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September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
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Who Will Speak For The Jews?


And if Jewish-Arab dialogue on campus, or anywhere else, is defined as Jews and Arabs agreeing that Israel is awful, then aren’t such exchanges doing more mischief than good?

Moreover, is it appropriate for a coalition that was created expressly for promoting Israel’s defense – at a time when the press and campus radicals were undermining it with disinformation and out-of-context stories – to pay to bring in speakers who echo the same distortions the group was founded to oppose?

It is all well and good for Klein’s critics to say the right shouldn’t be allowed to decide who is pro-Israel enough to speak. But where are supporters of Israel, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, prepared to draw the line? If groups that are partners in this coalition, like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, are okay with being effectively made co-sponsors of presentations that defame Israel, how can they complain when others do the same thing?

And if they agree there is a campaign to delegitimize Zionism that has seemingly won over mainstream opinion in Western Europe and established a foothold in this country principally on college campuses, how can they be unwilling to take a stand against those who question the Jewish state’s right of self-defense, even if they are Israelis?

This is not a question of it being okay to say something in Tel Aviv, but not okay to say it at a place like the University of Pennsylvania. Rather, it’s matter of those who purport to represent the community being willing to say their purpose is to bring the truth about the war against Israel, and not to sponsor those – however sincere they might be – who fan the flames of anti-Zionist propaganda.

Perhaps things would have gone differently if a group or a leader less controversial than ZOA and the pugnacious Klein were to voice these concerns. But that is the fault of the other groups, not Klein. The questions he raised deserve more of an answer than he received.

These days, Israel-bashing in academia requires no courage, even if it’s done by Jews who say they love Israel. What takes guts is to walk onto a campus and say that Israel is in the right.

Rather than acquiescing to a frame of reference that sees Jewish rights as inherently illegitimate and Israeli self-defense as morally indistinguishable from terrorism, what a group like the Israel Campus Coalition ought to be doing is finding the courage to challenge this notion altogether.

And if it can’t agree to do that, then, frankly, who needs it?

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


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