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Duke University Editorial: The Aftermath

I just sent this response to Philip Kurian.

Mr Kurian,

 

Please do not mistake my candor and civility with a lack of underlying intense emotion regarding your editorial. As I have already mentioned, it is one of the most anti-Semitic things I have ever read. Or, more specifically, it reads as a compilation of practically every anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jewish people. However, in this case, I decided to allow my head to rule over my heart – hence the rather muted tone of my initial response.

 

I fail to see how your tale of a powerful Jewish establishment,  Jewish money, Jewish privilege, Jewish prominence in universities, and a “Holocaust” industry, supports your assertion (that your main contention was that some Jews worked very hard to suppress the free speech of others at Duke). Even if it did support this assertion, I do not see what you are doing to enrich the debate. Some Jews do all sorts of things, just like members of any other religious or ethnic group. The difference is, the Jewish people are subject to more stereotypes than any other group, and you are contributing to this phenomenom.

 

I also find it very interesting that you characterize well-organized Jewish protests against the anti-Israel conference as “suppressing the free speech of others at Duke.” Duke President Richard Brodhead commended the protesters, who “instead of seeking to silence others..mounted arguments on the other side, enriching the debate and giving us all a chance for education.” At the same time, you see the conference itself (with its opposition to the very existence of the Jewish state) as an expression of free speech (I would have thought eliminating an entire state of people is the epitome of trying to supress free speech). Why the double standard?

 

Finally, I was unsure as how to take your statement “I appreciate your candor and willingness to consider my perspective, however naive and uninformed.” If you were implying that my contentions are “naive and uninformed”, then I can assure you that when it comes to Judaism, Israel, the Middle East conflict, and terror-supporting groups like the PSM and ISM, you will find that I am well-informed. (On this topic, you might want to know that Pirkei Avot does not mean The Book of Principles, as you have stated, but rather Ethics/Chapters of the Fathers. I am willing to help correct your other misapprehensions as well, if you so desire).

 

Mr Kurian, I suspect that you are about to go through an extremely difficult time, as you face the consequences of your bigoted editorial. I hope you use this time to reflect on why exactly you decided to blame the Jews, like so many others before you.

Update: Duke President Richard Brodhead responds to the editorial, making a troubling moral equivocation.

In the weeks before the conference, I received many reasoned expressions of concern, but also some attacks on Duke’s decision that were astonishing in their virulence. Among the things I found troubling in these messages was the tendency to think of the conference’s supporters in this way: You, Duke student, can be thought of as belonging to a group that contains terrorists and terrorist supporters. Therefore, you are indistinguishable from terrorists and deserve as little opportunity to exercise your rights as they do.

 

One can understand the passion that underlies such a thought, but that does not prevent it from being highly dangerous. This is the disindividuating, dehumanizing logic of prejudice. It says, I already know you because I know your type—more truthfully, your stereotype.

 

I was deeply troubled by Philip Kurian’s Oct. 18 column because it seemed to display the same habits of thought.

Sounds like Brodhead using intellectual sophistry to obfuscate the real issues – namely, his decision to allow this terror conference to go ahead, as well as Kurian’s blatant anti-Semitism.

 

Equally troubling is Broadhead’s whitewashing of Kurian’s anti-Semitic comments:

I was deeply troubled by Philip Kurian’s Oct. 18 column because it seemed to display the same habits of thought. The column was headed “The Jews,” as if Jews were susceptible to group definition, and though its author probably did not mean to, it revived stereotypical images that have played a long-running role in the history of anti-Semitism.

How does he know Kurian “did not mean to”?

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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