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Publication Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sponsorship of speakers is unacceptable

By David Cherner and Brenda Yaskal

Third-year law students

We write to express our strong concern over the university's continued support of programming that is anti-Semitic in nature. The university's official acceptance of such activities directly contradicts Marquette's mission of "search[ing] for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others."

On March 2, the Muslim Student Association and Arab Student Association hosted "Soup with Substance: The Israeli Occupation Intensifies" as part of Arab Heritage Week. University Ministry and Jesuit University Students Together in Concerned Empowerment also sponsored this event.

What is most troubling is that such events are the latest in a series of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic events that have been expressly sponsored by Marquette. In April 2005, the Arab Student Association, Office of Student Development, and Marquette Student Government invited Norman Finkelstein to campus for a talk entitled "The Politics of Anti-Semitism." In 2000, Finkelstein wrote a book suggesting that Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust for self-serving needs.

Sponsoring this speaker portrays the image that the university supports such views and encourages the university community to perpetuate that hatred. Several concerned faculty met with the university to express their concerns. The university responded that it would pay more attention to this in the future.

In September 2005, Marquette and the Manresa Project sponsored a Conference on the Vocation of Peacemaking in the World of Many Faiths. A panel of speakers was brought in under the title "Jews of Conscience." Of the speakers, Hedy Epstein had previously compared Israelis to Nazis; Keren Batiyov had previously called Israel's policy on Palestine "ethnic cleansing"; and Jennifer Lowenstein had previously accused Israel of sadism and dehumanization. The university continued its support of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The most insulting part of that event was the title Jews of Conscience suggesting that only Jews who hold these views have a conscience. Again, concerned faculty and the executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations met with the university.

Our concern is not that Arab Awareness or Islam Heritage should be banned from campus. Students have the right to promote certain viewpoints, and while we may disagree with them, our interest in having an open-minded campus outweighs our disagreement. However, as Jewish students and members of the greater-Milwaukee Jewish community, we are truly disappointed with the Marquette administration for endorsing those viewpoints.

We feel that the university is marginalizing Jewish students by endorsing such one-sided events and future sponsorship of such events will only reinforce our concern that Marquette chooses not to abide by its own mission statement. More importantly, we believe that sponsorship of such extreme events will isolate the student body from being properly informed about the Israeli-Arab conflict.

We strongly urge the administration to consider and appreciate the potential consequences of its actions when choosing which events to sponsor. For the university to encourage its students how to "search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others," it must accept its role as a representative of the entire student body.

We look forward to the university's response.

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