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January 17, 2012

Carnegie Mellon's Prize for Bigotry


Professor Jim Daniels, poet and founder of MLK writing contest

It's a cliché of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic repertoire: The trusting young Jew who once believed in Israel's righteousness, but learns the "facts," wakes up to the reality that, actually, the nation is a criminal entity and then (heroically) speaks out. Young Jesse Lieberfeld not only produced a lurid screed on the theme, but won a prize for it sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon English department, Student Affairs, and the Office of the President.

Jesse laments that:

I was forever reminded ... to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel's spotless reputation to the back of my mind. "Our people" were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified...

Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called "conflict" with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. "Genocide" almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms.

No one he knew would dream of portraying Israel harshly? How about Daniel Lieberfeld, his father, who signed an anti-Israel petition at the height of the terror war against Israel in August 2001?

Why is Jesse reminded of Martin Luther King in all this? When friends on his school bus are impervious to "a fresh round of killings" and urge him simply to "defend our race" Jesse recalls the civil rights leader:

Where had I heard that before? Wasn't it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans 60 years ago?

Hence the essay and the accolades. Jesse explains that speaking out against Israel is like King speaking out against white supremacists.

Jesse's prize, part of a 2012 Martin Luther King Writing Award and brainchild of Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English, is described in a university press release.

Among many questions is why and how poet Jim Daniels came to hold anti-Israel views so extreme that he apparently believes the country is perpetrating a "genocide" (against a population that has been growing at a healthy clip for 60 years) and disregarded Martin Luther King's own strong support for the Jewish state.

Posted by AL at January 17, 2012 03:57 PM


This is a moderated blog. We will not post comments that include racism, bigotry, threats, or factually inaccurate material."

You just did.

Posted by: zane at January 18, 2012 11:15 AM

Zane- "You just did."
Oh well, judging by your lack of clarification and alternate proof, I can safely assume that the above material is accurate.

Posted by: Ron at January 19, 2012 05:05 AM

Based on your article, I don't believe his 'rabbi', if he has one, is a supporter of Israel. Odds are that he is a loony, rabid anti-Israel propagandist. Therefore the premise of the whole essay is a fraud.

Posted by: dave at January 19, 2012 11:11 AM

Upon reading this essay I was immediately appalled by it and by the fact that he could dare win an award with MLK's name on it; he must be turning in his grave.

He created so many lovely parallels between himself and MLK, how self-righteous of him. Beyond the pure fact that he is an 11th grade student clearly driven by his own father's beliefs and values, this essay is nothing but the product of bigotry and immaturity. It is one thing to have problems with certain aspects of a country or government, it is another to completely denounce a country and a people altogether. Is that not racism or prejudice in itself? Does every Jew that this young writer have access to represent the Jewish collective mind?

I too can make a parallel between young Lieberfeld and another "moderate" group. Lieberfeld is more like the moderate American Jew who did little to nothing in the events leading to and during the Holocaust.

Sitting comfortably behind walls of academia and liberal literature, it is so easy to form outlandish opinions without having to really deal with the facts on the ground. He is part of an extremely privileged group of people with the luxury of not knowing what it means to live, breathe and grow in a place where academia cannot possibly replace reality.

I certainly do not condone all of Israel's actions or behaviors but to try to simplify the complexity of the situation into a class of "right" or "wrong" is entirely too lazy.

Jesse, if you care about correcting wrongdoings in this world I strongly suggest that you study law and find ways to legally help Israel in becoming the most perfect society it can be in every way. Rather than dismissing Israel altogether, become a part of a democracy and advocate for change you believe in. That is the true message of what it means to be a good Jew: Tikun O'lam.

Posted by: Meredith at January 19, 2012 03:38 PM

Jesse Lieberfeld makes statements for which there is no proof. Where, when, how " unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. "Genocide" almost seemed the more appropriate term..." These never happened. Is Jesse paid, is he a liar, is he a mental case? Hey Jesse, give us facts.

Posted by: Prof. I. Barr at January 20, 2012 05:49 PM

Jesse Lieberfeld identifies as a white American elitist who had too much pride in his intellegence and feelings of superiority because he is one, not because he was born Jewish. There are plenty of Jews who don't fit the category, who fought in the civil rights movement because they didn't see themselves as superior (like myself), and Jews who live in Israel being bombed daily for the last six years since left Gaza, hoping the people there would use the world bank funds and other opportunities to build up their own people and prove a partner for peace. Any kid that goes to Winston Thurston and is an liberal intellectual professor's son and has a rabbi stupid enough to answer a serious question with "It's just a fact of life," instead of with an intelligent history and discussion of all the perspectives and issues involved would be likely to come to the misguided, uninformed conclusions he's come to. He is trying his best to figure it out from the skewed position and lack of experience he had at 17. There's no reason to bash the kid. It's not easy to be an elite.

Posted by: Avigail Grafstein at November 29, 2012 09:52 PM

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