"A huge lie repeated often enough is accepted as truth." — Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister PRIMER-Connecticut "Unanswered media bias and misinformation repeated often enough is accepted as truth." — PRIMER
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Letters Concerning Biased Teach-In at Central Connecticut State University

In November, 2001, Central Connecticut State University hosted an event billed as a "Teach-In on Palestine." It was sponsored by the Middle East Studies Group, Coalition for Social Justice, and Center for International Education at CCSU and supported by the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. PRIMER recognized it was highly biased and challenged the administration at CCSU, leading to the following exchange of letters.
  1. January 19 -- Barry Gordon to CCSU
  2. January 22 -- Sid Laibson to CCSU Vice President Bartelt
  3. February 28 -- Bartelt to Barry Gordon
  4. March 5 -- Bartelt to Sid Laibson
  5. April 26 -- Sid Laibson to CCSU President Judd
  6. May 1 -- Judd to Sid Laibson
  7. May 15 -- Norton Mezvinsky to Sid Laibson
  8. May 15 -- Mezvinsky to Barry Gordon
  9. May 21 -- Sid Laibson to Richard Judd
  10. May 21 -- Sid Laibson to Mezvinsky
  11. June 15 -- Mezvinsky to Sid Laibson

Letter sent January 19 by Barry Gordon to CCSU

January 19, 2001

CCSU
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

To whom it may concern:

In early November, I attended an event at CCSU sponsored by the Middle East Studies Group, Coalition for Social Justice, Center for International Education at CCSU, and supported by the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. This event was billed as a Teach-In on Palestine. The panel was composed of six or seven presenters. Only one, who was requested at the "11th hour," was pro-Israel. The audience was captive to hear about 70 minutes of anti-Israel statements and 10 minutes of pro-Israel statements. The event was basically a propaganda forum of bashing "evil" Israel and praising the "victimized" Palestinians.

It was an example of what democracy in action should not be -- a lopsided biased tirade against Jews and Israel. An event reminiscent of the early days of Nazi propaganda, complete with historical revisionism, half-truths, omissions, big lies, and inciting people to hatred. It was frightening. The themes over and over again were equating Israel with Nazism and apartheid, and that Jews have no connection to that land.

Instructors canceled classes and assigned them to the Teach-In, creating in effect, a "captive" audience. As a Connecticut resident and taxpayer, I was infuriated.

Reasonable people will agree, that when discussing these complex issues there must be fairness and evenhandedness, with equal representation from both sides. This did not happen. Instead, the students were exposed to an insidious propaganda laden Teach-In at a State University.

Sincerely,

Barry Gordon
32 Chateaux Margaux

Letter sent January 22 by Sid Laibson to CCSU Vice President Pearl Bartelt

January 22, 2001

Ms. Pearl Bartelt
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

Dear Ms. Bartelt:

Enclosed is a letter dated January 19, 2001 from Mr. Barry Gordon, a Director of PRIMER, who attended a Teach-In event held at CCSU on November 8, 2000 sponsored by the Middle East Studies Group, Coalition for Social Justice, and the Center for International Education at CCSU.

Please advise when it would be convenient to meet with you to discuss the issues raised in Mr. Gordon's letter of January 19, that is of deep concern to PRIMER and our community.

Sincerely,

Sidney Laibson, President

cc: Mr. Richard Judd, President CCSU

Letter sent February 28 by CCSU Vice President Pearl Bartelt to Barry Gordon

February 28, 2001

Barry Gordon
32 Chateaux Margaux
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Gordon:

I appreciate your taking the time to write detailing your concerns about the November teach-in held at Central Connecticut State University in November. I was in the audience for the entire event.

As I am sure you know, a University is a place where ideas are presented, even if they are ideas where you and I may not agree. We never require that all presentations be "balanced." What we do require is that different ideas are always offered a forum. The organizers of the November panel agreed to have the Rabbi join them. This was not a requirement. There have been presentations on the campus on Israel where we have not "required" that the Palestinian view be presented. Faculty organize panels as a means to bring views, sometime provocative, to the campus. It is an important part of what a University does.

Faculty members have the right to cancel classes and assign students to attend events that they feel are relevant to their courses. I am sorry that this infuriated you. If a student felt that attendance at an event was problematic, the student could have brought those concerns to the faculty member or to other college officials.

