The Student Action Forum on the Middle East (SAFME) recently organized a lecture – “Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and the Prospects of Global Empire” – by two well-known analysts of Mideast politics that took place during the Jewish religious observance Passover. We sincerely apologize if the scheduling of the event caused offense. This was certainly not our intention.
Mr. Moshe Kasher, in his article “SAFME: Ignorant, Intolerant, or Plain Dangerous?” (Daily Nexus, April 23) charges that this event was scheduled over Passover because, as the title of his article suggests, either SAFME was ignorant of the significance of the date, knowledgeable but unconcerned that Jewish students and community members might not attend, or deliberately spiteful and aiming to exclude many Jews from the program.
The truth of the matter is as benign and uncontroversial as one would expect. One of the speakers, Santa Cruz resident Stephen Zunes, happened to be traveling to Santa Barbara to meet with family and offered part of his evening to us. Zunes mentioned as much at the beginning of his talk on Thursday. The other speaker, Richard Falk – who happens to be a secular Jew – offered to present an accompanying lecture once we found out that Zunes would be visiting. If anyone who was not able to attend wants to view the event, we would be happy to provide a video copy.
Mr. Kasher’s article took up some very serious and important issues, including ignorance and religious insensitivity. However, rather than using the article to ask the most obvious question – Why did SAFME book this event when it did? – he invented three negative and highly provocative possible reasons why the event was booked over Passover, and then claimed ridiculously that the circumstances could “only be explained” by one of his fictitious scenarios.
Mr. Kasher says in his article that he called a SAFME organizer after the event to confirm that the lecture had taken place. One wonders about the honesty of the criticisms in his article, considering he didn’t simply ask the SAFME member on the phone about the timing of the lecture. Furthermore, other major events organized by student groups took place over Passover – which also marks a Christian religious observance, Holy Thursday – they received not a mention in Mr. Kasher’s column.
SAFME seeks to promote on campus a fuller understanding of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We strive to give voice to those on all sides of the conflict who seek a solution not through a continuation of violence and the illegal occupation, but through the realization that “Palestinian rights and Israeli security are dependent on each other,” as Rabbi Michael Lerner has phrased it. We must remember that the intense suffering and humiliation being experienced in that region does not stop for even the most sacred observances.
We won’t be so presumptuous as to declare why Mr. Kasher wrote his column, but one question poses itself: Was he honestly skeptical about the timing of our event, or did the column give him an opportunity to make malevolent accusations about a group on campus that holds views with which he presumably disagrees?
Mar Logrono is a graduate student in the history department. The other members of SAFME contributed to this article.