A war of words erupted several times during a day-long conference on the Persian Gulf Crisis and Palestinian-Israeli conflict held this weekend at the Christian Association. The conference included three sessions with panels of professors and other Middle East experts. Each panel member spoke for 20 minutes, and then answered questions. At the second session, all three panel members addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that Palestinians living in Israel are discriminated against. They added that a resolution must be found. All three members condemned current Israeli policies while backing the actions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Judith Chomsky, a civil rights lawyer for the National Lawyers Guild, told the audience that "Jews and non-Jews are not entitled to equal protection" under Israeli law. The lawyer, who spent part of her life on a Kibbutz, an Israeli commune, sighted several examples where Palestinian villages are not connected to electricity or water facilities. She added that while Israeli Arabs cannot serve in the Israeli Army and, therefore, do not qualify for subsidies, many Jews who refuse to serve in the army still receive the subsidies. "Its a catch-22 situation," she said. Brooklyn College Professor Norman Finkelstein was the most vocal of the panelists, saying that while "the Palestine Liberation Organization is fully aligned with the international consensus," Israel has not taken one step towards reconciliation. Finkelstein's speech -- a strong criticism of Israeli policies -- included a condemnation of Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Finkelstein charged the Israeli intelligence agency with thwarting PLO efforts to negotiate a peace. One exchange that set the tone for much of the conference came during a question-and-answer period, in which Finkelstein yelled at an audience member, calling that student "demented and delirious," for questioning his ideas. Several students said the conference was biased and one-sided, saying that the panelists never listened to alternative viewpoints. College sophomore Jonathon Huppert called the day-long discussions a "very one-sided conference blind to any other view." He added that the panel supported "itself through the elimination of many facts." Penn Committee members said afterwards that the conference was useful because it led to the free expression of views about the Middle East. The committee is comprised of faculty members and students who have coordinated their efforts with two University student groups -- the Muslim Students Organization and the Penn Committee for Palestinians. The newly-formed organization opposes the U.S. build-up of troops in the Persian Gulf and have called for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.Comments powered by Disqus
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