As many students are aware, in its last issue, StudLife decided to print an inflammatory paid advertisement by David Horowitz entitled, “The Palestinians’ case against Israel is based on a genocidal lie.” As representatives of the leading pro-Israel groups at Washington University, we would like to respond to that decision.
We certainly recognize David Horowitz’s right to express his opinions, no matter how abhorrent we may find them. We also recognize StudLife’s right to print the advertisement. We believe, however, that it was inappropriate for the paper to choose to do so. We emphasize the word choose because there is ample legal precedent indicating that it would have been within the paper’s rights to refuse to print the ad. We seek to advance the argument that just because printing the ad was the paper’s legal right, it does not mean that it was the right decision.
In the disclaimer published four pages away, StudLife exhibited several deficiencies in its justification for printing its ad. The paper claims that it ran the ad in order to “generate a conversation that this community should have.” To achieve this goal, StudLife could have requested that Wash. U. Students for Israel or J Street U submit op-eds explaining our opinions on the situation. However, StudLife instead chose to import a radical opinion on the conflict from outside our community. This demonstrates that StudLife attempted to create a controversy where none had previously existed. It is our position that, from a journalistic perspective, it should be the task of a newspaper to report on controversy rather than manufacture it.
Even assuming that fostering debate is a legitimate journalistic pursuit, it was still inappropriate for StudLife to publish the ad. First, and most fundamentally, the ad was blatantly racist and the use of the label “genocide” was extreme and malicious, especially coming from an individual who has made previously problematic statements. StudLife suggests that the ad will “cause anger in some people while eliciting admiration and respect in others.” If we, the pro-Israel groups on campus, find this ad offensive, who exactly does StudLife believe will “admire” the opinions of the ad? The StudLife disclaimer does little to assuage our anger—do the benefits of creating controversy or debate outweigh the deficits of offending a strong majority of the student population?
Furthermore, the printing of this advertisement is counterproductive to StudLife’s stated goal of fostering campus discussion. As previously mentioned, StudLife could have asked the pro-Israel community for its responses to the Palestinian effort to seek recognition of statehood at the U.N., which would have fostered a respectful and reasonable debate. Instead, StudLife chose to expropriate the voice of the campus pro-Israel community for the radical, racist and outsider opinion of David Horowitz. As a result of this usurpation, the campus pro-Israel position has been misrepresented as unfairly extreme. By printing the ad, StudLife has forced us to write this op-ed distancing ourselves from the bigoted opinions of Horowitz, in the hopes that the general student body will understand that his position does not reflect the position of our community. By radicalizing the issue, StudLife has detracted from the fairness and dignity of our campus debate.