Speaker detracts from purpose of peace by opening discussion for anti-Semitism

“Zionism is racism,” Dr. Mark Braverman says to a circle of religious faculty, students and professors at a speech sponsored by the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (CSAMES).

The center, who invited Mark Braverman to speak about peace in the Middle East, instead opened a forum for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hostilities at the University of Illinois. After claiming Zionism is an integral part of Judaism, he later states Zionism is racism. It does not take a genius to discover Mr. Braverman’s opinion that Judaism is inherently racist and his attempts to use his own Jewish faith as a way to falsely legitimize his ideas is a way to hide his own anti-Semitic feelings.

But the CSAMES department, in order to pursue a discussion of peace, decided that it would be appropriate to open Dr. Braverman’s first speech with a complaint from a student’s father in her attempts to highlight silencing freedom of speech. Instead, she only highlighted that parents do not agree with the University using their money to sponsor hate filled speakers on campus as Dr. Braverman followed her opening in discussing how Jews control the media and politics. A discussion that opens with hostility therefore ends with it, and whatever peace initiative the CSAMES department felt it was pursuing failed.

But what is most shocking about this entire day of speeches was the response of members of the University of Illinois community. At one of his speeches, Dr. Braverman states, “I pray for the day that you do not need a Jew’s permission to be a Christian,” to which not one person in that room stood up, not one person in that room made a face. Instead of anger, his awful comment was only met with agreeable silence. What was most appalling about Dr. Braverman’s tour of the University was not his “peace” initiative overflowing with anti-Semitism, but rather the nods of agreement from University faculty, religious members of our community and tax-paying students that in the goal of wanting peace, they fall into the trap of endorsing an articulate anti-Semite.

_Julie Levitt, senior in LAS_