January 17, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Sharon's position unsubstantiated

To the Editor:

Isaac Wolf's story ("American Profs Take Stand in West Bank," January 10) on the professors who signed the open letter warning about possible expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip quotes the deputy Israeli consul general to the Midwest (David Roet) as saying that the letter was an unsubstantiated attack on Israel. Specifically, Roet said that "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the leaders of the Israeli government have repeatedly declared that they have absolutely no intention of transferring Palestinians from the disputed territories."

I have followed this matter quite closely and I have not heard Sharon make such a statement at any time. In fact, there was a story in the November 28, 2002 issue of Ha'aretz by Aluf Benn, which reported that Sharon "rejected Jordan's request that Israel issue a public declaration opposing 'transfer' of Palestinians from the West Bank."

I have also checked with some others who follow this issue and none of them know of any instance where Sharon said he opposed cleansing the Palestinians from Israel, although one said that Sharon's spokesperson, Ra'anan Gissin, has on several occasions stated that the idea is "impractical" at this time. Of course, circumstances might change in the future, especially if there is a war in the region, making transfer practical.

Finally, there is good reason to think that Sharon would welcome expulsion if he thought that he could get away with it. He has long argued that Jordan should be considered the Palestinian state and that the West Bank and Gaza should be incorporated into a greater Israel. He has championed the expropriation of Palestinian lands and the expansion of settlements to achieve that end. My reading of the available evidence says that Martin van Creveld, the distinguished Israeli historian, has it right when he says that Sharon "has always harbored a very clear plan--nothing less than to rid Israel of the Palestinians."

But I may be wrong. I would appreciate it if Mr. Roet would provide evidence that Sharon has repeatedly said that he was opposed to expelling the Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories.

John J. Mearsheimer

Professor of Political Science

Errors in Maroon article

To the Editor:

The Maroon's story ("Hillel Center hosts interfaith dialogue on civility," January 14) about the Civility Forum on Monday evening, January 13, contained the following errors:

1. Our Muslim speaker was not Umar Faruq Abd-Allah from the Nawari Foundation, who had canceled on account of illness, but Rasheed Hosein, Director of Public Education at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Chicago, who graciously agreed to step in late last week. Hosein was clearly introduced, and his name was printed in all the flyers and publicity connected with the event.

2. Nussbaum did not say that the aim of the forum was to consider how traditions treat people outside the tradition. She said that the aim was to explore the resources of each tradition in addressing the problem of civility; this would naturally include, as one part, consideration of how each tradition urges us to treat people outside it.

3. Nussbaum did not say that the forum "was organized particularly in response to a group of Jewish students who approached Nussbaum arguing that their pro-Israeli views were being silenced." Nussbaum was never approached by any such students, and has no acquaintance with them, although she is aware of their existence. She made an effort to convey to your reporter the fact that there has been a wide range of events on campus involving breaches, or alleged breaches, of civility. These breaches took place across the political spectrum, and prominently include attacks on our colleague Rashid Khalidi. A group of faculty (including Daniel Brudney, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Josef Stern, Michael Fishbane, and Nussbaum) met with David Rosenberg to ask how Hillel might contribute to improving dialogue on campus by exploring the concept of civility. The forum, which was originally Brudney's idea, was organized as a result of this very general conversation.

4. University of Chicago students did not "beg[i]n the Web site campuswatch.com, which has been an outspoken opponent of many University of Chicago faculty members." This Web site was founded and maintained by individuals who have no connection with the University of Chicago, although it has discussed events that took place on this campus.

5. Nussbaum did not say that she "hoped that the forum would bridge misunderstandings between students and faculty." In her opinion, the aim of the forum is to contribute to the construction of an atmosphere for civil dialogue across deep political differences (whether involving misunderstanding or not); these differences cross, obviously, the student-faculty divide.

Martha Nussbaum

Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School

David Rosenberg

Executive Director, The Johanna and Herman H. Newberger Hillel Center

Author's Response

I think that if you look closely at my article in last Tuesday's Maroon, you will find that I did not mean to suggest that the goal of the civility forum was anything other than to explore the resources of each religious tradition in addressing the problem of civility. I added Professor Nussbaum's comment about how religious traditions treat people outside their own traditions because I thought that the comment added to the goals of the forum. I maintain that Professor Nussbaum's comment was a direct quote. Whether it should have been connected to that paragraph is, I suppose, a matter of contention. Furthermore, Professor Nussbaum actually said that she would like to bridge the gap between faculty and students with regards to civility, though I admit that what I wrote was a paraphrase.

In any account, the forum did address issues about civility among the student-faculty divide. [Professor Nussbaum] did say that some pro-Israeli students had approached her about their views being silenced in class. She said that she didn't think this was relevant to the article, but I thought it was, and I reported on it.

As for the other points, they are entirely true. The mistakes are mine, and I take full responsibility for them. In the process of reporting news, sometimes mistakes are made. I regret that I was misinformed, and for that I am sorry.

-Andy Lamb