The Colgate Scene
|The Colgate Scene welcomes letters from readers. We reserve the right to edit letters for brevity and clarity.||
Editor's note: When Nathan Stock '98 offered his essay, "Heading south" (January 2003), the Colgate Scene was moved to run it because Stock's interest in the Middle East has its roots in his academic experience at Colgate. In retrospect, this was a mistake.
Scene readers respond to "Heading south"
. . . I was glad to find that a Colgate education has left Nathan Stock '98 with a thirst for "new languages, religions and cultural traditions" but surprised that he left without the same yearning for that emblazoned on our motto, Deo ac Veritati -- God and Truth. Having lived in Israel for nearly 19 years (since six weeks after my graduation from Colgate), I can attest that things are much more complex than the one-sided picture painted by Stock. While the pages of the Scene are not the place to debate the complexities of the difficult Middle Eastern conflict, it does seem that Stock has chosen to ignore facts that would have made his tale of "life under occupation" less viable as propaganda and closer to the ideal of truth that I learned about in the Chenango Valley.
I sympathize with Stock. I am sure that it is unnerving for a post-modern American to be around "18-year-olds with guns." Stock fails to point out, however, that these young men are attempting to do an increasingly difficult job of defending innocent lives from terrorists whose murderous activities, directed specifically against civilians, are being fomented by an increasingly vicious and radical interpretation of Islam that preaches hatred and condones savagery daily. Gaza is one of the main centers from which this evil sends forth its call of itbach el yehud "death to the Jews." It is only the vigilance of these young men, risking their lives in order to allow some semblance of normalcy for the Arab residents of Gaza and not closing down cross-over zones completely, that keep these murderers of children from carrying out what they have time and again called for -- destruction of the only functioning democracy in the region and racial cleansing of Jews from the Middle East. As the events of 9/11 made clear to all, they are also willing and able to move beyond their immediate arena.
These youthful soldiers do not have the luxury of first-class college studies or travel to China in their teens, for their country is once again being attacked by those who time and again will accept no compromise, no matter how generous, and they are first called upon to defend her. I myself have served with young soldiers like those met by Stock and can say that they shoulder more responsibility than any Colgate frosh I have ever met. And they do so admirably.
I am glad that despite the dramatic "stories . . . of people being blown away" Stock only experienced a few minutes delay himself at each of his crossings. I am glad that he did not share the fate of those Colgate students flying home over Lockerbie or the husband of a Colgate classmate of mine, or five of my Israeli neighbors who along with thousands of others have been wantonly slaughtered by radical Islamic terrorists since this newest "uprising" has been in full swing.
I am sorry that Stock does not feel that protecting the innocent from terrorism is worthy of mention in his article. (I am not surprised, however, as the original source of his piece, the leftist News from Below, models itself on the ideals of "armed uprising" -- see "Sources and Inspiration" on their website). In fact, I am sorry that he does not seem to be embarrassed by flying the flag of one the main despotic facilitators of terror today, the Palestinian Authority. I am sorry, too, that for a variety of reasons the Arabs of Gaza find themselves represented by those same anti-democratic despots. I also find it ironic that Stock hails from an area where settlement policies in the past with regard to Native Americans echo in the very names of the region, yet whose history seems not nearly as interesting to him as that thousands of miles from home.
I hope that in the Middle East and in the United States, we can realize that we are all merely sojourners upon this Earth, for it ultimately belongs only to God -- a tenet both of Native American religious tradition and a cornerstone of Jewish belief (see Exodus 19:5 and Leviticus 25:23, inter alia). I invite Stock to visit with Israelis like me who are bringing up our families in the shadow of terror, yet refuse to acquiesce to its blood-thirsty demands. As an optimistic pragmatist, I think that this will afford him a clearer picture than that described in his article. As a religious man, I pray daily that we can all move closer to the ideal espoused by Colgate's motto -- God and Truth, united. Far more dangerous than any 18-year-old soldier are those who forsake these things in the name of their own narrow ideology.
