To the Editors of The Crimson:
I am writing to express my shock at the letter sent to The Crimson by Dr. Allen Counter and Ms. Natosha Reid '93. Their diatribe is filled with misrepresentations, distortions and outright lies. Counter and Reid's method is to blame the Jews for all of Harvard's evils. And where there are no evils to blame them for, Counter and Reid make some up and blame them anyway.
Counter and Reid claim that The Crimson "frequently cites the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel, a Jewish students organization, as one of the student groups that is dissatisfied with the [Harvard] Foundation's work." They cite as proof Crimson stories regarding Hillel's supposed "protest" of Foundation support for Noam Chomsky and its complaint regarding rap star Chuck D.
Actually, no articles in The Crimson mentioning any such protests exist. No Hillel "protest" of Foundation support for Noam Chomsky ever took place. As I member of the Foundation's Student Advisory Committee, I once asked a Foundation staff member about whether and why the Foundation had supported a political speaker, especially since the SAC, which distributes grant money, had never discussed or approved it. I did not "protest," not did I speak on behalf of Hillel. My question was about the political nature of Chomsky's talk, not about who brought him and why. As a general member of the SAC, I have repeatedly advocated the inclusion of the Society of Arab Students on the Foundation. I resent Counter and Reid's insinuation, which is patently false and downright offensive.
After their appearance at Sanders Theatre, I sent a letter to the SAC expressing Hillel's Chuck D and Conrad Mohammad. I argued that their appearance should not have been funded because in his speech Mohammad viciously attacked whites, Jews and women. Hillel argued that for the Foundation to sponsor an overt bigot (who bizarrely asserted that Jews are responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer) would be to blaspheme its mandate of "enhancing the quality of our common living."
Members of the SAC argued that while the funding of Mohammad was unfortunate, the Foundation was legally bound to pay the funds. In response, I dropped the request. Again, this story never appeared in The Crimson, and I never even sought to publicize it. In fact, there is no case on record in the two years I have been a student here which would indicate that Hillel has ever publicly criticized the Foundation. Counter and Reid's assertion is simply false. It reads like little more than a cheap attempt to attack Hillel and to insinuate some sort of hypocrisy on my part.
Counter and Reid's assertion that the Foundation has always "reached out to Hillel students, initially to be told that its members were white and not a minority group" is a bald-faced lie. Who told them this? Hillel has repeatedly argued that Jewish students are in fact members of an ethnic group.
However, we have never been offered membership on the Foundation. That members of Hillel currently serve on the SAC is entirely irrelevant because former Hillel chair Jack levy and I were elected at large by the entire undergraduate community and we do not in any way represent Hillel on the Foundation.
Counter and Reid argue that Black-Jewish relations are the most serious race relations problem on our campus. They assert that Jewish students protest speakers they find "distasteful" and "allegedly 'anti-Jewish.'" In the first place, Hillel does not protest speakers it finds "distasteful," but rather those who are blatantly racist and anti-Semitic.
Do Counter and Reid regard Leonard Jeffries' espousal of the view that Blacks are superior to whites, describing them as "pathological," "dirty" and "dastardly devilish folks" (Time, August 26, 1991), as mere legitimate "political beliefs"? Do Counter and Reid not share The Crimson's "hostilities" toward hateful bigots? I would hope that Counter and Reid find such comments not merely "distasteful" but also downright abhorrent. If they do not, I would suggest a different line of work.
The Foundation argues that Black students often Claim that Jewish students "try to abridge their freedom of choice in speakers" and "manipulate them" and try to "direct their agenda." In fact, Hillel has argued repeatedly that Leonard Jeffries and David Duke must be allowed to express their views--however repugnant--to the public. The coalition of campus organizations protested neither Jeffries' right to free speech not any organization's right to invite him. Instead, it protested the repeated and blatant racism and anti-Semitism espoused by Jeffries. How unfortunate that Counter and Reid refused to be "dragged in."
Counter and Reid insinuate that Jewish students have serious problems which are "beyond the mission and interest of the Harvard Foundation." They issue a veiled attack on my predecessor as Hillel chair, Daniel J. Libenson '92. What is the relevance (not mention the accuracy) of the quotes Counter and Reid used in their letter? They are used to imply, not too subtly, that the Jews have such serious problems that we don't know what to do with them; they complain all the time and attempt to ruin every attempt to improve race relations.
Counter and Reid quote Libenson's assertion that "America is not a Christian country as if it is somehow absurd or offensive. Have they heard of the separation of church and state? Should Libenson be embarrassed about making a factual statement?
Counter and Reid insinuate throughout that there is some sort of conspiracy between Hillel and The Crimson. It is "Crimson writers active in Hillel," they tell us, who have "written extensively" on Black-Jewish problems and have "complained about the Foundation's support of some of the BSA's program." And it is presumably because recast Micheal Levin is Jewish that The Crimson does not criticize him. These are false and disgraceful accusations. They are reminiscent of the classic charge of anti-Semites that "the Jews" somehow control the media.
Beyond their blatantly anti-Jewish charges and insinuations, Counter and Reid imply that there are no race relations problems at Harvard (except, of course, for Jewish picking on blacks). It is inexcusable that a person entrusted with working to improve intergroup understanding can make such a ridiculous claim.
Do Asians and Asian Americans who are victimized by crank phone calls and racial slurs agree that "there are few if any racial harassment complaints"? Do Jewish students who find swastikas on their bathroom walls agree? Have Counter and Reid met Brigid Kerrigan '92 or did they refuse to be "dragged in" to that controversy as well? If Counter and Reid sincerely believe that there are no race problems at Harvard, then I would suggest they finally acquaint themselves with Dean Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle and her extensive files.
Counter and Reid, who are supposed to work to improve intergroup relations and understanding, repeatedly single out Jews in general and individual Jewish leaders in particular for ad haminem attacks in their letter. This behavior is not becoming of a Harvard student and is utterly sickening when it comes from a University official.
Both Dan Libenson and I have dedicated our college careers to improving intergroup relations; I believe our record speaks for itself. Beyond being simply false, the charges and insinuations levied against us, against Hillel and against Jewish students in general, are both deeply hurtful and profoundly disgraceful. Counter and Reid ought to be ashamed. Shia A. Held Chair, Harvard-Redcliffe Hillel