There are many speakers, panels, and artistic performances on the campus. I hope you will attend other events that you find more satisfactory.

Sincerely,

Pearl W. Bartelt
Vice President for Academic Affairs

c. President R. Judd

Letter sent March 5 by CCSU Vice President Pearl Bartelt to Sid Laibson

March 5, 2001

Sidney Laibson, President
PRIMER-Connecticut
P.O. Box 7194
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Laibson:

I have enclosed the letter I sent as a reply to Barry Gordon. I would be very happy to meet with you. To set up a meeting time that is convenient for you, I have asked my assistant, Monica Johnson, to call. She is the person who handles my calendar.

I look forward to our meeting.

Sincerely,

Pearl W. Bartelt
Vice President for Academic Affairs

c. President R. Judd

Letter sent April 26 by Sid Laibson to CCSU President Richard Judd

April 26, 2001

Mr. Richard Judd, President
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

Dear Mr. Judd:

On March 29, 2001, Mr. Barry Gordon and I met with Ms. Bartelt to discuss the issues and concerns raised in Mr. Gordon's letter of January 19, 2001. Enclosed for your information is a copy of a letter dated January 22, 2001 outlining our grievances and Ms. Bartelt's response of March 5, 2001.

During our discussion, Ms. Bartelt advised that CCSU "never requires that all presentations be balanced." She further stated that she does not have the authority to require balanced presentations, nor if she did, would she require panel discussions be arranged with speakers presenting opposing views. I responded that a balanced presentation of differing views would contribute to public enlightenment, and that an enlightened public is the forerunner of justice. A one-sided debate void of opposing views that challenge lies and distortions is an effective propaganda tool, and forums at universities that are not "balanced" are a springboard for advocating the biased position of a propagandist. Academic freedom must be free of any other interest other than the public's right to know the truth. Truth should be the ultimate goal.

PRIMER is dedicated to "Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting". The unbalanced format of the teach-in event held at CCSU on November 8, 2000 was irresponsible. Ms. Bartelt's response to these concerns was disheartening. As President of a fine public university, we appeal to your sense of fairness -- to correct an injustice that permits individuals and groups to use the facilities of CCSU to promote their biased positions.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Sidney Laibson, President

Letter sent May 1 by CCSU President Richard Judd to Sid Laibson

May 1, 2001

Mr. Sidney Laibson, President
PRIMER-Connecticut
P.O. Box 7194
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Laibson,

Thank you for your letter of April 26th. I am afraid that you will not like my answer any more than that of Vice President Bartelt's. But, let me put this into perspective. While we embrace the matter of academic freedom strongly, as officers of the University, we can encourage - but not demand - that discourse on any matter be "balanced." You are right, truth is the intellectual goal. Let me cite, from a recent paper of mine, that sense:

"...Universities, even though authorized by governments, churches, and other institutions of society who chartered them, exist not to propagate the ideologies of those formal institutions, but for the purpose of seeking the intellectual truth. That pursuit is not neutral. It is not to be bridled...Universities exist for the propagation of intellectual truth. Sometimes that quest pits them against the very political and other forces that would limit their struggle against the irrelevancies that corrupt thought and reason. The university's most noble goal over the centuries has been to celebrate scholarship and contributions to knowledge in all its facets and understandings. At the core of the university's soul is academic freedom..."
It is my legal responsibility as President to protect the right of students and faculty to express their views in a manner that they think appropriate. As much as I may have personal opinions on what they say or write, or how they do so, it is fully inappropriate for me to temper their freedom of expression. Students, and for that matter the rest of us, have to determine the value of what is professed to them, whether it occurs in the classroom, a forum, or the very "teach-in" that you cite. For me or Vice President Bartelt to require otherwise would be chilling of not only the precepts and principles of academic freedom, but of the constitutional protections embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

All of this said, I appreciate that you and others are deeply concerned about the "teach-in" that took place on November 8, 2000. I will share your letter and my response to it with the faculty members responsible for the program so that they may be aware of your concerns.

Sincerely,

Richard L. Judd
President

c: Vice President Bartelt

Letter sent May 15 by CCSU Professor Norton Mezvinsky to Sid Laibson

198B Woodrow Street
West Hartford, CT 06117
May 15, 2001

Mr. Sidney Laibson
Primer - Connecticut
P.O. Box 7194
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Laibson:

I am enclosing a copy of the letter that I have sent to Mr. Barry Gordon. As I wrote to Mr. Gordon, CCSU President Judd has provided me with copies of the letter-correspondence between you, Mr. Gordon, CCSU Vice-President Bartelt and CCSU President Judd. My response to Mr. Gordon is also a response to you, since you have clearly associated yourself and Primer-Connecticut with the views, expressed by Mr. Gordon, concerning a discussion at CCSU last November at which I was a participant-discussant.

