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February 28, 2014 2:36 pm

Ramaz and Rashid Khalidi

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

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Rashid Khalidi. Photo: Twitter.

The Ramaz School was wrong to refuse to allow Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian apologist, to speak to its senior students. The purpose of any good school is to educate its pupils to think for themselves.

Thinking students need to hear other opinions, other arguments and other convictions. Knowing what the other side’s arguments and emotions are, they can better make up their own minds about the issues of the day. One of the primary tasks of a good education is to present different ideas.

Certainly where a school prides itself on the intellectual quality of its staff, its pupils, and its curriculum, there is all the greater responsibility to present conflicting points of view and intellectual challenges, even if they sometimes might be painful. Presenting different points of view is indeed the very difference between education and indoctrination.

This does not mean that a good school cannot propagate its own particular favored position and ideology. It should and it must. But if you do not expose your charges to an opposing point of view, they will be totally unequipped to deal with the challenges they will face on the outside in situations when there may be no one there to consult or to give them another point of view.

In my years in education, both high school and adult, I was always ready to invite controversial speakers to present another point of view, even if I hated the opinion and the person who propagated it. Whether it was the Austrian neo-Nazi Jorg Haider or South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, or an extreme left-wing Israeli opinion, which was often much worse. I have always thought it important to actually listen to them in a context in which they can be challenged, both for their own good (though it rarely achieves that, hatred rarely tolerates a riposte) and in order to learn how to respond. Even, I might say, to listen with humility if there are strong arguments that are painful.

The process of dialectic, of classical philosophical debate, is an invaluable tool for young people to learn not only how to think for themselves, but how to try to persuade others. Similarly, when it comes to religious issues I have welcomed atheists, such as Anthony Grayling. I think it essential that young Jews learn how to defend themselves. After all, even Pirkei Avot commands us to “know how to answer the Apikorous.”

All this presupposes that in the audience and afterwards there will be well-informed teachers who will be able to defend the other side. Sometimes this is not the case. But if it does happen, the school has every opportunity to make sure that this is rectified further down the line with better-equipped experts brought in to ensure that other arguments are given and the nuances appreciated. Anyway there are levels of commitment that go beyond logic; priorities of family, people and nation even if one has reservations or sees another point of view.

One of the sad features of political debate nowadays in general and the Israel-Palestinian issue in particular is that one side, invariably the Palestinian, in my experience, usually tries to shout down the other. In Europe, Israel rarely gets an opportunity to present itself and when it is given a platform, the other side and its amen-choruses try their best to disrupt.

This is happening on American campuses too. Fashion in academia is as insidious as in Vogue. More so given the stakes. The illogicality of boycotting Israel over, say, China or Russia, simply defies logic or justice. Balanced and reasoned debate is increasingly rare. But this doesn’t mean a well-organized school genuinely interested in education should be frightened of presenting both sides, even if universities do not.

Khalidi is a historian at Columbia, an apologist for the Palestinian cause, and a supporter of armed resistance. He is intelligent and articulate. I think it would have been very useful for the Ramaz students to hear his arguments. Besides, now that he has been denied a platform there, I have no doubt that many pupils will try to find out for themselves what his arguments are, outside the school. So what have you achieved?

I do feel sorry for Ramaz. When, as a rabbi or headmaster, I did invite controversial speakers, the skies fell down around me and all sorts of pressure was applied to try and get me to change my mind. Everyone who thought, or whom other people persuaded, that they could influence me, either because they were donors or communal bigwigs, weighed in on the matter and tried everything from threats to withdrawing financial aid. That’s Jewish life for you. Fortunately I was always in a position to ignore them, sometimes politely. Not everyone is. So I sympathize.

It a grave mistake to believe one can completely protect one’s children intellectually, and even if you could it would certainly not help if one wanted them to grow up to take their places in a competitive society. Ironically, I am more in favor of refusing to give our enemies a platform to address adults within the established community than I am in schools, precisely because there the minds are more open and malleable.

Once again, it is the season for anti-Israel campus events. The very terminology used, such as “apartheid,” is proof of the intellectual ignorance and dishonesty of the campaigns. Yet, left-wing academics rush into the fray all over the country. Not enough is being done to arm young Jewish students to fight back. Sadly, it too often has to be against other Jews who are as fanatically opposed to Israel as the blindest of Jihadis. But their arguments and lies must be exposed, not avoided.

There are enough reasons to criticize Israel without lies and distortions, and equally there are enough good arguments to show that Palestinians themselves are the authors of their own sorry state of affairs. I wish it could be resolved amicably, or even not amicably. But the last thing we want to do is to descend to their level of dishonest debate, falsified history, and a culture of physical and mental dependency. Unless our youngsters actually hear the lies and how to answer them, they will not be prepared for university life or the moral challenges that face them.