. . . Nathan Stock's article in the January 2003 Scene was a great disappointment.Amidst repeated emotionally charged, highly subjective and politically loaded descriptions of Israeli actions ("staring down the barrel of a heavy machine gun," "people being blown away," "They just started shooting," "The tension was brutal," and so on), Stock fails to provide even a single explanation for why the Israelis did what they did. His clear implication is that there is no explanation.
Stock says he was "sickened by the latest advances in settlement infrastructure," but I question his moral compass when Israeli actions are the only things that seem to sicken him. He does not mention the ongoing campaign of Palestinian homicide bombing and support for terror. He fails to acknowledge the murderous hatred for Americans and Jews taught to Palestinian children, or the glorification of voluntarily blowing up one's own children -- and the children of one's enemies -- for the "good" of their cause. He doesn't acknowledge the Palestinians who danced for joy at the murder of thousands of Americans on 9/11. He doesn't mention the extreme corruption and dictatorial excesses of the Palestinian Authority. Stock doesn't acknowledge the lies told about the Jenin "massacre," the blood libels, the historic efforts to "drive the Jews into the sea" and a myriad of counterbalancing perspectives (see www.memri.org for revealing English translations of Arabic language communications by the P.A.) that might deprive him of a sense of moral superiority.
None of these possible explanations for Israeli actions justifies any illegal or immoral acts committed to counter them, but by omitting all of them, Stock displays a reliance on anecdotal and selective evidence, a simplicity of perspective, a self-justifying myopia and ignorance of the bigger picture in the Middle East -- or a lack of concern for such balance -- that are disturbing, particularly in a two-page spread in our alumni magazine.
Stock, I think, too easily mistakes power for evil and weakness for goodness. This all-too-common tendency towards emotional "thinking"-- rather than historically informed critical examination -- is precisely what an education at Colgate should remediate, not promote.
. . . Nathan Stock's article, "Heading south: a personal account of life under occupation," was certainly an interesting read. However, in failing to present a context for many of his experiences and in offering subjective opinions as facts, I am afraid that the article is capable of misleading readers in a very disturbing way.
First, in his rather vivid descriptions of checkpoints and the Palestinian reaction to them, Stock never once mentions the reasons they are there. The facts are that since the recent intifada began, more than 700 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists who repeatedly invade Israel from Gaza and the West Bank. I can't imagine that the humiliation experienced from waiting in line for several hours at a checkpoint could compare to the experience of scraping bloody limbs from a Jerusalem sidewalk in the aftermath of a "suicide" bomb, designed with nails and other ingredients so as to inflict as much damage as possible to ordinary men, women and children. How about the fear that a mother senses as her child departs for school on a Tel Aviv bus the day after another such bus was blown to smithereens by a Palestinian suicide bomber? With regard to checkpoints, just today I read a report of three Israeli soldiers recently killed in an ambush near a checkpoint in the West Bank and the unrelated capture of a Palestinian gunman dressed as a veiled woman who was trying to cross a Gaza checkpoint shortly after he fired on an Israeli target. Is it any wonder that tensions are high at these checkpoints?
Second, Stock ignores that in the Oslo process Israel withdrew from Gaza and other areas and made a dramatic proposal that would have paved the way for Palestinian sovereignty. The proposal was rejected without counteroffer, thus setting the stage for the recent intifada. It is naïve, if not absurd, to claim that [Ariel] Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was "provocative." [Yassir] Arafat chose violence over negotiation as a means to dealing with this conflict. Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount, which is widely known to have been cleared with Palestinian authorities in advance, is an excuse to justify Arafat's tactics.
Thirdly, Stock repeatedly refers to Israel as an "occupier" and to settlements as "illegal." Israel "occupies" these territories as a result of its victory in the Six Day War of 1967 in the face of a Pan-Arab attempt to destroy it. The territories did not belong to the Palestinian people at that time or at any prior time. Ironically, the Palestinians had previously rejected the offer of this land and sovereignty that was extended as a result of the United Nations' partition plan. Since the 1967 War, Israel has gone to great lengths to return land without compromising its security (which is all that U.N. Security Council Resolutions require of it). What other nation has so readily offered to return the spoils of war? How can Israel fairly be called an "occupier" when constituents of the "occupied" continue to threaten its existence and the withdrawal from "occupation" has to date only exacerbated security risks? "Occupation" is a politically charged term. When one takes the time to actually look behind this catchphrase, it appears that as a result of the "occupier's" programs and policies, quality of life actually improved dramatically for Palestinians during this so-called occupation. For example, in the West Bank and Gaza life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000. Israeli medical programs reduced the infant mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000. At the time of the "occupation" of Gaza and the West Bank, not a single university existed in these territories, but by the early 1990s, there were seven such institutions, with some 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults, compared with 61 percent in Egypt, 44 percent in Syria, and so on. As for settlements, their legality has been debated for decades. Stock does not appear to have the credentials to arbitrate this aspect of the dispute, yet he does not hesitate to term them illegal.
