Rashid Khalidi is a historian at Columbia, an apologist for the Palestinian cause, and a supporter of armed resistance. He is intelligent and articulate. I think it would have been very useful for the Ramaz students to hear his arguments. Besides, now that he has been denied a platform there, I have no doubt that many pupils will try to find out for themselves what his arguments are, outside the school. So what have you achieved?
I do feel sorry for Ramaz. When, as a rabbi or headmaster, I did invite controversial speakers, the skies fell down around me, and all sorts of pressure was tried to get me to change my mind. Everyone who thought, or whom other people persuaded, that they could influence me, either because they were donors or communal bigwigs, weighed in on the matter and tried everything from threats to withdrawing financial aid. That’s Jewish life for you. Fortunately I was always in a position to ignore them, sometimes politely. Not everyone is. So I sympathize.
It a grave mistake to believe one can completely protect one’s children intellectually, and even if you could it would certainly not help if one wanted them to grow up to take their places in a competitive society. Ironically, I am more in favor of refusing to give our enemies a platform as adults within the established community than I am in schools, precisely because there the minds are more open and malleable.
Once again it is the season for anti-Israel campus events. The very terminology, such as Apartheid, is proof of the intellectual ignorance and dishonesty of the campaigns. Yet left-wing academics rush into the fray all over the country. Not enough is being done to arm young Jewish students to fight back. Sadly, it too often has to be against other Jews who are as fanatically opposed to Israel as the blindest of Jihadis. But their arguments and lies must be exposed, not avoided.
There are enough reasons to criticize Israel without lies and distortions, and equally there enough good arguments to show that Palestinians themselves are the authors of their own sorry state of affairs. I wish it could be resolved amicably, or even not amicably. But the last thing we want to do is to descend to their level of dishonest debate, falsified history, and a culture of physical and mental dependency. Unless our youngsters actually hear the lies and how to answer them, they will not be prepared for university life or the moral challenges that face them.
About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.
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