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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

LETTER: Shoebat event fosters bad atmosphere

Published: February 11, 2005
Section: Opinions

To The Editor:

I saw the flyers advertising Walid Shoebat whom, as one flyer stated, had converted from PLO-terrorist to Zionist plastered all over campus. I saw another flyer referring to Shoebats presentation as Confessions of terror. What struck me so much from these flyers was the sensationalism that they embodied.

I chuckled sadly to myself when I read the line, Doors open at 6:45 …: It reminded me more of a rock concert than an educational speaking engagement. What really hurts me though, is the type of sensationalism that these flyers portrayed let alone the actual event has become quite appealing to all different types of political groups (on this campus and throughout our great nation no sarcasm intended). Whats even more scary for me is that I know I am not completely immune to its effects. After all, I am an emotional human being.

Also, as a person who identifies himself with the Jewish community on campus, I am greatly upset at the apparent lack of reasonable thinking that accompanied this whole ordeal. This does not at all mean that I am not angered and saddened beyond words at the terrorist attacks that are carried out against Jews in Israel by Palestinian terrorists, or that I am opposed in principle to a former terrorist speaking out against terrorism. I understand the legitimate feelings of anger and pain and hopelessness. But I think that all people who took issue with Shoebats message did not do so because they support terrorism.

That is not the issue. The issue, as it appears to me, is that this type of event is indicative of a much wider phenomenon, a plague of emotional reactivity that leads to people like you and me becoming more and more distanced from one another. So how can we keep this polarizing force(s) from pushing us towards the extremes? The answer, I think, is quite simple (unlike the Israeli-Palestinian conflict): Listening. While I did not attend Shoebats presentation, I have garnered from first-hand accounts of the event that it was not an exchange in the true sense of the word.

Ill leave the debate concerning the details of the event to the people who were actually there;

but I was in Shapiro Atrium right after the event, and from what I witnessed myself, tensions were high and most people had gathered unto their respective clans, if you will.

Bottom line is: We do not deserve to be doing this to ourselves. Beyond all else, I feel a great deal of sadness at the lack of listening and real dialogue that is taking place in our community (especially within specific groups on campus).

It was relieving to me to read the mission statement in the first edition of The Hoot, as well as in a recent publication within the Jewish community called Artzeinu, that focuses on portraying students personal connections with the state of Israel. While there are other examples like these within the Brandeis community, there is still much work to be done.

A person whom I respect very much said over lunch the other day, Real listening in our community is quite scarce. Indeed.

Preston Neal 07