In February 2010 students from the Muslim Student Union at the University of California at Irvine disrupted a speech on their campus by Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. I wrote a letter to the Dean and Chancellor of the University asking that they exercise compassion. To my surprise my letter generated excitement among Muslim students. Some of their responses follow the letter.
As an American Jew and former AIPAC member I am writing to you regarding the recent visit of Michael Oren to your campus and the disruption of his speech by members of the Muslim Student Union. I urge you to act with restraint and to consider the history of generations of Palestinians whose families were ripped from their land and whose lives have, to a very large extent, been reduced to poverty and dependence upon international aid, all as a result of Israel’s behavior of more than sixty years. If you were to study the history of this conflict as I have, by focusing almost exclusively on Israeli government sources and highly respected Israeli academics with access to Israeli state archives, you too would know that a tremendous injustice has been perpetrated against the Palestinian people, one that affects all of humanity.
I have watched television interviews with Ambassador Oren and have found him to be insensitive and dishonest in his recounting of events and causes. Freedom of speech is an inalienable right in this country. Nonetheless, Oren’s speech is highly indicative of the mentality that has characterized Israeli hasbara (spin or propaganda) for decades. Palestinians were understandably angry that a man representing a state that has caused such destruction to generations of their people was given a pulpit from which to justify his country’s actions. The students’ actions may have been disruptive and disrespectful to Oren the individual but I ask you to take into consideration that he symbolizes oppression, repression and intimidation toward the very people who had the courage to speak out against his appearance. For too long the United States and American media have enabled Israel’s behavior and have character assassinated the Palestinian people, equating them with terrorism, when in fact Israeli terrorism and theft of land is at the root of the conflict in that part of the world. If there is to be peace in the Middle East and if the rise of Islamic extremism is to be tamed it is crucial that college campuses allow their students the freedom to refute the disinformation, distortion and justifications that Oren and others disseminate. There is certainly no justification for the deaths of 400 children in Gaza last year. Any reasonably objective research bears that out. Do not make the mistake of silencing these voices and unfairly punishing students who represent an impoverished and forgotten people. Sincerely, Rich Forer
Thank-you so much for such a intelligent approach Mr. Forer. I commend you for taking a stance against injustice of all kinds. I hope through your efforts others will be inspired to seek the truth as well. May peace and blessings be with you always. Manal Mourad
Mr. Forer, I have always had a faith in the honesty of many Jewish people. As I am one of many Muslims and Arabs that condemns that corruption of most of our Arab leaders and their insensitivity to the Palestinian case. I salute you for you courage to stand up on the side of justice and welcome you as a brother to humanity. Shalom, Salam… as we are all humans and we are true believers in God. Muhammad Osamah Abu-Qurah
Thank you for your effort in speaking against injustice. Hyatt Sa
Very well put indeed! Jessica
Thank You Mr. Forer well said…. God Bless you. Marwa
Humanity is counting on enlightened leadership such as yours. I am inspired and grateful! Joanna
Mr. Forer, I wish there were many more of you on this planet. who can speak up their mind and dare to tell the truth. In such times where integrity doesn’t exist anymore, your honesty is strongly needed and appreciated. Thank you. Alia
Thank you, Mr. Forer! There should be more like you, the world would be a brighter place. Tasbeeh
We are struggling to find the words to express an authentic peace. Please help us articulate the dynamics of a mutually beneficial reconciliation. The English language seems so adapted to “power politics”…it feels like we need a new language, or at least a few key words to encourage “wholesome” peaceful relationships. I have felt for a long time that if we can just begin in Palestine with a message of ecological and social “synergy” that we could get Beyond War, predation, denial, violence…the” truth coming out” must be accompanied by a framework to digest, discuss, reconcile the primary, frightening truth that all human beings are capable of cruelty…it’s never limited to one or another group…it’s endemic in our history/evolution. But we also have a capacity for “thinking ahead”, conscientiousness that can minimize the gruesome tendency, design harmonious cultures. But even our religions have become militarized: “onward Christian soldiers”, etc. We are left without the humility, reverence, good will to sustain egalitarianism. Sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away…I’m just inspired by your ability to “spell it out” without vitriol…and we (I) need instruction! JoAnna
I have recently come across issue at the ICU where I also happened to see a letter that you have written to the school. I personally felt the urge of thanking you for the letter as a Muslim. I am a Muslim from Pakistan and often look down on for the same reason. But it’s people like you who make a difference in this world. As a knowledgeable person as you are you would know that Islam the word itself means peace. All this killing in the name of Islam is not a work of a Muslim. I know that because i am a Muslim and my family and my religion tells me killing one person is murder of whole humanity and is among the biggest sins in Islam. I was really touched by your letter to the university and I tell you this: a good Muslim never supports in-justice whether it’s about Muslims or any other belief. I respect people from all religions. Not all Jews are bad people and not all Muslims are bad people too. Religion comes after humanity for me. God bless you and grant you success and fulfill all your dreams. Once again thanks for your humane gesture I have no relation or much knowledge of the UCI incident but your effort touched my heart Sir. I salute you. Regards, Yaser