Your Voice | A controversial advertisement

Readers criticize an advertisement from the David Horowitz Freedom Center that appeared in the 'DP'

· September 14, 2011, 12:33 am   ·  Updated September 16, 2011, 3:10 am

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An attack in print

For seven years, I have been a proud member of the Penn community. After graduating in 2008, I became a very active alumna, and I am now finally back at this great University to complete my master’s degree. In all these years, I’ve been incredibly proud to call myself a Penn student — and to be a member of such a diverse community.

Yesterday, The Daily Pennsylvanian embarrassed me — and the Penn community — by publishing a full-page advertisement of overt hatred and discrimination against an entire culture. The advertisement was peppered with blanket statements about Arabs of Palestinian origin and blatantly pushed an extremist agenda in hurtful, insulting and accusatory language. The text was huge and, more importantly, the text was published in our own student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, in black and white. The sad fact of the matter is that this advertisement targets a small and often marginalized community on campus that is sometimes almost invisible.

If I show up at your office tomorrow with a message of hatred against any other race or culture (you name it — Caucasian American, African American, Indian, Australian, European, Asian) — would you dare print it, just to earn $1000 (or whatever it costs to print a full-page advertisement)? What about $2000? $5000? This letter is by no means a political statement; it’s a plea to protect our University’s values.

Editors of The Daily Pennsylvanian — your newspaper represents our Penn community. And you have a responsibility toward that community. Today, you allowed Arab students to be insulted, stereotyped and attacked on the safe haven of our campus, hundreds of times over. You printed it on pages that read “The University of Pennsylvania.” And you encouraged further prejudice and close-mindedness on this campus. Please, apologize to your University.

Archita Banerjee
W’08 C’08 WG’13

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Defilement in the DP

Is the glorious newspaper I was once so proud to call my own so poor that it must accept money from any giving hand, even if that hand spreads hatred and oppression?

This morning, sitting with friends at Einstein Bros. Bagels and enjoying the daily roast, I was distressed to find a surprise ad lurking on page nine of The Daily Pennsylvanian. The accusations, depicting the Palestinian people as war-hungry and insensible barbarians, truly disturbed me.

Did it ever occur to the editors that this may not be a legitimate ad to include in our newspaper? In the post 9/11 era, especially one day after the 10-year memorial of a tragic terrorist event that continues to haunt our countrymen, we should be looking to spread brotherhood and peace.

This ad only tells one side of the story, for many can attest to the atrocities the Israeli Defense Forces have afflicted upon the Arab people of Palestine.

Publishing such defilement has tarnished the news medium I continually followed until this day. My loyalty to such an unprofessional organization that repeatedly loses hold of the hatred’s leash now dwindles, and I doubt my trust in such an institution.

Please, pull yourselves together and return to your duty to serve the masses at Penn. I am humiliated.

Eza Koch
Engineering sophomore

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The following letter was added at 12 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15.

DP repeats prejudicial ad

As regular readers of The Daily Pennsylvanian, we have only been genuinely surprised twice. The first was when we were fooled as freshmen by the April Fools’ edition, and the second occurred last semester, when the DP ran a full-page advertisement replete with the lowest of bellicose rhetoric.

After reading the Sept. 13 edition of the DP, we not only question but deplore the lack of judgment that a campus paper as lauded as the DP would, for the second semester in a row, publish an advertisement that runs contrary to the spirit of not only our University but also to that of journalism itself.

Any organization such as the DP must necessarily raise funds to continue its operations, and we fully understand that point. However, we must remind the editors of the DP that accepting money to publish such hate-filled propaganda and bigotry against others is an endorsement and a clear political statement about what it does and does not deem as hate speech.

The DP would never, for example, run an advertisement from the Ku Klux Klan claiming ambiguous phrases of freedom were forms of “white hatred” and that African Americans were somehow trying to wage genocide. The DP would never run an advertisement from the Westboro Baptist Church stating “God hates fags” or “Thank God for 9/11.” Why, then, does it insist on repeatedly printing full-page advertisements of hatred, bigotry and propaganda that alienates individuals and denigrates meaningful scholarship?

What sort of environment and community does the DP hope to foster? One of alienation toward Muslims and Arabs? Why is the absence of critical academic engagement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being substituted by polemical and hate-filled intolerance? An advertisement, by its very nature, is a one-sided propagation to influence behavior more so than to facilitate communal dialogue.

This advertisement is an attempt to isolate and target human beings within our community; its only agenda is to provoke hate and elicit prejudice. With the recent rise of Islamophobia in the wake of 9/11, such irresponsibility on the part of the DP to publish this ad is seen as a means of discrimination and an affront on the safety of Muslims and Arabs, as well as those who may be mistaken for either Muslim or Arab.

The spirit of the University of Pennsylvania, to us, espouses and fosters pluralism, critical thinking, academic engagement with issues and social justice — and we are wholly ashamed of The Daily Pennsylvanian in its irresponsible decision to publish such baleful rhetoric.

