Ignorance and antisemitism at Portland State University

By | October 27, 2005

An opinion piece about Jerusalem in the October 18, 2005 edition of the Portland State University Vanguard was so riddled with factual errors and antisemitic statements that the editors of the newspaper removed the article from their Web site on October 27 and replaced it with this text:

Editor’s note, Oct. 27, 2005: This article has been removed from the web site by the editors because after review, we find it does not meet the editorial standards of the Vanguard. A statement on the article by the editorial board will be published Oct. 28.

Plenty of comments about the article, pretty much all negative, were posted on the page where the article appeared before it was removed, before those comments, too, were removed from the site.

It was not hard to retrieve the text of the original article by looking at Google’s cached copy of its page. The Vanguard may wish to retract it, but I think it’s important for things like this not to be lost to history, so I’m reprinting the text here.

A city divided
Religious disputes over Jerusalem require diplomacy
By Caelan MacTavish
October 18, 2005

Wars have been fought over Jerusalem since its inception. It is a city that is holy to three major world religions. The Jews want Jerusalem because it is the city that King David ruled ancient Judea from. The Muslims want Jerusalem because it was there the prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven. The Christians want Jerusalem because they have always wanted the Holy Land. Maybe nobody should have it.

Currently, Jerusalem is deep inside the West Bank, and may be the single biggest impediment to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the Diaspora, or scattering, Jews left their ancient seat of government and went all across Europe. Then the Holocaust came, the Great Burning, and Jews started to leave the Europe that hated them for centuries because of their exclusive religion. Nobody can really convert to Judaism — you are born Jewish, or you are not.

The Jews did not like to integrate with other peoples. When the Greeks met the Egyptians, they said, “Oh, your Ammon is our Zeus. We worship the same gods. Let’s feast together and exchange presents.” When the Greeks met the Jews, the Jews told them, “No, our God is not your God. Our God belongs to us alone. Take your God and shove it.”

People didn’t like Jews because of this; they feared whatever secrets their exclusive god might be hiding. Scholars think this attributed to the hereditary prejudice against Jews, and in response, Zionism attracted the scattered Jews back to the land their ancient kingdom once rested upon. Israel was formed.

Instead of keeping the barriers put in place by the United Nations after the Six-Day War, in 1967, Israel proceeded to grab as much land as possible over the last century. Crazy religious zealots believe that the entire realm of Palestine is theirs, since an ancient book says an invisible being in the clouds gave it to them. This argument doesn’t hold up too well in real estate law. Try it sometime.

But the crazy religious zealots, affectionately termed “settlers” by sympathetic press, go and squat on occupied Palestinian orchards, cut down all the trees, and built a little town. The Palestinians get upset, and the Jews take all the water and resources. Leaving Palestinians in little more than cages is not an appropriate act for a race released from concentration camps. But, monkey see, monkey do.

The new apartheid wall is not helping things either. This wall cuts off some Palestinian towns entirely from anything else — jobs, commercial centers, roads, everything. Left with no options (Palestinians are not citizens, cannot vote, and have no rights) some people are blowing themselves up.

Why can’t they work it out? Both sides claim Jerusalem as their own city.

Dividing a city didn’t work with Berlin. Some proposals to separate Jerusalem between Israeli and Palestinian sectors have been floated, but they have fallen apart due to the inability to agree on who gets what. Temple Mount is a site claimed to be holy by three different religions. Which one should get exclusive rights to it?

This issue was always settled with war before the present time. That hill has seen bloodshed because everybody wants it.

Let’s take Jerusalem away from both Israel and Palestine, and give it to the United Nations. They can move their headquarters from New York, since the United States doesn’t really like the U.N. anyway. John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has a stated purpose to see the U.N. destroyed.

If Jerusalem were made an international city, free from all of the battles and wars that have consumed the Middle East for millennia, and turned into a diplomatic center, then there would be a viable chance for a peaceful resolution.

Everyone agrees that the U.N. is in need of reform. What better way to usher in reform than to move everything, offices, files, people, and all to a new city on the other side of the world?

And what better city to be the host of a diplomatic organization so committed to the best interests of the world? We could even build the new U.N. building squarely on the Temple Mount. Diplomacy, and peaceful negotiation, would become a holy act. Who could argue with that?