I enjoy reading the Scene and expect that its editors recognize that Stock's article unduly tips the scales in favor of one side of an extremely complicated conflict. Unless there is an agenda lurking beneath the surface, I would expect the editors to ensure that the other side is represented in the not-too-distant future so as to achieve a more equitable sense of balance.
. . . I find it astonishing that Nathan Stock's report on his two years in the Palestinian territories makes no mention of the incredible human rights violations that the Palestinians are afflicting upon themselves. These include, but are not limited to, arrests; secret trials and executions of suspected collaborators without any due process at all; the encouragement of children to act as human shields between snipers and Israeli solders; camps where young children are taught that suicide bombers are given a special place in heaven; anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist textbooks that are used in the schools, which breed hate and violence; the tens of millions of dollars that have been stolen by the corrupt administration of the Palestinian Authority; payments to families of suicide bombers by the Palestinian authority, which encourages the murder of innocent civilians, and payments by the Palestinian authority for the purchase of materials used in suicide bombings.
In addition, he makes no mention of the 30,000 terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, which is the reason for the occupation in the first place.
With such a naive understanding of the conflict and the realities of the Palestinian authority, Stock does nothing to end the suffering of the Palestinian people.
ALAN WEISSMAN '89
. . . Even as someone who has long thought that Israel's settlements on the West Bank and Gaza were a mistake, I read Nathan Stock's article "Heading south" with considerable dismay.
In the course of his account of his experiences living on the Gaza Strip and on the lives of the Palestinians living there, he uses terms which imply that Israel is the cause of their hardship and thereby demonstrates a lack of perspective. The situation of the Palestinians is lamentable, but when he uses phrases such as "illegal settlements," and "Ariel Sharon's provocative visit," among others, he appears to place the cause of their hardship in the wrong place.
The ultimate cause of their hardship is Arafat and his betrayal of the Palestinian people. In the summer and fall of 2000 Arafat could have had approximately 97 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza for a state. Most settlements would have been removed so that Palestine would have been contiguous and not cut up into segments as some have claimed. Instead of accepting the proposal or negotiating further, he either promoted or stood aside while a rebellion began. The only logical conclusion one can draw is that Arafat did not want a peace agreement at all. Instead, he wanted to destroy Israel and hoped that by encouraging suicide murderers he would so weaken the Israeli will that he would have his way. The result has been not a country of their own, not a government which would have sought the betterment of lives of the people with whom Stock lived and worked, but to make their lives far worse than they were. Has Israel been overly harsh? Perhaps there are instances in which that has happened, but put in the context of the situation, shouldn't any nation, faced with constant acts of terrorism against its citizens, do what Israel has done and wouldn't most make even far greater use of its power to protect itself than has Israel?
. . . I was surprised to read Nathan Stock's article, "Heading South," in the January 2003 issue of the Colgate Scene. Rather than an evenhanded factual account of his experiences in the Middle East, Stock offers a two-page diatribe against Israel.
Passing through a military checkpoint where suicide bombers, on the verge of discovery, have detonated themselves with explosive devices designed to murder Israeli civilians, he is surprised that trained Israeli soldiers -- whom he derisively calls "18-year-old kids with guns"-- have weapons ready to defend themselves. In fact, Stock's experiences are relatively benign. According to his account, he is never assaulted or even verbally abused, he is merely alarmed because of the tales he's heard of this checkpoint. But those tales equally include murderous assaults on Israelis, which he fails to mention. He also fails to add that, in addition to the suicide bombers, Israel is the constant target of sniper fire and rocket launches from the Gaza Strip. In a war zone filled with civilians carrying weapons, Stock hears gunfire while in a car. Although he admits, "I never knew exactly where it came from," he is quick to accuse Israeli soldiers of firing the shots.
