Response to “Events Explore Middle East Controversy”

Letters to the Editor: Mideast conflict

20 February 2004

Rabbi David Rosenberg of the Newberger Hillel Center complained that a February 12 panel about the separation barrier Israel is building on occupied Palestinian land was unbalanced because “no campus group or outside group that is known to be supportive of Israel was extended an invitation to cosponsor” and that “no speaker has been chosen who will articulate why Israel might have chosen to have built a fence” (“Events Explore Middle East Controversy,” 2/6/04).

But what does Rosenberg really mean when he calls for balance? I’ve reviewed the Hillel schedule of upcoming events and found that none of the Israel-related events that the Rabbi’s organization has endorsed or promoted reveal any attempt to live up to the lofty standard he proposes.

On February 12, the Hillel center hosted a luncheon with Ilai Alon, a professor of philosophy from Tel Aviv University in Israel. The topic of his discussion was “Negotiations in Arabic-speaking Islam.” Despite the perverse phrasing of the topic, one could argue that the best way to provide insight would be to invite some of the University community’s Arab and Muslim scholars. Yet Alon appeared—as it were—alone.

On February 29, the Hillel center is collaborating with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on the annual “AIPAC Israel Summit, Tools for Action” event. AIPAC is the leading pro-Israel lobby organization on Capitol Hill. The keynote speakers include Alan Dershowitz, a law professor from Harvard. Critics have charged that his latest book The Case for Israel is plagiarized from a 20 year old, verified hoax by Joan Peters. Dershowitz has also advocated the legalization of torture.

Will the Rabbi demand that AIPAC invite a Palestinian representative to challenge Dershowitz and demand that AIPAC organize panels including (for example) Jewish critics of Israel to balance the pro-Israel propaganda that AIPAC exists to promote?

The Rabbi’s organization prominently promotes the Birthright Israel program, which provides free trips for Jews to visit Israel. Will he demand that this program be expanded so that all Americans can go to Israel and see the devastating effects of Israeli policies on Palestinians and so that Palestinians, who have never had a chance to go to their homeland due to Israeli exclusion, be invited along as well?

From what he practices, it appears that Rosenberg’s idea of “balance” is that those who disagree with him about Israel are committing a thought crime by organizing the kind of events of their choosing. Whereas groups like Hillel and AIPAC, which make no serious attempt to include views that disagree with theirs, are simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech and association.

Rosenberg’s agenda is not to promote balanced dialogue on campus but to be an apologist for Israel. His double standard on the issue of free speech proves that he is merely an uncomplicated hypocrite.

Benjamin J Doherty

The Chicago Maroon is the student newspaper of the University of Chicago. Benjamin J Doherty is an EI team member.