March 2, 2004

News Briefs - 03.02.04

Task Force issues response

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point continues to fight against the city's current proposal to rebuild the Point partially with concrete and partially with limestone, following the publication of a letter defending the city's compromise with almost 200 signatures.

The letter supporting compromise was sent to Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston. In response, task force executive board members Fred Blum, Bruce Johnstone, Jack Spicer, and Connie Spreen sent out an e-mail to Task Force supporters to reiterate their strong position against the city's plans.

The letter from the executive board said that the task force's views were strictly inconsistent with the views of the 200 community members who signed the petition letter. According to the task force, they will continue to pursue a "true preservation plan."

The task force's e-mail responded to the community letter's claim that preservation does not meet the standards of the Army Corps of Engineers. The task force provided direct quotes from the Corps, which apparently saw the preservation plan as feasible. The task force also addressed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the Corps signed, requiring that the city's design match the existing conditions of the Point. According to the task force's e-mail, the MOA was required by the National Historic Preservation Act and is a legally binding document; the city is bound by that document, which is part of federal law.

The task force letter also noted that over 2,500 people have signed a petition for preservation, and that over $60,000 has been raised for the effort. It suggested that the community's letter in favor of the city's proposal was written under fears that federal funding for the Point would be cut. The task force concluded that the community decided that any plan with funding would be better than no plan and no funding.

Panel will examine Mideast conflict

Scholars Salim Yuqub and Abdul Palazzi will examine the obstacles to peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a panel discussion entitled Threats to Peace in the Middle East, to be held on Wednesday, March 3, from 6 to 7:45 p.m. in Social Sciences 122.

The Student Committee on the Middle East (SCME), an RSO promoting academic discourse on issues related to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, is sponsoring the event. "Both sides can have dramatically different narratives on the underlying causes of the conflict and therefore on the best steps toward peace," a representative from the group said.

Yaqub is an assistant professor of history at the University specializing in the history of American foreign relations with a focus on U.S.-Arab relations. The University of North Carolina Press has just published his first book, Containing Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Middle East.

Palazzi is professor of Middle East studies at the Research Institute for Anthropological Sciences in Rome. He also serves as Imam for the Shafi School of Islamic Jurisprudence and as secretary general of the Italian Muslim Association. Palazzi has lectured extensively on Jewish-Muslim relations and has co-founded the Islam-Israel Fellowship of the Root & Branch Association.

According to Yael Levin, co-chair of SCME, the group has asked Palazzi to focus mostly on the threats to Israelis in the current conflict and Professor Yaqub to focus mostly on threats to Palestinians.

"SCME hopes that this event will promote more understanding for both sides of this complex conflict," said Blythe Dorn from SCME.

SCME is presenting the event with a broad coalition of other groups, including the University of Chicago Democrats, the College Republicans, Muslim Students Association, Chicago Friends of Israel, The Jewish-Muslim Dialogue Group, Student Government Finance Committee, Rockefeller Chapel, the Hasbara Fellowships, and the Newberger Hillel Center.

—Tara Kadioglu

Synagogue holds civil rights talk

K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation hosted a conference over the weekend to examine civil rights. Entitled "We the People...The State of the First Amendment in 2004," the conference examined the current status of personal freedoms, including the right to free speech, the right to a free government, and the right to free association. Workshops covered government funding for faith-based services, the Patriot Act, and the impact of the Internet on free speech.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Actor Center of Reform Judaism, spoke about the interaction between church and state, and Studs Terkel spoke at a lunch meeting entitled "Hope Dies Last—Keep on Keeping On."

—Isaac Wolf