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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Ethics Center’s ‘obsession’ with one-sided debate

Published: September 15, 2006
Section: Opinions

At the conclusion of last semester, the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life along with the Brandeis Administration deemed an art exhibit by Palestinian children, titled Voices from Palestine, to be too offensive and inappropriate for the Brandeis Community. They clamored that the art exhibit, in which children depicted their hopes and dreams, was too one-sided and lacked context. A small minority of students were offended, so the Center responded with censorship in order to be sensitive and politically-correct. However, the same Ethics Center that aided shutting down Voices from Palestine over 4 months ago is now sponsoring and promoting a viewing of the film Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West with the Brandeis Republicans for the 9/11 Reflections program.

In light of the Palestinian artwork censorship, the Ethics Center should be particularly aware of the programs they sponsor and the political positions that their sponsorships entail. Many Brandeis students, myself included, are greatly offended by the politicization of 9/11. The Ethics Center held a number of events, the majority of which were apolitical and appropriate for a campus so tied to New York City. However, they chose to sponsor many political events, including an anti-Bush speaker discussing Civil Liberties and events held by the Brandeis Republicans. While it is offensive that the Ethics Center felt as though politicizing the Reflections program would be appropriate, one must applaud their actions for representing both sides of the political coin at such politically biased university.

However, one must be troubled with the Center's unwillingness to allow the Arab view to be shown on campus. The Center failed to host a program that talked about Arab and Arab-American perspectives on 9/11 and the discrimination they now face, yet they feel it's appropriate to promote Islamophobic propaganda. The tragedy is that they shut down Palestinian Children on campus because their views were one-sided, while they see no reason to censor one-sided views against the religion of Islam. Despite an emotionless plea in the start of the film about peaceful Muslims, the film makes no attempt to be balanced. In fact, the filmmakers even brag on numerous websites that Obsession effectively equates fundamental Islam to Nazism.

Promoting this film during a 9/11 commemoration week, in light of their actions against Voices from Palestine, seriously calls the Ethics Center's views on Palestine and Islam, along with its bias towards Israel, into question. In an email, Dan Terris, director of the Ethics Center, stated that the film is appropriate because there will be a faculty member present (AMST Prof. Jerry Cohen) so students will have ample opportunity to air their views and hear one another's thoughts. Although, if a discussion session with a faculty member is adequate context for a event to be deemed two-sided and appropriate for Brandeis, why did the Ethics Center not hold a discussion event with in order to save the artwork exhibit?

One of the themes of Obsession is that the Arab media is nothing more than anti-Israeli, anti-Semetic, pro-terrorist propaganda that has extreme bias and fails to present the other side. It's a chilling irony that the claims of Obsession correlate with Brandeis' Ethics Center. After the intense, national-level scrutiny that the censorship of artwork gained, which forced the administration to hire a public-relations firm from New York to help handle the fallout, one would think the Ethics Center would wise up and look less biased. However, since the censorship last May, there has not been a single Arab event held a Brandeis that has been cosponsored or promoted by the Ethics Center and they have refused to apologize for their odious actions. While the Ethics Center should not be held down by a requirement to present every side of the story at every event, blatant censorship and favoritism goes beyond academic inquiry and slides towards the same indoctrination which Obsession is attempting to root out.