These are just a few examples of the omissions and casual accusations that make his article a one-sided account and a poor representation of the intellectual rigor that one would expect him to possess after a Colgate education.
I am puzzled by the editors' decision to publish this article with no disclaimer, rebuttal or label. As far as I can remember, in the nearly 25 years that I have been reading it, the Colgate Scene has never before given space to the political opinions of an alumnus. To do so now leaves the impression that the university endorses Stock's views. If this is not the case, I hope the administration will find an appropriate way to make this clear. I also hope that, in the future, the Colgate Scene will stick to its original mission of reporting campus events and the accomplishments of alumni.
. . . I and other alumni are infuriated by the publication of Nathan Stock's "Heading south" in the January 2003 Scene. "Heading south" was originally written for News From Below, a self-described "progressive" magazine. Its content is often dismissive of individual liberty and critical of free enterprise. It is supportive of a number of political causes and entities antithetical to the United States, that in some cases call for America's destruction. It is peppered with assertions about supposed conspiracies by the CIA, U.S. media, President Bush and major corporations. While "Heading south" is appropriate content for News From Below, one wonders about the propriety of such a highly politicized and distorted piece appearing in the apolitical alumni magazine of a university carrying the motto Deo ac Veritati.
In "Heading south," Stock selectively described his experiences while living in the Gaza Strip from March 2000 to June 2002. I have been in the Gaza Strip and, based on what I saw and heard, Stock left out some salient characteristics that unbiased observers would have reported, such as the squalor of the common Gaza Arabs, contrasted with the opulent seaside villas occupied by the top brass of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It looked like the finest villas of the French Riviera had been plunked down on the beachside of a massive slum, complete with columns of shiny new Mercedes, along with dapper PA officials, a substantial security detail and female "escorts," many dressed in the latest Italian fashions. On one occasion, my driver and fellow passengers explained that it was common knowledge that the bulk of the aid to the PA from America and Europe did not go to the people, but was stolen or was diverted to finance terrorism and hatred. Many of the locals refer to Arafat and the PA bureaucracy as "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" and the "Tunisian Mafia." They have diverted billions to their offshore bank accounts (substantiated in congressional hearings). It would have been almost impossible for Stock to have spent over two years in Gaza without having been aware of these villas.
Funds have been diverted to purchase weapons and explosives for Tanzim, one of the terrorist units under the control of Al-Fatah, which is headed by PA Chairman Yassir Arafat. Some of this funding and weaponry goes to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, both of which openly call for America's destruction. Much of this weaponry is intercepted in incidents such as the Karine A. Some gets through the same Israeli checkpoints that Stock criticizes, to be used in "acts of resistance" such as those that have blown up infants in strollers. I asked my driver why the people don't change the regime and he scoffed at my seeming naïveté, patiently explaining that Arafat and the PA maintain over a dozen separate police, security and intelligence units, modeled after Saddam's Iraqi intelligence apparatus, which was modeled on Stalin's. One of my fellow passengers described how Arafat uses his security assets to consolidate power and eliminate potential, often more moderate, political opponents. In some cases these people are publicly lynched and disemboweled.
Missing from Stock's article is any reference to the ubiquitous presence of Hamas throughout Gaza. It's difficult to miss the numerous newly constructed or reconstructed Saudi-funded and Wahabi-inspired mosques controlled by Hamas clerics. Hamas's control of the religious realm in Gaza parallels the PA's control of the political realm, although the two become intertwined in areas such as media, where both feed the Gaza populace a steady stream of hate and incitement. It's difficult to miss the constant pronouncements by these clerics, widely featured in the PA censored and controlled media, calling for the destruction of America, praising the "homicide" bombers as martyrs, and imploring followers to "slaughter the infidels" (that's you, me and anybody who refuses to accept their Wahabi-inspired version of Islam).