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  • Michael

    Are you also prepared to permit Ramaz students to be exposed to speakers who deny the existence of G-D, urge copious use of LSD and support the expulsion of Jews from America?

  • Steven

    As usual Jeremy the bleeding heart liberal who would give a platform to those who want to REPLACE Israel with another Arab one.
    I am marveling how screwed up you are, would you give a platform for Nazis to speak – would you ??

    • steven..you just got to speak..
      I put you in the catagory of Darwins experiments

      • Steven

        And I put you in the category of a rambling moron

  • Mark Jay Mirsky

    Dear Jeremy,

    Thank you for a very courageous article. I sent it to my two children, who both went to Ramaz, and to my wife. While I have mixed feelings about the Columbia Professor’s commitment to a balanced discussion of the issues, or a truthful representation of the Palestinian side of the argument, your representation of the value of students hearing it, and understanding that their school is not afraid to let them hear it, is convincing.

    In the long run, listening to facts, and listening to what prove to be contradictions, and feeling the strength and honesty of one’s own convictions, mantaining civility and a sense of humor, is what strengthens a society and a country. Students who sense that their teachers and principals have that courage and frankly unthreatened conviction, are the role models they come back to again and again. Your article points the way.

    Mark

  • IF you read R.D.Laing and understand that you dont understand you may find yirself alone understanding that no one understands and it goes back further to King Solomon ‘all is for nothing’.

    R.D.Laing ‘Knots’
    “They are playing a game. They are playing at not
    playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I
    shall break the rules and they will punish me.
    I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

    KING DAVID CRIES TO HASHEM
    “SHOW ME YOUR TRUTH HASHEM”

  • I just had ‘baby chicken’ schwarma.
    It is so much better then turkey or lamb schwarma.
    Bought it in boro park brooklyn of all places.
    Thats the kreplach kugle and knoodle section not schwarma.

    I read a book long ago by R.D Laing called knots.
    I just remembered that I am nuts because I do not see that you readers are nuts trying to make you see what I see and I don’t see what you do not see THAT I SEE WHAT YOU CANT SEE…WHAT I AM TRYING TO MAKE YOU SEE..
    so therefore
    “I AM NUTS” trying to make you see….

    BRING A COKE WITH THAT SCHWARMA PLEASE

  • Richard Thao

    Rabbi Rosen: Should Kahane Chai speak at Ramaz? How about Baruch Marzel? Should High School students be taught that palestinians are amalek? Or is is not true that “The purpose of any good school is to educate its pupils to think for themselves.”

    Ramaz needs to be clear – we are the good guys, and the Arabs arent.

    • Jeremy

      Richard
      Your generalizations do not do you credit. There are racist Jews I would not want to have anything to do with and racist Muslims and Palestinians too.
      But political campaigners who do not preach hate are different.

  • Rabbi Rosen why don’t you invite Khalidi to your synagogue to speak?Then you can also invite the Ramaz students who are so yearning to hear him as well.

    • WHY CANT YOU WACKOS READ THE ARTICLE AND THINK.
      THIS IS THE PROBLEM ..
      NO ONE READS:
      FROM ABOVE ARTICLE
      1)Thinking students need to hear other opinions, other arguments and other convictions. Knowing what the other side’s arguments and emotions are, they can better make up their own minds about the issues of the day. One of the primary tasks of a good education is to present different ideas.

      2) Not enough is being done to arm young Jewish students to fight back

      YOU READERS blindness is why young girls and boys are being assaulted in the streets…innocense is killing them thinking the oncoming gangster lowlife druggie is a good guy and will not as they walk towards each other on a lonely street will not rape them kidnap them beat them to a pulp.

      you readers dont want to learn the rules of the streets you dont want to learn english you stay oblivious to daily issues speaking in a yiddish world of blindness.You dont arm your kids when assualted verbally by the missionaries churches looking like shuls opening right next to yeshivot.
      You feel obligated through intimidation to stand still listening to missionaies in the streets questioning your belief trickery causing you to question your belief….

      YOU WACKO READERS ARE NOT READING THE ARTICLE….
      READ…EDUCATION SATISFIES THE CURIOUS MIND…NOT INDOCTRINATION OF BLINDNESS UNTIL CONFRONTED BY THE SWEET TALKING SOFT SPOKEN SUGAR COATED SNAKE IN THE GARDEN WHICH IS THE MISSIONARIES TRAMPLING THROUGH OUR GARDEN OF OUR HOLINESS….
      WAS NOT EVE CHAVAH AND ADAM INDOCTRINATED ? BY HASHEM HIMSELF !!!
      “THESE ARE THE LAWS”THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST *NOT* DO”
      but Hashem tests you all…of us, all of us….

    • Jeremy

      Gary
      I do not regard the synagogue either as a place of entertainment or political debate. Hence I would only invite Torah scholars.
      But when I ran educational institutions I did indeed invite such speakers after discussing with them the parameters.

