Georgia Tech's Propaganda War · 04 December 2005

By Orit T.

I do not think Georgia Tech's disturbing trend of political radicalism was ever as apparent as on the night of Friday, November 11, 2005. After an "empowering" dinner program at the Women's Leadership Conference, I attended a movie screening and panel discussion hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). I was shocked to see the Student Center Theater filled to capacity, probably some 200 people for the movie and most remained for the panel discussion. Though the event was marketed as educational, run by Georgia Tech faculty, and paid for by Institute funds, it was far from fair and balanced. And, since the organizers failed to have at least one pro-Israel panelist, audience members' vitriolic comments were directed at me, the sole pro-Israel voice in the room, instead of at the panelists.

The program was disturbing from the very beginning. Adam Levenstein, a founding member of Atlanta Palestine Solidarity and a self-hating Jew, began applauding the fact that there was not a pro-Israel voice represented on the panel after it was announced by the moderator, Kirk Bowman, Associate Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. According to Professor Bowman, a pro-Israel voice was absent due to the unfortunate coincidence of it being a Jewish holiday. Professor Bowman's statement was a passive way of suggesting to the audience that this could have been a real opportunity for dialogue, but it was clearly not their fault - obviously it is the Israelis' fault; a typical and overly abused argument belabored by the Palestinians and the theme of the entire week's events.

The other panelists were Laura Bier, Assistant Professor in the School of History, Technology, and Society, and Rodney Hill, a Brittain Fellow in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture. I have no problem with the comments about the power of film to present people's stories by Rodney Hill. However, I was disturbed by his insistence, over and over again that these kinds of films - the kind of anti-Israel films that were shown all week as part of the "Life Under Occupation" film series - are not shown enough at Georgia Tech. With this kind of statement students can expect more films like these, and others that include anti-American and anti-capitalist themes, to be screened on campus under the guise of being educational. Films such as the ones shown in this series humanize terrorists and parallel the actions of the Israel Defense Forces with those of terrorist organization like Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Adam Levenstein's remarks were both disconcerting and alarming. When asked to clarify a specific comment in the movie - "Kill the Jews" - Mr. Levenstein justified it by first denying that Israel is a Jewish State. He then asserted that the statement "Kill the Jews" was really referring to Israeli soldiers and was therefore acceptable. Mr. Levenstein's remarks are symbolic of the panel's agreement to deny the self-determination of the Jewish people and to condone the further use of terrorism by the Palestinians. In general, he appeared to know very little about the actual history of the conflict and could only offer sound bites from his organization's mission and goals.

As if that was not bad enough, Professor Bier began speaking and managed to include the word "occupation" into every statement. It was like a propaganda lesson from the Nazis - if you say it enough, people will believe it is true. Regardless of the actual meaning of "occupation," it is irresponsible and even dangerous for anyone, especially professors and student groups, to apply the same word to a situation that terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad use to justify their actions and goal: a Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The word occupation succinctly de-legitimizes the State of Israel, further affirming my belief that Israel is continually facing an existential threat. The present situation in the Middle East is much more complex and deserves more than a one word description - a word that has become the Arab world's best international marketing ploy in history. Professor Bier's promotion of anti-Israel rhetoric leads me to question her intellectual capacity and objectivity on Middle East issues. Couple this with her statements condoning terrorism and her role as the faculty advisor of SJP, and one wonders why she was hired in the first place. By the way, she is also going to be teaching History of the Modern Middle East in the upcoming Spring semester.

This film series was part of International Education Week and was promoted and sponsored by the Office of International Education, the International Living and Learning Experience (I-House), Students for Justice in Palestine, Amnesty International, and The Wardlaw Fund for Human Rights. Conveniently, Professor Kirk Bowman is the Faculty Advisor to Amnesty International, the Director of I-House, and is a faculty member of The Human Rights Initiative at Georgia Tech.

It is hard to interpret this event as even remotely educational, when both the film and the panel spewed anti-Israel rhetoric. There was no mention of what is next for the Palestinian economy or social well-being. No, all they could focus on was how much aid Israel receives from the United States, that the Caterpillar company supplies Israel with the exact bulldozers used for house demolitions, and that the US media is biased and does not show enough Palestinian suffering. Yes, according to this panel, the media is anti-Palestinian.

In the end, this whole movement focuses around the same topic, "occupation." It is an exhausted term and its message is synonymous with the goal to destroy Israel. Time and time again, the Palestinians have had their opportunities for a state and every time they have turned it down. They have lacked leadership, and it is no surprise. The Palestinians themselves and their supposed supporters around the world are so blinded by their hate for Israel that they have not invested in their own government's development. Instead, they continue to support terrorism, and call for an end to the "occupation." With whom is the Israeli government supposed to negotiate? Israel will not negotiate with terrorists, and the Palestinian Authority has little legitimacy. Instead of a film series dedicated to "occupation," they need to host a symposium to train leaders of the future democratic state. Israel has lacked a partner for peace since the beginning, and it does not look like they will have one any time soon.

For other students like me who are in the College of Engineering, leftist intrusion into our education is not always apparent. However, we are not immune to the indoctrination once it affects our lives in general outside of the classroom. The extent of this problem is much larger than I had initially expected, but thanks to recent events I realize its severity. It is hard to believe that I have only been at Georgia Tech for three years, and in that short time have seen this school take a turn for the worse. When I came here I thought that I was going to an institute dedicated to higher learning for math and science, now I feel like Georgia Tech is a bastion of anti-American and leftist propaganda.

Orit T. Sklar is a junior at the Georgia Institute of Technology, majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is President of the Georgia Tech Hillel, founder of Jackets for Israel, and editor of the Conservative Buzz newsletter, a publication of the Georgia Tech College Republicans.