Events in the Middle East have a Northwest element to them. The Corrie family of Olympia, whose daughter Rachel died in Gaza in 2003, is focusing their understandable grief on the driver of the bulldozer under which Corrie died and the Israeli government, suing both for negligence.
A ship renamed Rachel Corrie tried to run the Israeli blockade after the May 31 flotilla incident. The Israelis let it through only after inspecting the cargo, so both sides made their points.
Perhaps some of the responsibility for her death lies close to home. Her fatal journey began at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, and we should ask what kind of “education” about the Arab-Israeli conflict Rachel received there.
My experience with anti-Israel bias at Evergreen goes back to 1994. I was recommended as a speaker for Israel Independence Day. When the organizers discovered I held strong pro-Israel views, they told me I could speak only on the condition that I share the podium with a speaker from the far left. At the talk, I asked them, “When you invite pro-Arab speakers, do you require them to be matched with a supporter of Israel?”
I don’t recall hearing an answer.
I spoke there again in 2007, one of seven Jewish panelists in a forum on the conflict at the Jewish Club. One lawyer said nothing, an Israeli with poor English tried to defend Israel, and four Jews vented their venom while I tried to hold the line.
After the talk, students and faculty told me of hate e-mails and ostracism that confront anyone trying to present the Israeli side, asking that their names not be used. This year the five students who founded a pro-Israel group in 2008 all left. The rest are intimidated into silence.
One of them left us a tape about his experiences. Walking into class, he would be taunted: “Have you drunk the blood of any Palestinian children today?”
This is one example of the gutter level of anti-Semitism that underlies the “anti-Israel” campaign at Evergreen.
Upon hearing about these problems I resolved to make fixing them a priority. My main partner now is Robert Wilkes, a conservative columnist who has written for the JTNews. I am also in contact with Israel supporters in the Olympia community.
History has taught us that when Jews are afraid, all decent people need to be afraid, and it is time to take a close look at what we are paying for at this college, where a radical anti-Israel faculty has turned a state-funded institution into their own private playground, allowing no opinion other than theirs to be heard. Once a department head is selected, he chooses, with no interference from the staff, all the other professors in his program.
If these professors were confident in what they were teaching, they would welcome debate. I tested this when a faculty member of Evergreen’s Middle East Department, Prof. Steve Niva, spoke at the University of Washington in November of 2008. Given one minute for a question, I asked him if he could cite a single speech by an Arab leader to an Arab audience in which he tells them that they must give up their dream of controlling all the land west of Jordan, now and forever.
I still can’t believe his answer: “Intent doesn’t matter!”
He then mumbled a few words about keeping commitments, which the Arabs have never done, looked at his watch, told us he was tired and rapidly exited the hall.
When some community members submitted a paid ad to the Cooper Point Journal, Evergreen’s student newspaper, listing a few of Israel’s undisputed accomplishments in honor of Independence Day, they refused to publish it unless it was undersigned by a student or student group. When I met with the leaders at the campus Hillel, none would stand up for Israel and they requested we don’t bring pro-Israel programming to the campus.
On June 2, 2010, the Journal published a vicious article condemning the flotilla operation, expressing deep sympathy for Hamas, whose charter demands not only the total destruction of Israel but encourages Muslims to murder virtually every Jew on the planet. The student author informs her readers she is Jewish!
I was sick when I read it and began composing a rebuttal, but stopped myself. It will never be published. No student or faculty member will sign it, and those of us on the outside, whose taxes support the college, can’t buy space to refute her charges. The pro-Israel voice has been completely silenced at Evergreen.
The student body has now voted overwhelmingly to divest funds from Caterpillar and companies doing business with Israel. I have just e-mailed the sponsors asking what discussion took place before the vote, and am waiting for their response
In 2007 the play My Name is Rachel Corrie was performed in Seattle. Rachel, quoted from her diaries tells us; “Dr. Samir (her host) told me that they didn’t have the tanks and the soldiers until the Intifada.” She followed this with a statement that forced me into a new respect for her: “I need to think about that.”
Despite the violence and anger surrounding her, Rachel was still in student mode, and was beginning to see the disconnect between the story she had been fed at Evergreen and the facts on the ground. Had she attended a college where the Israeli side of the story was free to be heard, is it possible she would have developed a more mature view of this complex conflict and still be alive today?
Tragically, Rachel did not have the time “to think about that,” but we do. We need to find a way to restore to Evergreen the intellectual openness that should exist in any American college. Rachel was the first, and so far the only American student killed supporting the Arab war against Israel. Let’s direct our efforts to making sure she will be the last.