Stock manages to miss one of the most prominent and disturbing features of life in Gaza and one especially contrary to Western values, the degradation and subjugation of women. The strengthening of the Wahabi-inspired version of Islam and of Hamas has resulted in what the locals refer to as "a more traditional" role for women. In my most recent visit to Gaza I immediately noticed how, since my prior visit, a significant proportion of the women had switched from Western-style dress to the traditional Islamic garb of being covered from head to toe, often in black sheets. While I was informed that a number of women had done this voluntarily, perhaps a greater number were dressing this way to avoid harassment from the Wahabi-inspired devotees of Hamas and others. A number of cruel practices, which abated during the Israeli occupation from 1967 through the Oslo Accord, are on the increase. These include practices such as genital mutilation and "honor killings." An honor killing involves a women being killed by men in her family because she has dishonored them by engaging in pre-marital sex or adultery. In some cases the female victims have actually been raped by family members.
Stock ignores the material contained in the textbooks reissued by the PA, broadcast across PA-controlled television and distributed via newspapers and in pamphlets via community organizations. This material denies that the Holocaust ever happened, borrows heavily from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and features parties and parades where young children are dressed up as homicide bombers. It is designed to shape the minds of children and others to hate and destroy. For those interested in exploring this further, you can visit www.memri.org, a website that has translated into English speeches, articles and broadcasts from clerics, politicians and `intellectuals," from Gaza and the rest of the Arab world.
Stock does not discuss a number of important events that he certainly must have been aware of during his tenure in Gaza, the most important being what occurred on 9/11. Many of us watched in horror and disbelief as the Gaza Arabs partied late into the night, celebrating the slaughter of thousands of Americans and other "infidels." At first, the Palestinian Authority (PA) denied that there were any such celebrations, adding that the false reports were "Zionist propaganda." Despite the concerted efforts of the PA's multiple security services to confiscate video footage and harass and beat a number of journalists, the film made it to the international airwaves. (Sadly, the PA heavily censors content and restricts journalistic access in the Gaza Strip, providing a distorted view of reality. Many journalists involved in broadcasting this story and others that reflect poorly on the PA have had their press privileges and visitation rights revoked. Perhaps this reality influenced Stock's decision to exclude any material critical of the PA.) The story then changed to the video of the celebrations being fabricated "Zionist propaganda." The PA, Hamas and other entities in Gaza and the West Bank also flooded the media under their control with stories about how 9/11 was not caused by 19 homicidal Arab terrorists, but was a plot by the Mossad and/or the CIA, and/or "the Infidels." Among the "proof" provided was the "fact" that no Jews died on 9/11 because they had been forewarned to stay home from work. Hamas and clerics from many Saudi-financed, Wahabi-inspired mosques compounded the abomination by pronouncing that the slaughter of 9/11 was supposedly justified by Islamic law, adding, of course, the "martyrs" were each on their way to 72 virgins in paradise.
Stock's choice of what to exclude, whether through naïveté or to score some petty political point, is, at best, insensitive, given the pain and grieving which many Colgate alumni experienced from the loss of family, friends, neighbors and business associates as a result of 9/11. The greatest loss for many of us was Ed Felt '81, who leaves behind [his] wife, Sandra (Valdez) Felt '81, and two daughters. Four men from my community perished, each leaving behind a family. Two were Catholics and two were Jews; I guess the Jews never received the "message," widely broadcast as fact throughout Gaza, that they were not supposed to go to work. Among people that I knew via business that perished was a Muslim man whom I will always remember for his kindness, integrity and tolerance. This man's ideas, not the Wahabi-inspired hatred and incitement spread by the PA, Hamas and others in Gaza and ignored by Stock, are the core ideas of three Abrahamic faiths.
As many of us learned at Colgate, ideas are important because ideas have consequences. The News From Below crowd attributes 9/11 to an "act of resistance" against U.S. imperialism and, in effect, blames America. In other articles, it describes 9/11 as part of a crazy conspiracy to strengthen President Bush and the military-industrial complex. But the real responsibility for 9/11 comes from the Wahabi-inspired hatred and intolerance spewing out from Gaza and elsewhere across the Arab world. Each of us has a responsibility to vigorously oppose those entities seeking to destroy the values of liberty and tolerance, rather than willfully choosing to ignore them, as Stock has done. The vitality of our civilization depends on freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. It is a cruel irony that Stock and the News From Below crowd use freedom and openness to further ideas and entities that would end this freedom.