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9 thoughts on “Ignorance and antisemitism at Portland State University

  1. Aaron Pearlman

    Just a note if anyone is still reading this page.

    I work in Judaic Studies at PSU and Caelen is trying. He reached out to us and had coffee with me and Professor Michael Weingrad last week.

    He does still have a lot to learn, the article should never have been published, and I agree that his response contains many statements that show he needs to learn a lot more before engaging in public dialogue.

    But, he is making an attempt to reach out. In many ways, it is the Vangaurd who is to blame – they should have told him “no way” on the article and instead published it. So, his ignorant views are now national fodder (he is being praised on anti-semitic blogs as a hero) which he would like to respond to, instead of in the trash heap where they should be.

    Calaen – there is much more truth to the statement that the U.N. is anti-Israel than most anything you wrote in the original article.

    Reply
  2. jik Post author

    The UN bias to which I referred is well-known and well-documented. See, for example, http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_faq_palestine_un_anti_israel_bias.php.

    You may not be a racist, but on this topic you’re clearly ignorant. Perhaps if you truly put some effort into learning more about this issue, that will no longer be the case, but in the meantime, you’re hardly in a position to “work to a solution” with me or anyone else.

    Finally, dismissal of reasoned criticism of your words as “bickering” won’t do much to convince me or anyone else that you’re trying to turn over a new leaf.

    Reply
  3. Caelan MacTavish

    Hey, man, I’m trying. I’m willing to learn a lot about this issue–because I know I need to.
    But I think it’s clear from your response that you’re pretty biased about it yourself. “Throughout its existence, the UN has been anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.” That’s about as bold a statement as the kind I was throwing around, the kind that you were lambasting me for.
    Do you want to keep bickering, or do you want to work to a solution?

    Reply
  4. jik Post author

    I went to Mr. MacTavish’s Web site and read his response. There are numerous statements in his response which indicate to me that he still doesn’t fully “get it.” While I would prefer to comment about about these statements on his site, I am unable to do so — when I try to, I get the error, “We’re sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.” I am therefore commenting about them here instead.

    MacTavish writes, “My friend ___, recently returned to the US after a year of rabbinical studies in Israel, is not someone I think of as a crazy religious zealot. But zealots do exist in Israel, on both sides of the apartheid fence….” His use of the inflammatory, inherently biased term “apartheid fence” makes it clear that he is either still clueless about how to write with tact and diplomacy or still more interested in blaming Israel for the conflict than he is in objective discussion of it.

    Continuing, MacTavish writes, “… and my sloppiness made it seem as if I meant to characterize all Israelis as crazy religious zealots, despite the strong presence of many secular, sane, and peaceful citizens of Israel.” His linkage, intentional or not, of “secular” with “sane and peaceful” makes it sound like he believes that religious people are by definition crazy zealots. The fact that he has a friend who just finished a year of “religious studies” in Israel is rather irrelevant — you know the old joke… “I can’t be racist; some of my best friends are black|Jewish|whatever!”

    MacTavish writes that “There was one blatant factual inaccuracy” in his article, as if to imply that it was the only factual inaccuracy. In fact, as others have pointed out, there were plenty of other errors and lies in the article. The fact that MacTavish continues to cling to those does not bode well for his ability to “learn more about the conflict, the Israelis, and the Palestinians,” his stated goal for the future.

    MacTavish acknowledges that he was incorrect to claim that one cannot convert to Judaism, but then he writes, “While outsiders may convert to the religion, many Orthodox Jews would agree that in some ways you are either born Jewish, or you are not.” I have no idea why MacTavish, a non-Jew who clearly has very little understanding of Judaism, feels qualified to speak for “many Orthodox Jews,” I have no idea. I will merely point out that discrimination of any sort against converts to Judaism is strictly and explicitly prohibited by the Torah and millenia of Jewish law and tradition.

    MacTavish writes, “I was attempting to highlight this exclusivity that has enabled the Jewish religion to remain a distinct cultural entity for millennia, and explore the idea that this exclusion in modern day Israel could be hampering the peace process.” In other words, what he was trying to say was that to further the peace process, Jews should be willing to give up the very trait that has allowed the Jewish religion to survive for millennia. Why, so the countries and peoples bent on Israel’s destruction can accomplish by assimilation what they have not been able to accomplish through almost 60 years of violence?

