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Texas U Newspaper Editor Defends Moratorium on Editorial Comments on Mideast

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The editor of the Daily Texan, the official student publication at the University of Texas, has defended a “moratorium” imposed in October, 1970, barring any editorial comment or letters on the Middle East crisis in the daily campus newspaper. The editor, Andy Yemma, was interviewed by Leo Wunsch, an associate editor of the University Jewish Voice, which is described on its masthead as “an independent Journal of information and opinion, published by and for Jewish students and faculty” at the university. The interview was described as “an attempt to explore the Daily Texan’s attitudes toward the Middle East, Soviet Jewry and Jewish student activities at the university,” which has an enrollment of some 21,000 full-time students, with a substantial number of Jewish students. Yemma gave two reasons for imposition of the moratorium “on guest viewpoints and letters to the editor” on the Middle East issue. One, he said, was that such offerings “were bogging down our pages,” and thus “taking room from local issues which we felt were more important in a campus newspaper.”

He indicated that the other reason was that the campus daily “seemed to be caught in the middle of the whole situation. The Arab students complained that the Daily. Texan was pro-Israel; those on the side of the Israelis complained the paper was pro-Arab. We tried to point out the fallacies on both sides but instead we were just catching a lot of flak we didn’t deserve.” In reply to a question, Yemma said the Texan was “still neutral” on the Middle East, expressing the view that both Israel and the Arabs had been “wrong at times and neither side is really to blame in the situation.” He added he did not consider himself an expert in foreign policy remarking “this is somewhat evident by simply looking at the small number of foreign issues discussed editorially this year.”

Yemma denied a rumor that the newspaper “was intimidated into declaring the moratorium because a few Arab students came into the Texan office and demanded a full page of editorial criticism against Israel, as well as some anti-Israel cartoons.” Yemma said that some Arab students “did ask that the Texan print some anti-Israel cartoons, not that we were supporting what those cartoons said but we felt at the time it was just a matter of fair play. After this we declared the moratorium.” Asked to assess the current mood of students on the campus on the issue, the editor replied that “the mood is one of apathy.” He said most students had forgotten the moratorium and noted that when it was announced, the Texan also announced it would “be happy to print any new opinions that had not been heard.” He said that since the moratorium, “we haven’t had any letters to the editor or guest viewpoints concerning the Middle East submitted to the Texan.” He added that he felt that, “by and large, I think most students don’t care, except of course the Arab and pro-Israeli students.”

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