Feud Over Israel Erupts at Jewish Institutions

Museums and Schools Scrap Speeches by Perceived Critics

3 Battles: Rashid Khalidi, Judith Butler and John Judis hold divergent views on Israel. But their perceived criticism led all three to be shunned by major Jewish institutions.
3 Battles: Rashid Khalidi, Judith Butler and John Judis hold divergent views on Israel. But their perceived criticism led all three to be shunned by major Jewish institutions.

By Hody Nemes

Published February 26, 2014, issue of February 28, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

The Jewish Museum’s decision to scrap Butler’s speaking engagement is unique insofar as Butler was invited to speak on a topic completely unrelated to Israel. Butler pulled out of the event under pressure from Israel supporters. Claudia Gould, the museum’s director, said Butler’s “political views were not a factor in her participation in the Franz Kafka program. However, the debates about her politics became distracting and disruptive, making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended.”

Wieseltier was appalled by the decision. “I despise Judith Butler, but her misguided views [on Israel] should not disqualify her from speaking on Kafka,” he said.

In Wieseltier’s view, this is not a matter of censorship; Jewish institutions, like other private institutions, have every right to define the parameters for speakers and events under their own roofs, he said. “But it’s not just a matter of rights,” Wieseltier explained. “It’s a matter of wisdom. It’s always a sign of intellectual weakness or fear to insulate oneself from arguments that are relevant to one’s views. People should know how to respond to views that they think are erroneous.”

When Alixandra Kriegsman arrived at the University of Pennsylvania, that was precisely one of the skills she lacked. After many years of attending Jewish day schools and participating in class discussions about Israel, she had never even heard people refer to Israel’s rule over the West Bank as an “occupation,” she said.

“I felt extremely undereducated and misinformed when I started taking classes on the subject [of Israel] in college,” said Kriegsman, who is making a documentary about the lack of nuance in Jewish schools’ Israel curricula. She said many students tell her their day school education left them ill-prepared for discussions of Israel in college. “Going to college basically taught them that they really weren’t educated. They were taught to advocate.”

Paul Shaviv, the Head of School at Ramaz, does not see his school as engaging in such avoidance. Nevertheless, he is not moved, so far, by the protest petition from some of his students and their parents to allow Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi, the prominent scholar of Palestinian history, to speak at his school.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.