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Memo to CSG Leadership, University of Michigan

05/13/2021 09:07:28 AM



To:       Central Student Government Leadership, University of Michigan

From:   Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss, Houston, TX

Until three days ago, I had never heard of any of you. I mean, if I had been asked if there is a student government at my son’s university, I’m sure I would’ve said of course. But, as I imagine is the case for most parents of college kids, my focus is most significantly centered on making sure that I can continue to afford to pay the exorbitant tuition to send my son to Michigan and pray that it is worth it.  But thank you, now I have something new to focus on in a bewildering and confounding sort of way. I have read your letter, “CSG Press Release May 10th, 2021, To our Palestinian friends and the U-M community at large,” and I just have a few questions.

After having reviewed your posted press releases prior to this most recent piece addressed to your Palestinian friends, I am wondering what happened to the press releases you must have published over the past year to your Tigrayan friends, suffering under the measurable and proven ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Ethiopian government.  I am also curious why it is that I cannot find the press release you must have written to the Myanmar government for their military dictatorship that has set out to kill and maim your Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, Rohingya, and Shan friends.  And, well, I am sure that you must have archived the dozens of letters to your Uighur friends, whom China has deemed simply unworthy of, well…  And by the way, if I am incorrect and you do have pieces like this that you issued for immediate release upon hearing the ways in which these oppressed and persecuted friends around the world (and with whom your university has regular and sustainable relationships), please do share them with us. I am sure we will learn a great deal.

But in the meantime, please allow me to offer you a lesson.  This comes from someone who is a pretty lefty liberal on Israel.  I am a Reform Jew, politically liberal, and I wept upon hearing the news of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose murder by an extreme, right wing Yeshiva student in Tel Aviv, was indeed a terrible turning point for the future of peace in Israel-Palestine.  I am a proponent of a two-state solution, and yet I am also aware that even while Gaza is led by extreme nationalist and terrorist leaders, Israel is almost solely responsible for Gaza’s electricity grid. Have you ever heard of an occupying force that operates by the ethic of Motel Six, “We’ll keep the lights on for you?”  But I digress.  Of course, Gaza is an awful place to live and all good people pray that there will be a solution. But if there is one thing I hope my son and you as well get from your University of Michigan education, it’s that anytime you hear someone describe a terribly complicated situation with an overly simplistic description, you know that you’ve still got lots more homework to do.

This is not a matter of “whataboutism.”  Israel has not always acted righteously and there are proper and just ways of calling it out, acting upon it, and seeking justice.  Instead, this is about absenteeism.  A letter that singles out Israel, the only Democracy in the Middle East, for singular ridicule, from an organization whose critique of others in the world is simply and shockingly absent, does violence to the very nature of the ideals you seek to uphold.  I say this as I weep now for the loss of life in Gaza as well as Israel, the loss of conscience in leaders of Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and for the losses of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, colleagues, and lovers in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and beyond, for whom life has unalterably changed. 

The hubbub of the news will calm, we’ll move on to the next crisis.  And I pray that the student leadership of Michigan digs deeper into the very complicated issues in Israel-Palestine that are insultingly made shallow by simple, one-sided points of view that may make one feel empowered for a moment.  However, a two-legged table with one leg missing will always spill your tea.

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782