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May 31, 2001


Inexcusable comments

To the editor:

When I first read University of Pittsburgh's American Experience Program Director Robert Hazo's call for the destruction of Jerusalem's holy sites in the student newspaper, I was shocked into silence. Again, I read Hazo's comments in the University Times (April 19), and I again turned away in silence. Specifically, Hazo states: "I would blow it [the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious sites] up and then I would irradiate all of the dust so it could not be put in urns and worshipped." That the University Times provides Mr. Hazo another opportunity (May 3) to inflame prompts me to speak out against this man's hateful incitement.

Firstly, for a professional associated with the University of Pittsburgh to publicly call for the destruction of religious sites does not bring honor to this institution. This is incitement. Hazo's words must be taken seriously. No sophistry can make his comments acceptable or appropriate. Words must be taken seriously, just as the numerous legalistic claims in the PLO Covenant, adopted in 1968 and unamended even in 2001, that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state must be taken seriously. When there are Arabs blowing themselves up on buses and crowded markets, when the imans from Gaza City to Toledo, Ohio, call for jihad against the Jews, when Jewish children are selected to be shot or stoned to death, Hazo's comments must be taken seriously. The sad fact is that while Jerusalem was under Arab occupation from 1948 to 1967 there was widespread destruction of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. Destruction of Jewish temples and religious sites (e.g. Joseph's Tomb) has re-occurred during the past nine months of Arab violence. Thus the call by Hazo is not a fantasy. Such calls for violence must be met unequivocally with condemnation. I call upon the University of Pittsburgh to repudiate his remarks. A professor's call for violence against African Americans, homosexuals or women would not be tolerated for one second. Why should there be tolerance for the public call by a University employee for the destruction of Judaism's most holy site?

Hazo defends Yasir Arafat, a man who ordered the murder of American black diplomat Moore in Sudan, who calls for jihad "with fire and blood" against Jews, and who has stolen billions of dollars from world governments. In point No. 3 of his may 3 letter, Hazo de facto condones terrorism, lamenting at its inefficiency in causing Israeli casualties. Writing from the comfort of the Oakland campus (free from Palestinian sniper attacks, ambushes or bombings), Hazo's acceptance of terrorism is cowardly and does great injustice to the reputation of the University of Pittsburgh.

Hazo finds perverse joy in writing that the "great promise of Zionism was security but Israel has never been secure." The Arab countries attacked Israel in 1948, vowed to push it into the Mediterranean Sea in 1967, and launched a multi-front war against Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973. The Arab countries and the PLO have vilified and demonized Jews and the Jewish state. They have boycotted. They have invaded. They have with pre-meditation murdered women and children. They revere the suicide bombers as martyrs. They educate their children to propagate hate and violence against Jews. They use their children as shields for their attacks against Jews. As long as Palestinian terrorists strap sticks of dynamite around their bellies and board buses in downtown Tel Aviv, as long as Arab leaders and imans call for a jihad for a greater Palestine, free of Jews, as long as Arab textbooks, newspapers, radio and television (funded by American foreign aid) teach racism and call for violence against Jews, as long as "reasonable people" in the West like Hazo engage in diatribes, not dialogue, the violence and bloodshed in the Middle East will continue. Hazo's comments are inappropriate, inexcusable and intolerable, and they should be viewed as such by the University.

Seth J. Corey

Associate Professor

Pediatrics and Pharmacology

School of Medicine


Robert Hazo, director of Pitt's American Experience Program, responds:

1. Whether my call to destroy all the religious sites in the old city is taken rhetorically or literally, the obvious point made is that all of the bricks, stones, mortar and metal involved are not worth one human life. Professor Corey, while urging us to take words seriously, does not take mine seriously when he associates my words urging the destruction of things with the words of others who advocate the taking of lives. His doing so in an instance of the very sophistry he purports to condemn.

2. Professor Corey say, "Hazo defends Arafat." I refer him to page 4 of the April 19 issue of the University Times. There he will find a report on the Hazo-Berkun discussion which includes the following statement: "Hazo said, 'I am not a defender of Yasir Arafat.'"

3. Regarding terrorism, my mention of the large disparity between the number of Israeli casualties and those of the Palestinians was not to make the point Professor Corey attributed to me. If terrorism is defined as the use of coercive force, including deadly force, on non-combatants for political purposes, then it certainly appears that the Israelis also engage in terror. I am thinking of the number of Palestinian women and children who are dead or wounded and especially of the victims of the vigilante groups of Israeli settlers.

Those who use buzz words like "pro-terrorist" or "anti-Semitic" irresponsibly shame themselves and dishonor the cause they purport to defend. When appropriate, such calumny and defamation should be countered by institutional or legal redress.

4. Finally, Professor Corey associates what I said with those who vilify and demonize Jews and deplores the fact that I engage in "diatribes, not dialogue." I suggest he contact Rabbi Berkun who, I believe, thinks our exchange was a dialogue. Professor Corey should have been there; he might have learned something.


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