By Brian Karimi
In Re: “Student laments lack of dialogue at Arraf’s speech” on April 7.
Mr. Efrat’s contribution in last week’s Concordiensis suffers from many serious deficiencies in his argument. Regardless how one feels about the problems between Israelis and Palestinians, it is important to point out the failings in Efrat’s argument.
The argument is that Union denied him the right to engage with a controversial speaker via a policy allowing only questions—rather than comments—at Huwaida Arraf’s speech last term. Arraf is a Palestinian human rights activist.
First, let it be noted that Efrat arrived on the scene with a clear agenda: “I attended this speech as an attempt to show the school that Arraf’s propaganda was far from the truth.” No wonder he took so little from the event. He arrived clouded by his bias in favor of Israel, unwilling and unable to open his mind to the possibility of other alternatives—he condemned Arraf even before he heard her out! The possibility of learning something was inconceivable, as it was Efrat’s duty to “show the school” from the very beginning.
Efrat, I applaud Union for denying you the opportunity to immaturely “yell at her,” an act that would surely have embarrassed not only yourself, but, far more importantly, the institution. Surely you know that such conduct cannot be tolerated.
For all of your supposed “facts, evidence, and confidence,” you provide none of it for our readers. You say the speaker’s presentation was a “tirade,” but, hypocritically, you offer only a tirade to the community. Your argument is: I am right, she was wrong, and I am angry. Fuming, your contribution is devoid of the evidence required to make your point. Union only wasted money because it brought a speaker to campus that challenged your deeply held beliefs, as a liberal arts college should. Instead of getting your buck’s worth, you sat “restlessly,” like a child, probably because you are not used to a Nobel Prize-nominated intellectual challenging your passionately held beliefs with poise and control. For this Union should be thanked, not shamed.
You not only condemned Arraf, but anyone who might agree with her. Indeed, “The majority of the audience agreed more with my opinions than with Arraf’s,” you note, making these people the only “intelligent” ones in the audience. Your logic is off, Efrat: one’s intelligence is not measured by how much they agree with what you believe. You should know not to employ such a ridiculous yardstick.
It is healthy to be exposed to differing ideas, but, instead of rising to the challenge and responding to Arraf’s with the “chutzpah” you so admire, you sat in your chair. This is your failing—not the College’s—and you would do well to take ownership.
I thank you for your contribution, and encourage you to write more. But I would warn against shaming this institution in so public a forum when your argument is underpinned by emotion alone. You only do a disservice to yourself when you let emotion override your intellectual engagement.
Union did not deny you the right to “stand up for what you believe.” You denied yourself that right when you sat silent.