I am writing this letter to you to ask a few questions about Primer-Connecticut, which you, as its president, have brought into a discussion of"balance," as you have defined the term, of programs and presentations concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict:

1) How many, if any, officers and/or directors of Primer-Connecticut are Palestinian and/or Arab Americans?

2) Has Primer-Connecticut been publicly critical of any Israeli governmental policies that have deprived Palestinian citizens of, or residents within, the state of Israel of their human rights? If so, when?

3) Has Primer-Connecticut criticized public meetings or programs in the state of Connecticut that have focused upon the Arab-Israeli conflict but have not had presentations condemning certain Israeli governmental policies or actions? If so. when?

4) Has Primer-Connecticut openly and publicly criticized reporting in the press that is strictly apologetic of and for the state of Israel? If so, when?

Would you be so kind as to answer the above questions by letter, addressed to my above address or to my office address c/o Department of History, CCSU, 1615 Stanley St., New Britain, CT 06050. If you prefer, you could answer the questions by e-mail:

Mezvinskyn@mail.cssu.edu.

Sincerely,

Norton Mezvinsky

C: Mr. Barry Gordon,
Bloomfield, CT

CCSU:
President Judd
Vice-President Bartelt
Professor Ali Antar
Professor Ghassan El-Eid
Professor Carole Austaud
Professor Nanjundiah Sadanand

Letter sent May 15 by CCSU Professor Norton Mezvinsky to Barry Gordon

198B Woodrow Street
West Hartford, CT 06117
May 15, 2001

Mr. Barry Gordon
32 Chateaux Margaux
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Gordon:

CCSU President Judd has provided me with copies of your January 19, 2001 letter to CCSU, Sidney Laibson's January 22 letter to CCSU Vice-President Bartelt, Vice-President Bartelt's February 28 and March 5 letters to Mr. Gordon and to you, Mr. Laibson's April 26 letter to President Judd and President Judd's May 1 letter to Mr. Laibson.

I am writing primarily in response to the disparaging remarks, which you made orally at the meeting and even more extensively in your letter, about what I said during the November discussion. I shall speak here only for myself; the other discussant participants, whom you attacked, are capable of answering you on their own behalfs, if they choose to do so. I shall comment secondarily upon your call for "balance" in programming. You included me as a participant in a "propaganda forum of bashing 'evil' Israel and praising the 'victimized' Palestinians." You alleged that what I said was a contribution to "an event reminiscent of the early days of Nazi propaganda, complete with historical revisionism, half-truths, omissions, big lies and inciting people to hatred." You alleged: "The themes [of what I said] over and over again were equating Israel with Nazism..." You emphasized that I, was part of a group of speakers' maintaining "that Jews have no connection to the land [Israel-Palestine]." These ad-hominem charges and allegations about what I said are lies and distortions. You have taken my criticisms of Israeli policies out of context and have totally disregarded my criticisms of Palestinian National Authority policies. Should I learn that you have again repeated such charges publicly, I shall ask my lawyer to take all possible legal action, on my behalf, against you. Almost all the facts and interpretations that I presented at last November's meeting were taken from what respected Israeli, Jewish commentators have written and had published in the Israeli Hebrew press. Should I presume that you regard those Israeli Jews to be in the same category as you have attempted to put me?

Regarding your and Mr. Laibson's call for balance, I wish to second the substantive points, made admirably by CCSU Vice-President Bartelt in her letter to you and by President Judd in his letter to Mr. Laibson. In the last sentence of your January 19 letter you alleged: " ...The students were exposed to an insidious propaganda laden teach-in at a State University." Such an unwarranted charge makes it difficult for me to answer you as politely as did Vice- President Bartelt. Although I did not organize the November meeting, I reject your description. I accepted an invitation to be a participant-discussant. I did not accept as either an advocate for the Palestinians or for the Israeli government. I presented my analysis with as much objectivity as should be expected of a serious student or scholar. Legitimate disagreement with what I (or anyone) said should include evidence and rational thinking. Your criticism contained neither. Your view of balance, I must conclude, is unbalanced. Please see the enclosed copy of my letter to Mr. Laibson for a bit more discussion of balance.

