Last Saturday, the NYU’s New School hosted a troubling panel entitled “The Jewish-American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads.” The panel program explained that they were there to discuss the “possibility that increasing awareness of the conflict among the American Jewish community is creating a more critical stance towards Israel.” This is an interesting topic and one worth discussing. The problem was the New School’s choice of panelists: Anna Baltzer, Noam Chomsky, Norman G. Finklestein and Adam Shatz. They all share extremely negative views on Israel. Anna Baltzer works with the vehemently anti-Israel International Solidarity Organization, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein are both on record as anti-Zionists, and Adam Shatz writes for “Israeli Occupation Archive.” Is it too much to ask for the organizers to invite a pro-Israel panelist?
This one-sided discussion damages the New School’s credibility. Why deprive the audience of both sides of the issue? What are they afraid of the audience hearing? I want to say it was an honest mistake, but what other issue would have four panelists who agree with each other without a single dissenting voice? Why the effort to ignore any views to the contrary? In a similar but more violent vein the distinguished Arab-Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi was shouted down and prevented from speaking at the University of Edinburgh. Again, there was no attempt at dialogue. These students were silencing the debate, because they did not want a frank exchange of ideas.
There is only one reason to silence someone and that is to dehumanize them. Once Israel is marginalized to the point where she is beyond defense, where she has no right to an opinion, then it’s easier to advocate for her destruction. It is a lot easier to argue against Israel when she cannot fight back. This type of intellectual censorship is noxious at best, despicable at worst.
American Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” A true place of learning puts all views in public and let the people decide for themselves! But of course he would say that: he went to Harvard, whose motto is “Veritas,” or “Truth.” Other universities would do well to learn from that.