The January 2003 article of Nathan Stock titled "Heading south: a personal account of life under occupation," is so one-sided and intellectually skewed that it is a polemic, and not an honest observation. Stock so absolutely identifies with the Arab residents of Gaza that he had to repeatedly use Arabic to emphasize his solidarity.
There is no doubt that the conditions in Gaza are pitiful. However, Stock must have remained in his apartment for most of his stay to ignore the rallies attended by thousands and the grafitti of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Martyrs chanting "Death to America," "Death to the Jews" and voicing support for Saddam Hussein. Perhaps Stock is not aware of the thousands of bomb attacks, mortar rounds and gunfire that have killed Jewish civilians in Gaza and in surrounding Israel.
Apparently, Stock is also willing to give a free pass to the Palestinian Authority despite its corruption, incompetence and neglect of its people.
Yes, Israeli governments share some responsibility and there is a vigorous debate in Israel about its presence in Gaza. Nevertheless, most of the blame falls at the feet of Egypt, which "occupied" Gaza from 1948 until 1967 and left the population virtual prisoners, and the majority of Gazans who would rather support homicide bombings and glorify martyrdom while chasing the deluded dream of destroying Israel.
Hopes article inspires dialogue
I, for one, am pleased and proud that the Nathan Stock article "Heading south" did appear in the Colgate Scene. Had the article instead been rejected out of hand, simply based on its covering a sensitive and politically charged issue, I believe the aims of the academy -- and of Colgate -- would not have been as well served. After all, Stock's piece was simply presenting the unique and eye-opening account of an alumnus who'd faced something with which most of us have had no first-hand experience. Past Scene articles about the button merchant or the maven of masonry supply or, perhaps more relevantly, the Tuohey brothers and their basketball-related encounters in South Africa and Northern Ireland, have also presented accounts of alumni who've had out-of-the-ordinary kinds of experiences. These sorts of stories, I believe, enrich all our lives, serving to provide new insights and to broaden our perspectives on the world in which we live. I applaud your inclusion of such articles in the Scene.
I hope the Stock article, as well as the letters which it may inspire people to write in response, may prompt deep and ongoing conversations -- not only about the difficult challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians, but also concerning Colgate's aims and/or responsibilities regarding lifelong learning and encouragement of balanced, open-minded, and tolerant consideration of others' points of view, even -- or perhaps most especially -- when they may differ from our own.
As it happens, civil discourse is one of the chief reasons I've spent my adult life working in academe. I find open, respectful dialogue on substantive and vital issues to be a beneficial, worthy and even hopeful pursuit. Would that all the world could work as the academy was designed to.
Praise for George Barton Cutten
George Barton Cutten wasn't a "fun guy," but his accomplishments as president of Colgate University for 20 years belie puerile efforts to denigrate him. To pillory him, as reported in the January edition of the Scene, because of a quotation an undergraduate saw at the Ellis Island Museum is folly. Moreover, that this undergraduate would capitalize on his self-serving indignation and obtain more than 800 signatures to change the name of the Cutten residential complex is another sad example of the in-your-face attitude so characteristic of pseudo-liberalism.
To his everlasting credit, Cutten believed the task of the college was to prepare undergraduates for the challenges they would encounter after graduation in each and every field of endeavor. As Howard D. Williams '30 noted in A History of Colgate University, to prepare them for their responsibilities President Cutten "called for re-examination and experimentation with the curriculum and teaching methods to ensure that the best education might be provided." Moral training, he added, must be joined to intellectual training to instill "ideals of service for society."
Andrews Hall, Huntington Gymnasium, Lawrence Hall, Stillman Hall, McGregory Hall and the Student Union Building were constructed during the Cutten era. The ratio of teachers to students was decreased. There were no reductions in faculty salaries because of the depression. The Washington Study Group was initiated. Intramural sports were introduced.
Quoting again from Williams, [Colgate] "was in a strong position for adapting to new conditions of the immediate present and planning for the long-range future." Cutten's leadership had indeed been productive.
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