By Aviva Perlman
After filing complaints and staging protests, Jewish students at Carnegie Mellon University successfully pushed the university to postpone the appearance of a controversial speaker.
Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University who has been labeled a Holocaust revisionist, was originally scheduled to speak on Feb. 21 as part of the Carnegie Mellon University Lecture Series. He will now make an appearance in March or April.
"[The university] is really trying to help us out and help us have our say in the debate," said senior Rachel Svinkelstein, president of Carnegie Mellon's new pro-Israel student group, Tartans for Israel.
According to Svinkelstein, the university has agreed to provide Tartans for Israel financial support to bring in speakers of the group's choice.
"[Tartans for Israel] is thinking of working with the Wiesenthal Center because they are greatly opposed to Norman Finkelstein," said Laura Conrad, program associate at Pittsburgh Hillel.
Finkelstein has not been the only concern. On Feb. 3, about 40 students protested the lecture series appearance of Ali Abunimah, who co-founded of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada Web site. This Thursday, Spirit, a multicultural group at Carnegie Mellon, is scheduled to bring in Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party, who has a long record of making anti-Semitic remarks, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
"The current status of black-Jewish relations is not what he says it is," said Svinkelstein. "We want members of the black and Jewish communities and everyone in between to stand together to prove Shabazz is false."
Svinkelstein is organizing a "declaration of unity" outside the hall where Shabazz will speak, where students of all nationalities, faiths and sexual orientations will demonstrate their support for tolerance, peace and healthy dialogue.
"The students are really doing their best to make this a very peaceful, protest type of thing," Conrad said. "They have felt very threatened and very unheard."
Though it appears Tartans for Israel has been well-established on campus, the group is only several months old and is looking to bring a bigger Israel presence to the Carnegie Mellon campus.
"They are trying to be proactive and promote Israeli culture," Conrad said.
As part of its efforts, Tartans for Israel is holding a program at the end of February about the Israeli Defense Forces by bringing in three to five people who have served in the Israeli army to talk about their experiences.
Aviva Perlman is a junior at American University and an intern in the Hillel communications department.