The letter that the below responds to was circulated to convince officials in UCSC to cancel a speaking event in which a member of New Profile was one of two speakers, the other being a Palestinian citizen of Israel. The event was subsequently cancelled 48 hours prior to when it was to have taken place.
The event did take place, but at a different location, and was, I was told, successful. The letter that NP sent to UCSC members who received the Benjamin letter is with its letterhead, but since not everyone can open attachments, am copying below the text (I was unable to include the letterhead except by attachment). Perhaps some of our reasons will be useful to some of you.
All the best, Dorothy ————————————————————-
Saturday, April 24, 2010
To: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Ilan Benjamin
From New Profile
Dear Tammi Rossman-Benjamin and Ilan Benjamin,
We have carefully perused your letter of Friday, April 16, 2010 to Provost Shemek and Provost Lau, and have seriously considered your “three compelling reasons” that the college should withdraw sponsorship for an event about “Costs of War on Israeli Society: Two Unheard of Perspectives.”
We wish here to comment on certain statements and viewpoints in your letter that we believe to be erroneous.
1. Not the least of these is your contention that the program was “politically motivated.” The speakers, after all, were not running for office nor asking that the audience vote on an issue. Furthermore, would you have claimed the same had the speakers been from AIPAC, an acknowledged lobby? What has happened to freedom of speech? And where is freedom of speech more important than in colleges, where young minds are being formed? Should students be denied the opportunity to hear opinions not frequently available except from discussions the nature of one on “Costs of war”?
Would it not have been wiser on your part to allow the event to take place, to attend it, and during the Q and A to express objections to ideas that you disagreed with? Or were you afraid that your objections would have seemed weak, senseless, or uninformed in the light of the information that the speakers had brought to the fore?
2. As for your implying that there is something shameful about ‘actively promoting the demilitarization of Israel and providing support to Israeli men and women (18 year olds!) who refuse compulsory military service,’ would you have claimed the same for organizations that aided American COs during the Vietnam war, when the draft was compulsory. One reason that America has no draft today is that its leaders learned from that experience that you cannot force individuals of conscience to kill or be killed.
So it is in Israel that there are young people who are pacifists or who disagree with their governments’ policies and refuse to enlist. Many of them are willing to pay the price and have served time in prison.
Civil disobedience is a time-honored and respected practice in the United States, as it should be everywhere. Jimmy Carter’s first act as president was to offer amnesty to Vietnam War ‘draft dogers.’ And just this month the City Council of Berkeley, Calif. passed a resolution calling for “Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan War Military Resisters and Veterans Who Acted In Opposition to the War for Matters of Conscience” (http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/825/1/)
In the same spirit, New Profile guides youngsters who request help. New Profile does nothing illegal. NP does not, as you claim, ‘actively encourage Israelis to break the law.’ NP does help individuals who need guidance about the law, who have questions, and NP tries to encourage Israeli youth to think (something that Israeli education fails to do). But NP neither actively calls for refusal nor incites, as you can readily see from our website www.newprofile.org .
You are correct to state that NP was investigated, but you neglect to mention that the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3798368,00.html Furthermore, the investigation was not instigated by the police, but began at the bequest of “the High Court of Justice following a petition filed by the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden to have the New Profile movement dismantled following the content published on its website.”
New Profile questions the need for wars, whereas the “Israeli forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden” accepts wars as matter of fact, and demands that all Israeli youngsters conscript. The Israeli forum failed to delegitimize New Profile, but not for want of trying. The investigation found no evidence to back up the Forum’s complaint. We presume that you trust the judgment of the police, the courts, and the prosecutor.
3. Your claim that the “sole” purpose of the speaking event was to “harm the Jewish state” implies that anyone who disagrees with Israel’s governments’ policies intends to ‘harm the Jewish state.’ Do you also believe that anyone who criticizes US policies aspires to harm America?
And to imply that people as Scott Kennedy and Ofra Lyth or that events of the sort they take part in are anti-Semitic is pure nonsense! It is no more anti-Semitic to criticize Israel than it was anti-American to criticize the Vietnam war, nor is anti-American to criticize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! To the contrary!
4. Furthermore, while we can sympathize with the student, Jenna Miller, that Israel is central to her identity,” she lives in America (as do both of you, apparently), whereas the speakers live in Israel, as do we.
We therefore pose this question to you, since you appear to condone Israel’s colonization of Palestine: Just how many more generations of our children, grand children, and great grand children, and our neighbors’ children and their children, et al. do you wish to fight and die so that you, Jenna, and others like you can feel that this place somewhere out there that is called Israel is central to your identity, disregarding the price we in Israel pay, namely that of burying our young. Till today Israel has seen 12 wars and military campaigns—-yes 12! In less than 62 years, with the next war always just around the corner!!!
One bereaved mother, Nurit Peled-Elhanan–who lost her only daughter in a suicide bombing–captures in a nutshell an important aspect of what New Profile is battling by objecting to militarism. Professor Peled-Elhanan, when speaking to the EU Parliament on International Women’s Day in 2005 stated the following:
“. . . Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they . . . are all mind-infected by the same viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may have various illustrious names such as Democracy. Patriotism. God. Homeland, are all the same. They are all part of false and fake ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.
We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to cry out: “I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is less worthy than a piece of land.”
All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of their dead bodies.”
Is this the message that you fear to have told? Do you wish to hide from American students that Israel’s wars are not from Heaven nor necessary? Do you wish to hide from students that since 2002 Israel’s governments have refused to accept a comprehensive peace package offered by its Arab neighbors? Do you wish to hide from students and faculty the fact that Israel’s governments thus devaluate human life—-Jewish as well as non-Jewish, because the Greater Israel is more important to our leaders than are our children’s lives?
5. Lastly, you attempt to paint Scott Kennedy and Ofra Lyth in evil colors! But of course it is always easier to ply ad hominem rather than to deal with the facts. Unfortunately, you won this battle. Unfortunately for the students, unfortunately for us who live in Israel, where the rituals of mourning over dead sons and daughters killed in the conflict are so frequent and abundant.
How many more Israeli parents and families must become bereaved and grieve while you ply your pen to keep students and faculty from hearing truths—perhaps the saddest truth of all being that excepting war zones as Afghanistan, Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews. Nowhere else have so many Jews been killed since WWII. No where else is every Jewish child obliged to conscript at the age of 18. No where else is there so much post-traumatic distress symptoms among Jewish youth. Please convey this to Jenna Miller.
For New Profile
Responses and Comments to [email protected]
Cc: Provost Deanna Shemek
Provost Kimberly Lau
George Blumenthal, Chancellor
David Kliger, Executive vice chancellor and Campus Provost
Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
UCSC Counsel Carole Rossi
Jim Carter, Cowell College Administrative Officer
Susan Welte, Oakes College Administrative Officer
Debra ellis, Cowell College Coordinator for Residential Education
Mandie Stout, Oakes College Coordinator for Residential Education