REMARKS OF LAURENCE B. DEITCH
ISRAEL SUPPORT RALLY
of Michigan – Ann Arbor
October 10, 2002
I would like to thank the student organizers of this rally for giving me the privilege of addressing you today. Like all of you, I stand with Israel and I do so with pride and commitment.
I speak today as an individual who has loved this university for almost 40 years since I first came to the campus as a freshman in August 1965, and not as a member of the Board of Regents.
I first heard about the upcoming “Second National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement” on Monday, September 23 when I received my first 100 of over 1000 e‑mail messages protesting the fact that the Conference was taking place on this campus. That awareness came less than 48 hours after I read Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ address in which he sounded a courageous alarm against the insidious anti Semitism that has increasingly been injected into what should be a debate about how to bring a lasting peace to the middle east which would allow Israel to exist as the Jewish homeland within safe and secure borders and which would bring an equitable resolution to the legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people.
Many have said that the University should cancel the conference because it is nothing more than an opportunity for the dissemination of hate speech as part of a concerted effort to de‑legitimize the State of Israel as a member of the world community. My heart agrees with that view. However, my head does not. I say that because this is a university where speech - no matter how objectionable - is protected. This is a place where we encourage civil debate and in that spirit, this conference, which was properly organized by a student group, will take place.
However, that does not mean that those of us who passionately disagree with the hateful ideas being expressed should sit silent. No! We must denounce what we consider to be wrong and indeed, vicious, speech with the truth and power of our own ideas and values. In that cause, we should take inspiration from Lawrence Summers who recently said:
“We should always respect the academic freedom of everyone to take any position. We should also recall that academic freedom does not include freedom from criticism. The only antidote to dangerous ideas is strong alternatives vigorously advocated.”
So, I say that we need to go forth and proudly proclaim to the world that:
We need to tell the world that the University of Michigan does not endorse nor stand for the ideas expressed by the conference organizers. We need to tell the world that the University of Michigan is bigger and stronger than the misconceptions that will be spread by a few wrong‑headed hate mongers this weekend.
Most importantly, do not give up your stake in this greatest of universities. Unite and fight back!
In urging you to unite and fight back, I implore you to reach out and build a coalition of decency in order to win that fight. Those of us who stand with Israel are not alone. Our President, Mary Sue Coleman, has categorically rejected the idea of divestment. We need to thank her for that. Yesterday, Wayne State President Irvin Reid did the same. He should be thanked, too. Each of you needs to leave this rally today and recruit people you know into that coalition of decency to reject anti-Semitism, racism and hate. I say to Jewish students in the audience that you will make a mistake if you keep this to yourselves and do not reach out. This community is filled with men and women of all faiths and races who will stand up against bigotry and intolerance if you give them a logical and morally compelling reason to do so. You all have the power to do that. One by one. Nothing is greater than the power of one individual determined to do right.
In doing that work, I ask you to do so in memory of this University’s most courageous graduate, Raoul Wallenberg. For those of you who don’t know, Wallenberg was a wealthy, Swedish, Christian aristocrat. In 1944, he was stationed as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest. He is credited with saving the lives of over 100,000 Hungarian Jews by giving them fake transit papers. He could have left as the Soviets advanced on the city. He didn’t leave, as the work was too important. He disappeared and paid with his life in the Soviet gulag. Wallenberg is what Michigan is about. Decency is what Michigan is about. In his memory, I urge you to speak out and reach out. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask if you stand with Israel and against hatred, divisiveness and intolerance. Thank you.