An apology by the DP is not only in order, but — in the future — editors should exercise better judgment and express a modicum of sagacity in their advertisement decisions. Newspapers, as a form of journalism, should not be in the business of politics, but rather in truth-telling and honest reporting. One word for the wise is enough, and two words for the not-so-wise are more than plenty.

Hadi Kaakour, College senior, former president of the Penn Arab Student Society
Abbas Rattani, 2010 Master’s degree recipient from the School of Medicine

Signatories:
Nicky Singh, chairman of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition
Jibran Khan, president of the Class Board of 2012
Victor Scotti, Planning and Facilitating chairman, UMOJA
James Sawyer & Maryam Alireza, co-presidents of the Penn Arab Student Society
Sima Golnabi, president of the Penn Persian Society
Leo Wang, president of the Community Health Initiative at Penn
The United Minorities Council Board

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The following two letters were added at 12:40 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.

Enough with David Horowitz’s Bigotry in the DP

Did my father lie to me when he said our family had been in Jerusalem for 500 years? Or was he deceived, along with several million other “Palestinians,” by an anti-Semitic hoax invented in 1964? Hopefully, this question will sound preposterous to most readers of The Daily Pennsylvanian. However, it unfortunately seems to make sense to David Horowitz, who — for the second time — disseminated his views in this otherwise admirable newspaper through a bigoted and futile advertisement.

Through his advertisement, Horowitz exposes his blatant disregard for both fact and logic. In an offensive generalizing statement, he slams “sixty-years of Arabs rejecting peace” whilst overlooking the Arab League’s clear endorsement of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders and the Palestinian Authority’s current plan to solidify this solution in international law through its pending United Nations bid. Speaking of the Palestinian Authority’s plans, he faults them for being “unilateral.” Can someone clarify how a universal vote in an international forum is “unilateral”? By definition, it is multilateral. The advertisement then attempts to negate the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause because there was no country called “Palestine” or people called “Palestinians.” Besides ignoring the fact that many countries in the developing world also lacked sovereign status until very recently, Horowitz fails to see that there would have been a Palestinian state were it not precisely for the ongoing impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. He somewhat seems to be conflating cause and effect.

Anyway, I don’t think there is a point to arguing with Horowitz. The reality is that the Palestinians and Israelis both exist and are convinced that they exist as national groups, and that a solution will be found only when the inalienable Palestinian right to self-determination is reconciled with Israelis’ non-negotiable right to security. This is where mainstream discussion is and should be. By bickering over whether Palestinians have a right to call themselves “Palestinians” and identify with the Holy Land, Horowitz places himself alongside groups like Hamas — who speak about Israelis in roughly similar terms.

Would the DP publish an advertisement that questions the Jewish people’s identification with the Holy Land and makes blanket statements about Jews? In fact, would it publish a relatively politically correct advertisement that calls for a selective boycott of Israeli goods until the State of Israel adheres to international law? While I am not necessarily in favor of such advertisements, I don’t think the DP would ever publish them — a clear implication that the limits of correctness and decency can be stretched when it comes to Arabs and Palestinians.

Therefore, as a Palestinian-American and an Arab member of this community, I demand that the DP stop advertising Horowitz’s egregiously offensive, generalizing and uninformed views and other material that unfairly discriminates against the small community of Arabs in this University. After all, this kind of advertisement is not befitting of a publication of a highly ranked Ivy League school.

Omar Kalouti
College sophomore

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Speaking out for peace

On behalf of Penn Friends of Israel — the left, the middle and the right — I am taken aback by David Horowitz’s Sept. 13 full-page advertisement in The Daily Pennsylvanian. First and foremost, this piece is not in the least bit representative of the Penn pro-Israel community’s opinions. The statement’s rhetoric is not conducive to the peaceful and legitimate dialogue that we seek.

While Horowitz does cite a number of historical truths, he fails to make the necessary distinction between the few aggressors and the majority of the world’s Arabs, who are practical and idealistic people. To say that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza are suffering because of “Arabs rejecting peace” is dishonest and counterproductive. It is dishonest because individuals like Yasser Arafat and Gamal Abdel Nasser cannot possibly embody the ideals and values of the world’s entire Arab population. Arabs are a diverse group of people that can never fairly be characterized by a blanket statement, much less one about their “uniform” political ideology, as Horowitz suggests. It is counterproductive because it is inflammatory. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza is already encumbered by enough hate and radicalism. It is polarizing and attention-craving individuals like Horowitz who advance the stalemate in which we have unfortunately found ourselves.

Now more than ever, it is important that we speak out against those who seek to undermine the common goal of peace. While we may not agree upon policy, it is certainly important to maintain some level of dignity and professionalism. The question of Palestinian statehood will devour the media and will occupy much of our thought over the next few weeks given the Unilateral Declaration of Independence that the Palestinian National Authority will push forward in the United Nations.

College campuses are a wonderful forum to exchange ideas, anecdotes and knowledge. We have all three of these components here at Penn. The only question left is whether we can overcome the misconceptions about one another.

We are ready to talk. Are you?

Noah Feit
College sophomore
Co-President of Penn Friends of Israel

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Executive Editor Lauren Plotnick addresses readers’ concerns and responds to the criticism regarding the advertisement.

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