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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor

Published: October 29, 2010
Section: Editorials

During my three years at Brandeis, I have enjoyed following The Hoot’s coverage of political events on campus. Yet this week, I was thoroughly disappointed to find blatant pro-Zionist bias in articles on two important campus lectures: first in the article on Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Hedy Epstein and second, in the article on conservative activist David Horowitz. The former article pays great attention to opposition from Zionist campus groups, while the latter completely ignores the equally fervent opposition from progressive non-Zionist groups.

As an organizer of Hedy Epstein’s talk, (hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies Program), I was happy that members of the Brandeis Zionist Alliance (BZA) attended and expressed their contrasting views. The writer focused on BZA’s actions in her article, extensively quoting from their fliers and interviewing only one student attendee, Steve Feldman of BZA, who criticized Epstein’s analysis of the conflict. The writer interviewed no organizers of the event and no politically nonaligned students who may have been able to offer a more nuanced critique of Epstein’s talk. The use of ambiguous language (such as referring to the West Bank as “Palestinian-Occupied”) revealed an unfortunate lack of familiarity with Middle Eastern politics.

Student groups host speakers with the intention of promoting dialogue, so I am glad that BZA was mentioned in the article. Yet if The Hoot wishes to represent multiple sides of an issue, they should be consistent in their news coverage. Covering Horowitz’s talk, there was no mention of Jewish Voice for Peace, whose members stood outside of the event distributing informative tri-folds and who raised challenging questions following the talk.

These tri-folds argued that there is nothing “anti-Israel” about opposing policies that violate the human rights of Palestinians. This polite form of protest enhanced the discussion, as the materials were read by Horowitz himself, as well as many audience members. The writer did not bother to interview students in the audience, who were largely offended by Horowitz’s unfounded claims that inequality is “natural” and that criticism of Israeli policy is uniformly “genocidal.” She only vaguely states that some members of the audience were “more liberal than [Horowitz]”: a useless statement, considering the extreme bigotry that Horowitz expressed toward women, Muslims, people of color and non-Zionist Jews.

When any speaker comes to campus, ideologically divergent students have an opportunity to attend, hear another point of view, and express their own through demonstration and discussion, which campus newspapers thus have a responsibility to represent. The Hoot is setting an irresponsible precedent if it resolves to cover these forms of expression only when their message falls in line with the right-wing Zionist values too often propagated, without being questioned, at Brandeis.

If the editors of The Hoot wish to maintain any journalistic integrity, I suggest that they encourage consistency among their reporters.

Liza Behrendt ’11