    MacTavish repeats his ill-conceived plan to “take Jerusalem away from both sides” and give it to the UN. This, too, makes it clear just how little he understands the Arab-Israeli conflict, not to mention the UN. Throughout its existence, the UN has been anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. The UN is hardly an unbiased third party which the Jewish people and Israel can trust to treat them fairly. Furthermore, the belief that if Jerusalem is somehow no longer disputed, the Israelis and Arabs will suddenly be able to coexist in peace is simply ludicrous. To this day, the Palestinian National Covenent calls for the destruction of the entire State of Israel. Arab and Palestinian leaders regularly and publicly state that as their ultimate goal. Did MacTavish perhaps miss the recent statements by the President of Iran?

    MacTavish says that the editors of the Vanguard refused to print his statement explaining how his article came to be published. If the statement he wanted them to print was anything like what he published on his blog, I find it fully understandable that they refused. As the comments above make clear, MacTavish still doesn’t get it, and printing his statement would have inflamed the issue rather than calming it.

    MacTavish says that he intends to learn more about the conflict and that he “looks forward to contributing wiser suggestions to the peace process in the future.” Dude, if that’s your goal, you’ve got a lot of learning to do.

    Reply
  5. Jason

    I think that this needs to be brought up to the news networks. I have sent it to a few locally here in Portland Oregon. But I think that if someone with a little more “clout” could shed some light on the problem of ignorance. Don’t let this go everyone. This is a huge non-partisan issue that needs to be addressed.

    Reply
  6. deborah

    Dude, that article’s not just too anti-semitic to be published. It’s too illiterate to be published. That they ever posted it at all, no matter what their politics, says very little for their editorial standards and copyediting.

    (Hi! Saw you on lj and have been lurking for a bit.)

    -deborah (kaplan)

    Reply
  7. Riain Barton

    Mistake/Lie 1.

    Currently, Jerusalem is deep inside the West Bank.

    Mistake/Lie 2.

    After the Diaspora, or scattering, Jews left their ancient seat of government and went all across Europe.

    Mistake/Lie 3.

    Then the Holocaust came, the Great Burning, and Jews started to leave the Europe that hated them for centuries because of their exclusive religion.

    Mistake/Lie 4.

    Nobody can really convert to Judaism — you are born Jewish, or you are not.

    Mistake/Lie 5.

    The Jews did not like to integrate with other peoples. When the Greeks met the Egyptians, they said, “Oh, your Ammon is our Zeus. We worship the same gods. Let’s feast together and exchange presents.” When the Greeks met the Jews, the Jews told them, “No, our God is not your God. Our God belongs to us alone. Take your God and shove it.”

    Mistake/Lie 6.

    People didn’t like Jews because of this; they feared whatever secrets their exclusive god might be hiding. Scholars think this attributed to the hereditary prejudice against Jews…

    Mistake/Lie 7.

    …and in response, Zionism attracted the scattered Jews back to the land their ancient kingdom once rested upon. Israel was formed.

    Mistake/Lie 8.

    Instead of keeping the barriers put in place by the United Nations after the Six-Day War, in 1967, Israel proceeded to grab as much land as possible over the last century.

    Mistake/Lie 9.

    But the crazy religious zealots, affectionately termed “settlers” by sympathetic press, go and squat on occupied Palestinian orchards, cut down all the trees, and built a little town.

    Mistake/Lie 10.

    …and the Jews take all the water and resources.

    Mistake/Lie 11.

    Leaving Palestinians in little more than cages is not an appropriate act for a race released from concentration camps.

    Mistake/Lie 12.

    The new apartheid wall is not helping things either.

    Mistake/Lie 13.

    Left with no options (Palestinians are not citizens, cannot vote, and have no rights) some people are blowing themselves up.

    Mistake/Lie 14.

    Temple Mount is a site claimed to be holy by three different religions.

    Mistake/Lie 15.

    John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has a stated purpose to see the U.N. destroyed.

    Mistake/Lie 16.

    We could even build the new U.N. building squarely on the Temple Mount.

    Reply

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