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LU hosts Indian students

Lehigh hosts Indian students who produced award-winning MDG related films.

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February 25, 2007

Donia Jarrar

Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s representative to the United States, arrived on campus yesterday to give a lecture titled “Israel/Palestine: A History Undecided.”

Thanks to the Global Union, we were given the opportunity to hear the Palestinian perspective, something that is not only underrepresented on this campus, but also misrepresented by students who have only been educated on the Israeli perspective.

In his letter to The Brown and White last Friday, “Need Fairness from Global Union” (Feb. 21, 2007), Nathan Punwani states, “The Global Union has repeatedly portrayed only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” first by holding a public screening of the Palestinian film “Paradise Now,” and then by inviting Afif Safieh to speak here.

This statement is one of the first in a series of statements by Mr. Punwani that is false. “Paradise Now” is a Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated film that does not condone violence, but renounces it. It portrays the humanity of the Palestinian people and uncovers the origins of suicide bombings, introducing Americans to the daily suffering Palestinians undergo as a result of an illegal and brutal occupation that controls every aspect of their lives.

Of course, it is this very idea that is constantly being debated on both sides, and I understand that. However, I believe the film was not only a beautiful, artistic achievement, but necessary.

It is necessary to bring the Palestinian viewpoint to mainstream America, whether you agree with it or not. That said, it was also necessary to bring it to Lehigh, since not many students here sympathize with, or understand, the Palestinian struggle.

Last year, the Global Union held a showing of this film, and within weeks the group invited an Israeli tank commander from the Israeli Defense Forces to give a presentation at Lehigh, a presentation where an ignorant and unknowing audience clapped while pictures of the green tanks that kill innocent Palestinians every day were shown one by one on the monitor.

Did anybody write in to The Brown and White then and ask, “Why was there no Palestinian victim who lost their family member, friend or home to one of these tanks present at the event to speak about their losses?”

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t, if I’m complaining about it now. But I understand that sometimes it is not always possible to represent both sides of a conflict at the same time, and although I disagree with the Israeli Defense Force’s use of force, I realize it is necessary for Lehigh students to be aware of both sides of the conflict and judge it for themselves.

This brings me to my point: The Global Union does not portray only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Punwani then goes on to state, “Criticism of Israel, by itself, is not anti-Semitic, but subjecting the Jewish state to a higher standard than any other nation is prejudiced and dangerously irresponsible.”

This idea, if you are not already aware of it, is one that the Anti-Defamation League (which fights anti-semitism, bigotry and extremism) and its supporters argue the world over: It is unfair to hold Israel to a higher moral standard than other nations, and criticism of Israel equals an attack on the Israeli and Jewish people of the world.

Before continuing, I’d like to say that if anything, it is not Israel that is held to a higher moral standard, but the Palestinians and the Arab world.

For example, a Palestinian blows up a bakery, killing himself and murdering three innocent people (which happened recently), but when the Israeli Defense Force squashes an entire Palestinian family, nobody talks about it or even cares even though it is state terrorism.

Now, if the Global Union were attacking the Israeli and Jewish people of the world and practicing anti-Semitism, well then of course that would be “prejudiced and dangerously irresponsible.”

But Mr. Punwani himself stated he does not believe it to be anti-Semitism, so I am not sure exactly why he continues to accuse the Global Union of bigotry, prejudice and irresponsible behavior.

The Global Union has been fair in its representation, and Afif Safieh is most definitely not going to promote anti-Semitism since the Palestinians, along with the rest of the Arab world, are Semitic.

I actually find it amusing that Mr. Punwani would accuse the Global Union of bigotry in this situation. If that were the case, the Global Union and all of the clubs it supports would most probably no longer exist on this campus. He should choose his words more carefully before making such an accusation, as I’m sure that could not have been his actual intention.

When it comes to not being able to directly question Mr. Safieh, I don’t see how this is any different from many other speakers who have lectured here at Lehigh. I, myself, have been to more than one event where questions were “screened and pre-selected,” meaning students write their questions on notecards before handing them in to be read out loud by a certain speaker. Only a few questions are chosen to be read. This is not the first time it’s been done.

Finally, the thing that disturbs me more than anything else in his letter is the statement, “It is my sincerest wish that Mr. Safieh conveys a message of hope, tolerance and a complete rejection of violence at the event on Monday night.”

This sentence in itself proves the prejudice that Mr. Puwani has against the Palestinian people. For him to assume that Mr. Safieh would convey anything other than that frustrates, offends and angers me more than ever.

Afif Safieh is a highly educated man whose achievements are those that one could only dream of accomplishing. As students, we should be honored to have him at our university.

I am thrilled that the Global Union has sponsored this event. I only hope that people were interested in hearing what he had to say Monday night.

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