A disquieting story about the propagation of jihadist “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” slander in the United States, unconscionable dhimmitude from a Presbyterian “peacemaking group” — and nothing but supine silence from officials at an American college. From Cleveland Jewish News, with thanks to EPG:
Last October, Samir Makhlouf, invited to speak at the College of Wooster, delivered a diatribe against Jews.
During his presentation, he presented the fraudulent, antisemitic screed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a factual book that “explains” how Zionists have been taking over the world’s political, economic, religious and communication organizations.
Makhlouf’s 15-20 minute slide presentation was rife with dead Palestinian bodies “proving” Israeli war crimes. The slide show ended with a Star of David morphing into a swastika, and had frames equating Zionism with Nazism. The “equals” sign was then replaced by a “greater than” sign, suggesting that Zionism was even worse than Nazism.
While no one disputes that this is what Makhlouf presented, to date, no one from the College of Wooster, or Presbyterian Peacemakers, the organization that provided the speaker, has issued an apology or acknowledged those who were offended by the presentation.
Bettysue Feuer, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, says she has been working on this issue with the College of Wooster for quite a while. A public apology, she says, “would go a long way.” Noting that Makhlouf is not the first antisemitic speaker the College of Wooster has hosted, Feuer says she is disturbed by the seeming lack of supervision over who is permitted to air their views.
“It’s a shame there is not more sensitivity shown to the diverse population of the campus. To allow a speaker who shows such bigotry shows a real lack of understanding on (the College of Wooster’s) part.”
Feuer is also interested in knowing the criteria the Presbyterian Peacemakers use to choose their speakers.
Mark Wilson, a Jew who is a professor of geology at the college, says he was approached by a number of students following Makhlouf’s presentations, one held during an ethics class, and another at an open public lecture. The students told him they “were rather amazed” by what they saw and heard.
Relatively few Jews attend the college, notes Wilson, so there didn’t seem to be much of an outcry against Makhlouf’s presentations. Nevertheless, he says, an apology should have been issued.
Also disturbing, Wilson adds, is the response some of the more virulently antisemitic speakers receive. “Fawaz Damra (imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland and recently cited for lying about his ties to terrorist organizations) was invited here, and while I don’t mind having him on campus, I was disturbed that no mention was made of his recent past.”
While he’s not sure how many students or faculty came to hear Damra, Wilson says there was a “very large turnout of people from the area who cheered him and cheered him.”
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, proclaims a “commitment to peacemaking” on its Web site. They profess “a journey of racial justice and understanding” as well as commitment to overcoming prejudice.
Sweet Young, an administrative assistant for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, told the CJN that no one from the organization would be available to comment on the October presentation by Makhlouf until some time in February. She directed questions to Gordon Shull, who hosted the speaker in Wooster.
Shull, a Presbyterian and former professor at the College of Wooster, admits he understands some students may have been offended. He is also aware that non-Jewish students may have come away with erroneous and harmful information about the validity of the Protocols. However, he says, he “would not encourage them (Peacemaker organization) to issue an apology. I’m not into apologies or casting blame.”
Shull sent out e-mails to the College of Wooster faculty intimating that the speaker’s presence at the college was actually the responsibility of the Israeli government because the Palestinian speaker he had initially tried to get was unable to secure a travel visa. He repeated the charge several times in a phone interview with this reporter that he felt the speaker’s appearance could be blamed on the Israeli government. Shull later called back saying he would like to retract that sentiment.
In further deflecting responsibility from himself, Shull said, “I regret that the director of the Hillel Foundation (Professor Peter Pozefsky) chose to be offended by it, rather than take it as a teachable event.”
Pozefsky a professor of history who has assumed the Hillel post as a volunteer, has pretty much singly-handedly raised concerns to fellow staff and administration about speakers such as Makhlouf and Damra. He estimates that at least seven such individuals making antisemitic remarks have spoken at the college in the past few years.
“There are plenty of people who are willing to say this is awful, but no one is willing to put their necks on the line,” he says. “I shouldn’t be the only one making sure Jews aren’t trashed on this campus.”
Pozefsky likens the Makhlouf fiasco to the response he received to requests he raised before Damra came to speak. “I didn’t want to censor him,” he says. “I just wanted students to know who he was before he spoke.”
Pozefsky e-mailed his concerns on the faculty listserve, but the response he got “was a combination of hostility and complacency.” On one occasion, a colleague accused him of trying to violate free speech. Another time, he was accused of harassment.
After the Presbyterian Peacemaker presentation, Pozefsky found himself once again in the position of attempting to rectify the damage made by a speaker’s slanderous allegations against Jews. While he didn’t attend the lectures, some of the students expressed their concerns to him. One student told him that he found “the illusion Makhlouf painted about Jewish bankers and their domination of the West” particularly disturbing. So was a slide that read, “May God bless our martyrs; may they find peace in the heavens.”
“There are very few Jewish students on campus,” Pozefsky points out, “and they don’t want to be activists or seem like crybabies.” However, he notes, these young people are in the care of the college, and their feelings and well-being should be taken into consideration. Further, he says, non-Jewish students have gotten “terribly shamefully biased, unscholarly and misleading, stridently antisemitic information as part of their (college) education.
“If women or blacks were spoken about like this, or if someone came and spread homophobic hate speech, that would never be tolerated,” he says. “Is this acceptable because it was directed toward Jews?”
R. Stanton Hales, president of the College of Wooster, did not return calls to the CJN. John Hopkins, assistant vice president for college relations and marketing, e-mailed the CJN to say that Hales will “make a statement once he has determined all the facts to his satisfaction.” He did not give a date when that would be.