Coming soon to a college campus near you: A student workshop that expresses tacit support for terrorism and has as its mission the destruction of Israel.
In one sense, the Second National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement, to be held at the University of Michigan in mid-October, is an affirmation of free speech. Campuses should be a place where ideas -- even ignorant ideas -- are debated.
But should forums that espouse hate and push to the very edge of inciting violence find a warm spot at a public university to grow their detestable ideals?
The goal of the conference is to prod universities and corporations to pull their money out of Israel. The divestment strategy mirrors tactics used to end apartheid in South Africa, and the organizers liberally compare Israel to the Afrikaner regime.
The first conference was held at Berkeley, which, with U-M and Harvard, forms the ideological axis that incubates bankrupt, neo-Marxist leftism. But Harvard's courageous president, Lawrence Summers, denounced the divestment scheme for what it is -- anti-Semitism -- and asked why Israel is being singled out while the world's true tyrannies get a pass.
U-M's two Jewish regents, Larry Deitch and Andrea Fischer Newman, express similar concerns about the conference's mission statement.
It condemns the "racism and discrimination inherent in Zionism" and demands Israel open its borders to a flood of Palestinian refugees.
"If the destruction of Israel as a Jewish homeland isn't anti-Semitic, what is?" asks Deitch.
Glossing over Palestinian terrorism, the mission statement declares "it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinians in their struggle for liberation." This outsourcing of morality allows the group to focus on Israel's sins while ignoring those slaughtered by Palestinian suicide bombers.
The workshop will study strategies for achieving its mission, including education, public demonstrations, civil disobedience and direct action. Fischer Newman and Deitch have had little luck getting answers to what "direct action" means. They probably should give up, since that part of the conference will be open only to student and community activists.
The public part of the workshop features a long list of speakers, some of whom have been accused in the past of expressing extreme anti-Jewish views, another thing that bothers the two regents.
"Personally, I have problems with this group being here," Fisher Newman says.
While they support free speech and the university's proceedures, which were followed by the sponsoring student group, they are investigating they propriety of holding the workshop at Michigan.
Still Deitch, noting that U-M is a traditional haven for Jewish students dating back to when Ivy League schools closed their doors to Jews, says, "It is very painful to see this at Michigan."
U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, in a letter to the university community, expressed hope that the conference would be civil and rejected the idea of divestment in Israel.
You have to wonder two things: How would the university react had the Klan or some other extremist group spouting racist, sexist or homophopic hate speech asked for a platform on campus? And when did anti-Semitism lose its seat on the bus of political correctness?
Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The Detroit News.