Clashing Over Israel at WSU

Don Cohen
Special to the Jewish News

A pro-Israel program at Wayne State University last week went off without a hitch though the campus group Anti-Racist Action (ARA-WSU) had threatened to disrupt the program and the speaker it had branded as “racist.”

“It was my first time being accused of being a racist. It was classic,” said a slightly bemused and completely unbowed Glenn Plummer, the African American senior pastor of Detroit’s Ambassadors For Christ Church and co-chair of the Fellowship of Israel and Black America (FIBA).

ARA-WSU has made opposing Israel’s right to exist the centerpiece of its efforts. A flyer members distributed on campus prior to the Feb. 28 program called Pastor Plummer’s support of Israel a “shameful blasphemy,” condemns the “American Empire,” charges local Zionists with “white supremacist politics” and dismisses both Jewish and black supporters of the civil rights movement as “patronizing liberals.”

Nonetheless, the program went smoothly until the question and answer period when Pastor Plummer was interrupted while responding to questions and statements and a number of ARA members mixed personal attacks with political arguments.

Pastor Plummer chose to characterize the anger and attention given to his appearance as a positive sign. “It is very encouraging,” he said. “They are obviously very frustrated. We are making serious inroads with our message to Christian African Americans and Jews.”

The David Project’s Erik Miller commended Pastor Plummer for how he handled the issues and the personal attacks. He said the pastor’s cool, measured and substantive response showed how deftly a pro-Israel African American undermines the campaign to paint Israel as an apartheid state.

“The ARA was rude and aggressive, but it wasn’t out of control,” said Miller, who works with students on Midwest campuses to develop strategies for combating anti-Israel sentiment in and outside of the classroom. He said such confrontations “go with the territory.”

Jonathan Schwartz, a third-year law student from Farmington Hills who has been active in Israel advocacy and countering the ARA, also was impressed with how Pastor Plummer handled the group. He says that following the program an African American woman was confronting an ARA member who had insulted Pastor Plummer before storming out of the room.

“She told [the ARA member] that he had some nerve to use her people to make a political point,” Schwartz said. “I was proud that she was rejecting his attempts to divide our communities.”

The program was sponsored by Hillel of Metro Detroit, Students for Israel, FIBA and the David Project.

March 12, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Good for Pastor Plummer. Detroit, particularly, can use this message, considering the faith and ethnic makeup of that area.

    Back in my native Motown, we like to joke that all WSU’s communists and socialists come out to perform their on-campus mating dance in the spring. It looks as if they’ve been drawn out a wee bit earlier this year.

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