Sincerely,

Norton Mezvinsky

C: Mr. Sidney Laibson
Bloomfield, CT

CCSU:
President Judd
Vice-President Bartelt
Professor Ali Antar
Professor Ghassan El-Eid
Professor Carole Austaud
Professor Nanjudiah Sadanand

Letter sent May 21 by Sid Laibson to Richard Judd

May 21,2001

Mr. Richard Judd, President
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

Dear Mr. Judd:

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter of April 26, 2001. I hesitated as to whether or not I should reply, but Mr. Mezvinsky's letter of May 15, 2001 reinforced my original concerns, and I now believe that it's appropriate to respond to your letter of May 1, 2001. For your information, I'm enclosing my reply to Mr. Mezvinsky.

I share your thoughts on truth and academic freedom so well expressed in your recent paper. I also agree with you, that requiring students and faculty to temper their freedom of expression would be chilling. But, would it not be equally chilling to arrange forums and teach-ins at public universities that exclude presenters with differing views? Would this not inhibit the "propagation of intellectual truth" and "corrupt thought and reason?"

I appealed to you in my letter of April 26, 2001, to "correct an injustice." I did not offer any suggestion as to how this can be achieved, nor did I demand that CCSU teach ins be "balanced." But, if I now may suggest, could not "balance" be achieved through the development of guidelines? "Guidelines" for the purpose of encouraging diversity would not infringe upon academic freedom. It would contribute to public enlightenment and the attainment of truth. Although most academics share our view of truth and justice, there are some who do not. They can, through the current unbridled selection process deny the fundamentals of freedom by excluding those with differing views.

As President of CCSU, you can encourage and lead progressive change through the development of "Guidelines" that would not infringe on academic freedom. It would, however, promote the exchange of diversified views through "balanced" multi panel debates. Truth and freedom could then truly be served.

Your response would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Sidney Laibson, President
enclosure

Letter sent May 21 by Sid Laibson to Norton Mezvinsky

May 21, 2001

Mr. Norton Mezvinsky
198B Woodrow Street
West Hartford, CT 06117

Dear Mr. Mezvinsky:

Thank you for your letter of May 15, 2001 requesting my response to four questions. These "interrogatories," a procedure often used in the legal system, is inappropriate and irrelevant to PRIMER's sole concern of"balance" at CCSU teach-ins. I would also like to add, that threatening Mr. Gordon with "possible legal action" is shocking and unconscionable.

PRIMER is non-denominational and apolitical. Its members have a broad range of differing views, but share a common dedication -- to Promote Responsibility in Middle East Reporting.

Sincerely,

Sidney Laibson, President

cc: President Richard Judd, CCSU

Letter sent June 15 by Norton Mezvinsky to Sid Laibson

340 East 51st St.
Apt. 2G
New York, NY 10022
June 15, 2001

Mr. Sidney Laibson, President
Primer - Connecticut
P.O. Box 7194
Bloomfield, CT 06002

Dear Mr. Laibson:

I have your May 21, 2001, letter. You did not respond substantively to my pertinent questions about Primer-Connecticut. Your stated reason has no relevant basis, is diversionary and fails to convince. I am disappointed but not surprised by your non-answer.

It is a bit amusing that you categorically define Primer-Connecticut as "apolitical." You second and support, on behalf of Primer-Connecticut, Mr. Gordon's expressed views. Even you, I believe, would have difficulty maintaining that Mr. Gordon is "apolitical" in expressing his views. It is revealing that you view as "shocking and unconscionable" my position concerning protection against personal libel and slander but that you support and second Mr. Gordon's unwarranted, untrue and vicious allegations about me and my views. We disagree about what is "shocking and unconscionable."

I am willing to discuss our disagreements face-to-face with you and Mr. Gordon. You can contact me at my CCSU address or telephone number 832-2805. The letter sent to 198B Woodrow Street, West Hartford, should not have been returned. Since I will be in New York City for much of the summer, I suggest that, if you wish, you can also contact me at 340 East 51st Street, Apartment 2G, New York, New York 10022, telephone: 212-758-3817.

Sincerely,

Norton Mezvinsky

C: President Richard L. Judd
CCSU




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