Dear Mr. Gordon,
Mr. Levine has shared with me your recent correspondence about the so-called debate you are to hold on 1-25.
Many aspects of this activity are abhorrent and unacceptable. Let me try to elaborate on them and also address some of the points you emphasized in your response to Mr. Levine.
Everything about the event, its premises, its pretensions and its very activity is based on falsities.
As an academic I grew up on debates, I respect debate, and it is part of my professional existence. Having said that, there are matters that should either be off-limits or far more properly defined. One does not have to be religious to respect things that are sacred.
Your debate virtually questions Israel out of existence. It is reminiscent of inquisition-age Church debates of rabbis defending their faith against Christian clergy that never bode well in the history of our people. In fact, we were ALWAYS on the losing end from Spain to Auschwitz.
The fact that you stress your Jewishness is by no means an asset, absolution, or any vantage point. On the contrary; given the virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity by Jews and Israelis (3 of whom will serve as your panelists), I'd rather have enemies present those views and not our very own people. Thus your religious background is actually a liability (even if you do not think so - and I accept that).
I truly trust that you may be well intended but the fact remains that Israel is being questioned out of existence. Will you put up a debate on the right of China, South Africa, Iraq, Denmark, Yemen, or for that matter England to exist? Will you suggest that the Crown, Country, or Empire is "...today the real enemy of the Anglican Church? Or would you dare title a debate "Is Italy/Rome today the real enemy of the Vatican?".
You might of course suggest that Zionism is an ideology and that Haas et company are not anti-Israel ("only anti-Zionist") but the fact remains that in the start of the new millennium sophisticated Europeans have designed a transference of anti-Semitic sentiment to anti-Zionist sentiments which imply only one thing: the demise of Israel (which is a political expression of Zionism).
There is not a single country in the world that 5 years or 55 years after its establishment is still being questioned for its very legitimacy.
Hence this is precisely what is so viciously erroneous about your debate. There are things that should not and need not be debated. If debating Israel is legitimate then it need not be a priority among the nations of the world as there are far more pressing issue to world peace. How about: "Is Iranian theocracy a danger to the world's existence?" Such a debate might actually do some good for the world.
The fact that the debate is 60% "internal" (namely within the Jewish community) is irrelevant. The damage that the anti-Israel forces (particularly when Israel-originated) cause is reflected in the popularity they gain among our very enemies. It adds another dirty residue, another layer of negative activities not only against Israel but also against the Jewish people, because by weakening Israel Jews are weakened as well.
Surely there are divisions within us. Neturei Karta and Yossi Beilin's party do not exactly see eye to eye on MOST issues Jewish. I personally may find more commonalities with some Christian friends than within some of the extremist Jews who raise a black flag on Independence Day. But irrespective of who we are and how DIFFERENT we are from each other, in the eyes of the enemy we are a convenient target (or have we forgotten what the Nazis have done to us so methodically?). Thus your "pro" panel serves the fu'nction of what Lenin called "useful idiot".
I have followed closely the development of anti-Israel sentiments in the world and the decline in Israel's stature is directly traced to 1973. However, from September 2000 and on, the added moral attack on Israel's very legitimacy has gained a renewed momentum.
Given the academic boycotts, the divestiture campaign, Israel's isolation in the world, the U.N., use for Israel as a punch-bag, and given that Israel has been a victim of relentless terror attacks, your debate only adds even more to the inordinate Israel-bashing out there. It amounts to a rape victim who had her assailant convicted in court and then brought to your forum to watch 3 sex experts suggesting that she has caused the rape and she should be tried for tempting the rapist.
I am not familiar with any people that have worse detractors than our very own. Giving them a stage to have a catchy title that is so inciteful is inexcusable. The title is yours - and thius structurally and institutionally your have already identified with the "pro" group. After all you do not expect that MOST people in the audience will say that Zionism is NOT the enemy.....
I am trying to keep my comments civilized but I will suggest that the fact that I took the time to write to you at length is indicative of how deeply I am troubled with this pseudo-intellectual activity of your institute.
You could rectify this by cancelling the event (I know, you will scream "free speech") or, alternatively, hold another one entitled "Islamists terrorism today is the real enemy of free people". Or is this not politically correct enough for the pseudo-intelligentsia?
You can find my writings on this topic at: