It appears the University Chronicle, the student-run newspaper for St. Cloud State University, has abandoned all journalistic integrity.

First, some background information: On February 11, 2009, two SCSU HURL (human relations) professors, Drs. Slisli and Tademe, led a panel along with some students to discuss the plight of Palestine from a decidedly pro-Palestinian viewpoint. Their objective, as far as I could tell, was to discuss some of the issues that most Americans don’t get to hear about from their own media. Within the first few minutes of their program, Dr. Edelheit, a professor of philosophy and the director of Religious and Jewish Studies, interrupted them in an outburst, demanding that the panel explain the juxtaposition of Gaza images and Warsaw images on a promotional poster for the event. The panel rebuffed the shouting professor and refused to continue until the professor calmed himself or left the room. After realizing his efforts were fruitless, Dr. Edelheit left the room and the panel went on with their discussion. (It should be noted that the panel did respond to questioners after they finished the presentation, regarding the poster and the images they chose to use.)

On February 18, Dr. Edelheit hosted his own forum on Gaza in order to present his side of the Gaza conflict, but mostly to explain his anger over the images used in the aforementioned poster. He stated that he invited the two HURL professors, who did not respond to his invitation; they were not present at his forum.

(On February 12, the University Chronicle published a letter I wrote regarding Israel’s war crimes in Palestine, that was completely separate of and written before the February 11 panel’s discussion. It can be read here.) (Link fixed.)

In the February 16 publication of the University Chronicle, the editorial board–consisting of Ali Tweten, Joey LeMay, Paul Crawford, and Andy Downs–wrote a diatribe on the panel’s discussion of massive human rights violations taking place in Palestine. “An environment that actively suppresses opposing viewpoints is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather debates possible solutions [sic],” they wrote.

Sure, I think we can all agree to that. But it does not apply to the panel’s discussion of U.S.-Israel and Palestine. If anyone, it would apply to Dr. Edelheit who very purposefully disrupted the program so that they could not present their discussion to the audience that was all too eager to get a new perspective on the very important issue. It was Dr. Edelheit who was showing his contempt for the audience by prohibiting the panel from discussing and presenting their case. In his own presentation on the topic, Dr. Edelheit admitted he knew full well what he was doing and that he acted very deliberately (“I did disrupt, quite willfully”). As I already wrote in a letter I sent to the Chronicle, published in the February 19 edition, the professor’s actions were completely unbecoming for a professor of this institution. Excuses for Dr. Edelheit’s actions and behavior have no merit and have been repeatedly dismissed by a majority of people who have spoken on the issue.

Nonetheless, the editorial board continued: “The United States’ role as peace negotiator is crucial, as it is utterly impossible to envision lasting peace between Israel and Palestine without the U.S. endorsing, helping implement, and standing by a proposed agreement. But coming up with an agreement for long-lasting peace has proven difficult, especially when we give our attention to only one side.”

Let me first address the first sentence. It actually shows, quite clearly, the contempt the editorial board has for Palestinians and their right to self-determination. They basically parrot the U.S. government’s stance on the issue, which is that the U.S. owns the world and anything that goes on in a region that interests us has to go through us first. This is unimaginable to most sane and rational human beings, as it flies completely in the face of self-determination, which states that nations and peoples should have the freedom to make choices and determine their future without external pressure and demands. However, as a world superpower, the U.S. and, apparently, the University Chronicle editorial board believe we have the right to dictate the existence of other people.

(I should note that it was in the very rare exception to U.S. rejectionism that Israel and Palestine got the closest they’ve ever been to resolving the long-standing conflict. I am, of course, referring to Taba, 2001–before Israel pulled out and abandoned the negotiations, that is. It is actually very easy to envision a peaceful Israel and Palestine without the interference of the U.S. In fact, that is the only possible way to move forward on this issue. For those who see the U.S. as needing to impose its will on others, this is not an option.)

But the editorial board brings up a good point in that second sentence I quoted. When we give our attention to only one side, it is very difficult to come up with rational and pragmatic solutions. But this is exactly all the U.S. media, including the University Chronicle, do. They present one side, which is unconditionally favorable to Israel and the United States. They mimic longstanding American beliefs that we, or Israel, can do no wrong; that what is right for Israel is right for the United States; and that Israel and the United States are unjustly criticized. I made a point about this, actually, in my letter to the newspaper that was published in the February 12 edition. I quoted Noam Chomsky, who wrote the following: “The basic doctrine is that Israel has been a hapless victim of terrorism, of military attack, of implacable and irrational hatred. . . . Israel is sometimes chided for its response to terrorist attack, a reaction that is deemed wrong though understandable. The belief that Israel may have had a substantial role in initiating and perpetuating violence and conflict is expressed only far from the mainstream, as a general rule.” This, though written nearly 30 years ago, is still the predominant view that is expressed by the media and the U.S. government. And, as the editorial board pointed out, this “is misleading to its audience, creates polarizing results, and causes problems rather [than] debates [on] possible solutions.”

Okay, so the editorial board has merely expressed its opinion, however ignorant it may be. I agree, this is perfectly acceptable in a free and just society that is supposed to pride itself on free speech. However, when the Chronicle to decided to publish a story on the Gaza issue and Dr. Edelheit’s presentation in the February 19 edition, they chose no other than Joey LeMay, the same student who espoused quite clearly his contempt of Palestinians and ignorance on the issue just a few days earlier. In fact, the Chronicle deliberately decided not to publish an article on the first panel discussion that spelled out the atrocities taking place in Palestine; but they chose to publish, very prominently as the lead story, only Dr. Edelheit’s position on the issue. But what should we have expected from the author who just days earlier attacked said panel? This is a pretty good vindication of Chomsky’s point and shows quite clearly the overwhelming bias there is in favor of U.S.-Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

The type of ignorance the editorial board and others display is the exact reason I, along with others, have called for a more reasoned debate on the issue. All too often one side is presented, which is the U.S.-Israeli side, naturally. I would be more than willing to sit vis-à-vis Dr. Edelheit and debate the real issues that affect Palestinians and Israelis and anyone else who believes Israel is justified in committing grave war crimes against the Palestinian people. If the HURL professors who led first panel are unwilling to engage in open discourse with their dissenters, then I think there should be a student-led dialog on the issue, as there are clearly very vocal proponents of both sides, and this should include Dr. Edelheit and any other professor if they so choose.

Update: Joey LeMay wrote a defense for his and the Chronicle’s actions in an April 30 editorial. I wrote a response to his defense on this blog, here.