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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

I was not going to see Walid Shoebat

Published: February 4, 2005
Section: Opinions

Anyone who has been around campus lately knows about the PLO terrorist turned Zionist named Walid Shoebat who was coming to campus and I had decided not to see him.

Nonetheless, I found myself at the door waiting to get through the metal detector to get in. From the start, I was put off by the sign-in sheet that seemed to be for purposes other than those the organizers were trying to convince us it was for. While they insisted that it was merely for security purposes, it rank of something that would be used for future propaganda with no mention of Shoebat, Brandeis, any of the sponsors of this event or the event itself. Rather, it was a sign-in sheet from a Jewish organization I didnt recognize and hadnt been publicized as having anything to do with the event.

I signed, under duress, and made my way through the line and inside. If you couldnt tell by now, I didnt think that I would get too much out of this event. I guess I just pictured different rhetoric. I assumed that words like evil would be thrown about in reference to Palestinians and Arabs in general. While Shoebat did stress what he labeled anti-Semitism in the Middle East and repeatedly referenced things like songs he sung as a child about killing Jews, he didnt label the people behind them as evil. While he might have simply been letting us draw that conclusion for ourselves, I dont think that was the case. There was even a certain fondness that he had when he spoke of some of the terrorists and anti-Semites that he knew personally. While he certainly believed that these thoughts and actions were the heart of the problem and that the Palestinians arent doing anything to make the situation better, the stark moral and personal judgments werent there.

Maybe the current climate of neo-conservatism has dulled my senses to all but the most egregious of claims, but maybe this was the crux of his thesis (or what I took as his thesis). His thesis, as I saw it, was that there should be pro-Israel Palestinians. I rolled my eyes at that one, but in his mind it made sense. While he opposes land for peace, he doesnt think that Palestinians living in Israel pose any threat to the state as most Zionists, including myself, assume. Instead, he saw Palestinians and Jews living together he noted that today, there is no mixing between Palestinians and Jews in Israel.

Of course, his views were also sprinkled with half truths and even flat out lies. Yeah, Im calling him on it. One of the things he stressed was that Israel had never done anything to the Palestinians that they should be objecting to that life under Israel was better for Arabs than any other system. The fact is that the Israeli government has taken land under a law that has been around since 1950 allowing the seizure of land belonging to Arabs who fled during the Israeli War of Independence, without paying for it [1950 Absentee Property Law], which even the Israeli attorney general has said cannot stand up to either Israeli or international law. Maybe Im just a little more defensive of my personal property than most, but I think Id get a bit angry over that if it happened to me or a community I identified with.

He also stressed the non-violence of all Jews and how a Jew would never take terrorist actions against Arabs. Unfortunately, to anyone that follows Israeli news, this isnt true. The BBC reported that on May 28, 2002, four Jewish Israeli settlers were arrested for plotting to blow up an Arab girls school in Jerusalem. The BBC also reported that The Israeli human rights organisation BTselem says that since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in Sept. 2000, 12 Palestinians have been killed and dozens injured in attacks by Israeli extremists. While it is nice to be able to think of the groups one belongs to as perfect, none are and that is a lesson lost on Shoebat.

Beyond those problems in his story, there is a stark difference between how he portrayed the Arab world and how Tony Horwitz, author of the orientation book for the class of 2007, described his time in the Arab world. His description was one where Arabs were very nice to him on a personal level, regardless of politics. With these two conflicting views of Arab attitudes toward Jews, I dont know which to believe.

During the question and answer period, one of the two Palestinian students at the school stood up to ask a question. As you can imagine, his opinion differed greatly from that of Shoebat (and the opinion of the room). Midway through his challenge to Shoebat, some of the members of the audience began to heckle him, telling him to Shut up! among other things. Until now, there had been no drama at the event and it saddened me that, after Shoebat talked at length about the freedom of speech afforded by both this country and Israel, his view would be silenced like that.

But not everyone in the room shared took part. One of the students sitting behind me whispered to the people alongside her in defense of the Palestinian student. It was one of those things that you wish you could remember forever and, as such, seems most fleeting. While this isnt a direct quote, it is the best I could do: Dont clap [for the people trying to silence him]. Hes a friend and while I disagree with a lot of what he says, we should give him our respect. I have been in places where I was the only Jew before. Imagine how he feels in this environment. After the program was done, I learned that the message came from Arielle Eisenbaum 08, who had lived in Israel for a year before coming to Brandeis and has a boyfriend there currently. All I can say is that my seat offered me the best message of the night.

Editors Note: The Hoot welcomes all submissions responding to on campus events. To submit a op-ed e-mail