Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Israel Matzav: Will Brandeis allow another pro-Israel speaker?

Will Brandeis allow another pro-Israel speaker?

One of the dreams of my mother - of blessed memory - was that my brother or I (or both) would go to Brandeis. It was an excellent university, it was right up the road, it wasn't snotty like Harvard or all sciences like MIT. Why not Brandeis? In the end, we both disappointed her. Although it drew five of the 27 graduates in my class, I was not one of them; as you all may recall, I went to Columbia. My brother went to another Boston-area school.

Of late, I give Brandeis a lot of credit. They managed to pull off the Goldstone - Gold debate in a relatively civil atmosphere. They buckled under and didn't allow Alan Dershowitz to debate Jimmy Carter, but at least they allowed Dershowitz to speak. That's much better than a lot of other North American and European universities are doing these days. And to howls of protest, they have invited Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, who was a contemporary of mine at Columbia, and who is also a well-respected historian and scholar, to receive an honorary degree and to speak at their commencement. Except that Brandeis is coming under a lot of pressure to revoke the invitation. Will they stand up to it? Phyllis Chesler weighs in:

In 2006, Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal delivered the keynote address at graduation. Students did not protest Jordan’s human rights record vis a vis the Palestinians both in 1970 and in 2010, or in terms of torturing its own citizens, nor its abysmal record on honor-related violence, including honor killings. Indeed, no one held Jordan accountable for its systematic past desecration of Jewish holy places and for its evacuation of Jews from the Jewish quarter in 1948. A prince who represents a country and a regime that behaves in this way is as “political” as Oren could ever be. The only difference is that one man is an Arab, Muslim prince, while the other is an intellectual Jew and an American-Israeli. Students did not create online petitions to debate the merits of choosing Jordan’s prince as a speaker.

The Justice, Brandeis’s student newspaper, has published a range of views on Ambassador Oren. In a roundup of opinion, Jackie Saffir, senator for the class of 2010, is quoted as having said she was “disappointed” (even before she heard what Oren might have to say), that his “perspective is not a fresh one….worse, allowing him to speak might actually give people the idea that Brandeis is a Jewish school.”

Imagine the shame of that!

Brandeis students on both sides of this divide have now launched petitions and Facebook groups. The fact that an almost equal number of students support and oppose Oren’s right to free speech has led some students to conclude that this alone “is reason enough for him not to speak.”

Please understand: I write this as the mother and mother-in-law of two former Brandeis students who both loved the school and as someone who once happily taught a course there. I have the fondest memories of Brandeis and deeply appreciate its commitment to high standards; diversity; debate; gender, religious, and racial equality; and its ability to make everyone feel warmly embraced.

However, this problem is bigger than this one instance; Brandeis has done nothing wrong. True, Brandeis has indulged many opposite points of view, including that of left liberalism, a view which has now turned on Israel with a vengeance. The question is only whether or how well the Brandeis community will now withstand the politically correct tides of anti-Semitism, censorship, and self-censorship, which threaten to engulf the world and the tiny Jewish state.

Will they? Read the whole thing.

For the record, Mom considered Brandeis a 'Jewish school.'

By the way, I wonder what it would take to get this Brandeis alumnus invited to speak there. Heh.

Israel Matzav: Will Brandeis allow another pro-Israel speaker?

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