Guest speaker offends students

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story “Guest speaker offends students,” published on April 29, includes quotes that were misattributed to Eric Minassian, assistant professor in the School of Computational Sciences. The information and quote are the words and opinions of Professor Nubar Hovsepian, associate professor in the political science department. Minassian did not attend Norman Finkelstein’s lecture on campus and does not agree with Hovsepian’s views as communicated in the article. Minassian said he believes Chapman does an outstanding job of representing different perspectives to students regarding both the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust. The Panther apologizes for this error.

Author and Israeli adversary Norman Finkelstein visited Chapman Tuesday night, resulting in protests on campus and Facebook among the young Jewish community.

The political science department and the Peace Studies Program sponsored the event, which consisted of a short lecture and book signing of his new book, “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End.”

Finkelstein, the son of two Holocaust survivors, is an avid supporter of Palestine and criticizes the U.S.’s unconditional support of Israel. The New York Times often accuses him of holding anti-Semitic sentiments. He said the U.S. is the only nation that supports Israel’s continued pursuit of Palestinian land.

“To argue that I’m an anti-Semite is completely irrelevant. I don’t care what you call me, the question is ‘is what I’m saying true?’” Finkelstein said in response to student who called him anti-Israel. “The United States must join the rest of the world and support the law. We are the big obstacle.”

Some students, like Rebecca Haber, were outraged by Finkelstein’s visit because of his support of Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group based in Lebanon. The governments of the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, Canada, France and Israel classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Haber, a sophomore public relations and advertising major, did not want Finkelstein at Chapman.

“I don’t understand why the university decided to bring someone to campus who supports Hezbollah and other extremist terrorist organizations, especially with everything that happened in Boston last week,” Haber said.

Stephen Levin, a sophomore graphic design major, agreed.

“He said he condones Hezbollah, which is really strange to me,” Levin said. “Murdering people is never justifiable.”

Finkelstein said Jewish Americans, particularly college students, aren’t exposed to the atrocities he believes Israel is imposing on the Palestinian people. Finkelstein points to Elie Wiesel’s notoriety as a perfect example of a Zionist education system.

“I’ve never read anything by Elie Wiesel that had any content.  He’s good theatre,” Finkelstein said. “I’m not an actor, that’s the difference between us.”

Finkelstein said he believes the U.S. must join other nations in holding Israel responsible for its actions.

“I’m proposing that the law, by the whole international community, be upheld,” Finkelstein said. “Is it really believable that the only non anti-Semitic countries are the United States and Israel?”

While Kevin Kloecter, a junior history major, doesn’t agree with Finkelstein, he said it is crucial that Chapman continues to present students with differing views.

“Although his views are very radical, it’s a side that needs to be heard,” Kloecter said. “It’s so rare to find someone from the Jewish community who’s in support of Palestine in the conflict.”

Jessica Paek, a junior history major, said it is important to be educated on the conflicts in Israel.

“I wanted to learn about the whole Israeli/Palestine conflict,” Paek said. “I feel like people yell about the conflict without even knowing about it.”

Finkelstein said he enjoyed speaking at Chapman because he feels he provides students with a perspective they’ve never encountered before.

“I like coming here. I don’t care if students agree or disagree with me, as long as I can make them think about things they haven’t before,” Finkelstein said.

Nubar Hovsepian, an associate professor in the political science department who attended the speech, said while it’s beneficial for students to hear from figures like Elie Wiesel, the university doesn’t do an adequate job of presenting different perspectives.

“The Holocaust is not only about Jews, it’s about humanity. Elie Wiesel fails to preach that,” Hovsepian said. “If we don’t present that message, history will repeat itself.”

[For the record, 7:19 a.m. May 6: An earlier version of this post misattributed quotes to Eric Minassian, assistant professor in the School of Computational Sciences, due to a reporting error.]

2 Comments

  • While I completely agree that it’s important to bring many different opinions to the table to enhance intellectual growth, I do question whether it was in good taste or even smart PR for Chapman to bring a speaker who openly supports a terrorist organization in light of recent events in the United States such as the Boston bombing.

  • I suppose Prof Minassian did not attend the Wiesel lectures. had he done so, he would have learned about genocide worldwide including the Armenian Genocide. Different points of view are fine. hate speech and, anti-intellectual speech, does not belong on campus. Would Chapman allow a white supremacist to give a speech using the N-word? Chapman should not be giving a platform to persons like Finkelstein. He was there to be outrageous and to sell books. Rather than outrage, Chapman should bring a true Professor to speak about Palestinian issues. Carnival barkers do not belong at a university.

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