LTTE: In response to “Kaler’s email puts CWRU and USG in national spotlight”

David Singer, Professor of Mathematics

To the editors:

The Nov. 18 issue of The Observer makes it appear that the campus is completely united behind the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) resolution and offended by President Kaler’s response. The lead headline accuses President Kaler’s email of “bringing risk to students,” followed by page after page of editorials and letters from faculty and students, every single one criticizing the president.

Perhaps there is room for a more nuanced treatment of the subject. I and many other members of the Jewish community deplore some of the actions of the right-wing Netanyahu government and strongly believe in the right of students to express their views. I am nevertheless profoundly dismayed and disappointed by the one-sided coverage of what could have been a meaningful discussion.

The main defense of the resolution seems to be that it is not anti-Israel, but against particular policies, especially “Israeli apartheid.” That extremely inflammatory phrase is intended to delegitimize the State of Israel. The branding of Israel as an apartheid state is part of the 75-year attempt to deny its right to exist, and is anti-Israel, regardless of the intent of the supporters of the resolution.

Writing useful resolutions requires restraint. The cascade of “whereas” clauses in the USG resolution is a litany of dubious statistics and ill-researched finger-pointing, and the structure of the resolution asks supporters to agree with all of those clauses.

The resolution intersperses lists of military suppliers and prison operators with random civilian companies that it claims “facilitate … Israeli settlements … on occupied Palestinian territory.” It objects to the provision of “security systems,” suggesting that Israel should not be allowed to defend itself, despite decades of rocket barrages and bus bombings aimed at civilians in its cities.

In one of the more egregious “whereas” clauses, the resolution claims that B’tselem “CONCEDED that Israel practices apartheid” (emphasis mine). In fact, B’tselem is an Israeli organization that was founded, as they state on their website, for the purpose of documenting “human rights violations committed by Israel in the Occupied Territories.” They state, “The essence of the apartheid regime in place between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is to promote and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. B’Tselem works to change this reality.”

B’tselem also takes note of the context of the conflict. They write: “Since the beginning of the second intifada, Palestinians have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians inside Israel proper and in the Occupied Territories.” The resolution ignores this reality.

The USG resolution offers no suggestions for improving the situation for Palestinians or Israelis. What it does is exploit the goodwill of students who want to defend the underdog. In doing so, it also inflames the currents of antisemitism that have been rising in this country. The lead article claims that President Kaler’s email brought “risk to students.” The real risk to students is the divisiveness and hatred that are spreading in this country, which President Kaler was attempting to highlight.

Signing on to this resolution entails agreeing with its long list of “whereas” clauses. If defending the idea of disinvestment in Lockheed Martin means defending disinvestment of Sodastream; if attacking a resolution that I believe is misguided is interpreted as attacking the right of students to make decisions I disagree with; if criticizing the settlement policies of the current government requires condemning the State of Israel, whose legislature was recently led by a coalition that included two Israeli Arab parties; then honest dialogue is impossible.


David Singer

Professor of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

College of Arts and Sciences

Case Western Reserve University