Yeshiva University was set to launch its new center for international affairs Wednesday with a presentation by former State Department official Richard Haass, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Rabbi Arthur S. Schneier Center for International Affairs is named for the Manhattan rabbi who has often worked for international causes, frequently under the jurisdiction of the White House.
Schneier said that the center “gives Yeshiva University, which is a great university, a new dimension… in terms of the international scene.” He added, “It’s an interconnected world, a global village, and you need an institution like Yeshiva University that would serve as a forum for exchanges not only of political views, but that would become a think tank under academic auspices.”
Schneier, a Y.U. alumni, noted that he has “been involved in the international scene since 1965,” serving in various capacities, including as former President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to China.
The launch of the center has not been without controversy. The Zionist Organization of America, a group that has consistently opposed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, issued a press release protesting the choice of Haass to speak, and the organization’s president, Morton Klein, sent a similar letter to the president of Y.U., Richard Joel. Klein and ZOA argued that Haass had “repeatedly criticized and pressured Israel and justified the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.” The ZOA also complained about a 1997 brief for the Brookings Institution, in which Haass had argued that Israeli building policies helped provoke Palestinian violence.
Joel defended the selection. “Richard Haass is not an inappropriate person to present for this kind of activity.… Different speakers at events do not connote endorsement — agreement or disagreement,” Joel said. “I think Mort Klein is out of line on this one.”