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Reason For Concern

Based on previous discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the obvious dislike of the president for the prime minister, those concerned about the security of Israel should greet the news of Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel with trepidation.

Certainly the additional trips to the Palestinian territories and Jordan do not bode well for the message the president will be delivering to the prime minister of Israel, probably repeating what has already been said by his surrogates, Vice President Biden and former secretary of state Clinton, about Israel being more forthcoming to Mahmoud Abbas and ceasing any building past the temporary pre-1967 armistice lines.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, MD

Brooklyn College Controversy (I)

I received my B.A. and M.A. in psychology from Brooklyn College and taught it at my alma mater in the early seventies.

As a student, I studied with renowned teachers who taught their respective courses in an unbiased way. As a lecturer, my goal was to give my students an overview of the field. I presented them with a wide range of theories, perspectives, and ideas. I encouraged them to think logically, creatively, and freely. My personal beliefs and favorite theories were irrelevant.

I am deeply saddened by the decision by the Brooklyn College political science department to endorse the BDS movement and by the position of Brooklyn College’s president that “departments have the right to sponsor one-sided partisan events.”

I agree with Alan Dershowitz (“Brooklyn College and the ‘Shoe on the Other Foot’ Test,” op-ed, Feb. 8) that “there are only two reasonable approaches to what departments should be entitled to do: either they should sponsor and endorse events on all sides of controversial issues or they should get out of the business of selectively sponsoring and endorsing only one side of such issues.”

I share Mr. Dershowitz’s concern about “turning academic departments into biased, partisan and one-sided propaganda centers, reminiscent of ‘political science’ departments in the former Soviet Union that ‘encouraged’ students to follow the official party line.”

Dr. Mel Waldman
Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn College Controversy (II)

The controversy over the appearance of BDS activists Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti at Brooklyn College is a textbook case of why we in the Jewish community need to choose our battles carefully and fight them wisely, rather than approach every little problem by dropping an anvil on it.

The BDS movement, even now, is a fringe movement, albeit a shrill fringe movement. Its political positions have no mainstream support, and few concrete victories. Thus, our approach to BDS on campus should generally be to ignore it, lest we dignify and glorify it. Like most fringe movements trying to break into the mainstream, the BDS movement lives for the publicity our community brings it every time our response goes over the top.

The notion, promoted by Alan Dershowitz in his Feb. 8 op-ed column, that college academic departments and academic institutions in general do not normally sponsor one-sided events is simply disingenuous, and everyone who has ever been a college student knows it. They do indeed sponsor such events, regularly, and Dershowitz himself has spoken at such events. One particularly telling example was Dershowitz’s lecture on Israel at the University of Pennsylvania last year. That event, arranged in response to several days of pro-Palestinian events on campus, was sponsored by Penn’s political science department.

And in 2008, Dershowitz gave a CUNY-sponsored lecture at Brooklyn College on the controversial topic of the First Amendment in the age of terrorism.

For these reasons, and given Dershowitz’s long record as a staunch defender of First Amendment values and as a frequent college lecturer, it baffles me that he would take the position he did in this case.

Michael Brenner
Woodmere, NY

Satmar Rebbe In Israel

The Feb.8 My Machberes column led with an account of Williamsburg Satmar Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum’s recent trip to Israel, particularly Rav Zalman Leib’s meetings with gedolim, including Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Hopefully Rav Chaim used the opportunity to urge Rav Zalman Leib to cease his quarreling with his brother, Rav Aaron, over the leadership of Satmar. This fight has resulted in a chillul Hashem, with the two taking their dispute to secular court instead of to a beis din.

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