish destination school, today their Jewish community  numbers have all but disappeared due to the extremely hostile environment they faced on campus from Anti-Israel students and groups.  Let me make our position clear, we are not anti-Palestinian, we are pro-peace and this lecture will only serve to harm Jewish students and will not further peaceful goals of any organization or entity and will not contribute towards positive, accurate, and intellectual discussion within the classroom or on campus.  We don’t want NU to be compared to UCI.

Additionally, one does not have to be born a gentile to be anti-Semitic, a fact which Finkelstein has proven over and over again.  It is our greatest hope that if the university is to fund speakers regarding the conflict in Palestine and Israel that professors bring speakers with academic integrity, who will uphold the academic integrity of the university, and have at least some semblance of an unbiased discussion.  Many speakers of such a nature have been brought before but Norman Finkelstein is not one of them.  It is also our hope that such speakers would promote peace through a two state solution, and not advocate the destruction of the Jewish State as the “final solution” to the conflict.   It sends chills down my spine to know that the destruction of my family during the holocaust will be used as a platform to promote hatred of Israel through bringing Norman Finkelstein to our campus to hear about his “Holocaust Industry,” and other radical and historically unfounded ideas.   Our people’s past drives us to defend the sanctity of these collective memories, not to have them be compared in such a manner.   Justice is better served through the promotion of peace, not the hijacking of history.

We continue to be extraordinarily proud to call ourselves Huskies and to call Northeastern our home.  We hope it will continue this way.  We are extremely grateful for the time you have taken to read our concerns and we look forward to receiving a prompt response.