Students at Ramaz are protesting the school’s decision to prohibit a talk by Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University professor who has been fiercely critical of Israel.
More than 100 students have signed an online petition calling on Paul Shaviv, the head of school at the Modern Orthodox institution in Manhattan, to allow Khalidi to speak.
“It is critical that Ramaz students are exposed to different perspectives and that open dialogue be encouraged at Ramaz—not limited,” the petition reads.
The Ramaz Political Society, a club at the Ramaz high school, invited Khalidi, a Modern Arab Studies scholar who has been critical of Israel and the U.S.’s role in the Middle East, to speak. But administrators nixed the talk.
As of Friday morning, the petition had garnered more than 150 signatures. News of the petition was first reported on Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist website.
Khalidi, who was born in New York to a Saudi-Palestinian father and Lebanese mother, lived in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war and was associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization. As a professor, he has said that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have a legal right to resistance and charged supporters of Israel with using McCarthyite tactics to silence honest debate in America about the Middle East, including false accusations against him of anti-Semitism.
The controversy at Ramaz comes amid a wide debate in the American Jewish community about how open Jewish institutions should be to debate about Israel. Much of the recent focus has been on college campuses, with a few Hillel chapters torn between whether or not to allow the participation of Jewish groups and students supportive of the movement to use boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
As news of the Ramaz-Khalidi controversy spread, the Hillel president at Dartmouth, Asher Mayerson, joined the signatories of the petition to allow Khalidi to speak.
“As a Jewish Day School graduate and a Hillel President, I support bringing open conversations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Jewish communal spaces,” Mayerson wrote.