Calling Korkor anti-Semitic a misuse of label

In 1933, Nazis painted a Jewish star on my family’s shop in Dresden, Germany. When my great-grandmother tried to stop them, they gave her a black eye. That was anti-Semitism.

In 1938, my grandfather passed all the tests necessary to get into a German university but couldn’t go to one because he was Jewish. That was anti-Semitism.

Two weeks ago, Bassel Korkor suggested that U.S. and Israeli policies may be encouraging rather than preventing terrorism in the Arab world. That was not anti-Semitism.

Korkor’s opinions, although debatable, did not hurt anyone. But apparently Kellogg Profs. Stuart Meyer and Allan Drebin thought differently. In their Oct. 14 column, the pair wrote, “The president of Harvard University recently pointed out that columns like Korkor’s occur on campuses for less-than-laudable reasons.”

The statement was a reference to Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ Sept. 17 speech on the rise in anti-Semitism on American college campuses.

Rather than directly accusing Korkor of anti-Semitism, Meyer and Drebin insinuated it by referring to the speech. Such a dirty attack should be above any person, let alone a university professor. If Meyer and Drebin had any sense of decency, they would issue a public apology.

But beyond the sheer gall these men displayed, there are deeper, more troubling aspects to their accusation.

The first is that their statement insults the pain Jews have suffered and continue to suffer every day. My grandparents and millions of other Jews had their rights, livelihood and humanity stripped away when Hitler rose to power in 1933. In 2001, the words “Hitler was right,” were etched into the steps of a synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to the Anti-Defamation League.

If you want to see what it’s really like to be the victim of anti-Semitism, head over to the Block Museum before December. The current exhibition, “The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz,” features art done mostly by people in concentration camps. The sheer emotion evidenced in some of those works is extraordinary and terrifying. It should make you think twice before throwing words like anti-Semitism around blindly.

The professors’ attack also showed too many people think of the terms “Israeli” and “Jew” as synonymous. Korkor never criticized Jewish people in his column. He criticized the U.S. government and, to a lesser extent, the Israeli government.

Israel’s land may be holy, but its leaders certainly aren’t. There’s no section in the Torah that makes the prime minister a messenger from God. Ariel Sharon is the head of a government, and he is open to the same criticisms as any other leader.

Even some who see Israel as just another country have argued that criticizing Israel without criticizing more repressive Arab states is anti-Semitic. I disagree. Korkor’s column did ignore the suffering of Christians in Lebanon and the plight of the Kurds in Iraq.

But remember, the point of his column was to look at how Arabs view the United States and how this might be improved. It’s not his job to tell you everything.

I would like to see a day when there is no anti-Semitism. But absent that, I’d like to see a day when people no longer use charges of anti-Semitism as weapons. There’s enough hatred in the world already without us inventing more.

Jesse Abrams-Morley is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]