  • Joe Kahn

    Why do you continue to conflate Jews and “Israel?” There is no connection between our Holy Torah and the modern, irreligious state that hijacked the name “Israel.”

    The best way for Jews to defend themselves is to be Jews and realize the so-called “Jewish state” has no connection to anything Jewish. I am no more offended when I hear anti-Israel sentiment than I am when I hear anti-Mets sentiment. Ok, perhaps I’m more offended about the latter. But that’s not important right now.

    What is important is to realize there is absolutely no reason for Jews to be apologists for the Israelis. Let the Israelis lie in the bed they made.

    We Jews have other things to do, like learn Torah and do Mitzvos.

  • DanS.

    So what IS on that CBS tape in the vault from Khalidi’s party where Imam Obama spoke about Palestinian rights? that is locked up and will not be shown to anyone? yeah… they are ALL in this – the Obama admin is infested with Ikhwan and Khilafah pushers.

    • DANNY,I as a Palestinian JEW and we are all Palestinian Jews have rights and I am tired of arabs trampling on my Palestinian JEWISH rights as defined by the british and before them the ottomans and the romans and the mamlucs whp have tried to destroy my rights as a Palestinian JEW.
      DANNY, I am sick and tired of romans/xtians/constantine who are namely the modern western world forgetting my rights as defined 2000 years ago by the romans who renamed all ISRAEL and HEBREWS as Palestinian.
      DANNY, arent you annoyed that first they steal our property and homes and daughters and now the western world even steals the JEWISH INSULT THE ROMANS GAVE TO US JEWS CALLING US AFTER A TRIBE FROM GREECE CALLED FILISTINES.
      DANNY DO YOU REALIZE THE REASON THE ROMANS DID THAT TO US?
      1) TO FORCE ISRAEL TO FORGET OUR HERITAGE by renaming us
      2)to insult us with the name of a tribe that decimated ISRAEL.

      DANNY JOIN ME IN PROTESTING TO THE WESTERN WORLD TO GIVE ISRAEL AND JEWS WORLDWIDE OUR NAME BACK.
      My family was once known as a palistinian and even named the orchestra and the newspaper the palistinian pot and palistinian orchestra.

      DANNY JOIN ME IN PROTESTING TO THE ROMANS THE ITALIANS THE WESTERN WORLD THE GERMANS THE EUROPEAN UNION THE WORLD MONETARY FUND THE LIBERALS THE IGNORANTS THE ZOOS THE DARWINIAN LABORATORIES..DANNY JOIN ME
      “we want our roman curses back”
      “WE ARE THE TRUE PALESTINIANS”

      DANNY, WE GOT A PROBLEM, maybe you can think of the answer…all t he coins and artifacs and vases and writings found in all the archeological digs all have HEBREW WRITINGS DATING JEWS IN ISRAEL WAY BACK BEFORE THE ROMANS WAY BACK BEFORE THE GREEKS REMEMBER MASADA
      WAY BACK SINCE ABRAHAM WALKED THE LAND…

      DANNY SHOULD I BE WORRIED BY THOSE WESTERNERS AND ARABS WILL MAYBE GET CONFUSED BY FACTUAL HISTORY?

      WHERE IS ARAFART WHEN WE NEED HIM.
      HE IS GOOD ALL RENAMING THINGS
      DANNY
      WHAT DO YOU THINK ARAFART WOULD RENAME COCA COLA?

  • ARABS ARE EXPERTS IN LIES.
    an innocent listener will be persueded to believe the arab…
    UNLESS there *IS a counter argument presented at the same time….

    If I was the counter argument I would bring a
    MAP OF GEHINOM AND A BUS TICKET TO GO THERE.

  • Steve Katz

    People like Rashid Khalidi are well know for their positions. Given that information, why would you even have a dialogue with such a person when they can offer nothing of value or truth?
    Many rabbinic leaders have suggested (strongly) to not even have interfaith dialogues for much of the same reasoning, and they DON’T represent murderers and thieves.

    • Jeremy

      I have argued in favor of hearing opposing political views and for intelligent students to hear the force of arguments on the other side.
      If you want to suggest that this is a theological debate then I suggest that is another issue altogether.

  • If someone worships mans bloodshed at the gate of god he is unworthy to speak to my children, if he engaged in bloodshed without including god in on his trespass to double his sin, I might listen to him

  • JOHN TRAIN

    During my active Lebanese desk activity,Rashid Khalidi  always claimed that he spoke for the PLO and that he had a very close personal relationship with Yasser Arafat. And that he fully supported all of the PLO’s “acts of resistance” (murder of Jews).

    Later,. Rashid revealed some of private assurances of his future support of the Palestinian cause that Barack Obama had given him…. before Rashid  left  Chicago to begin teaching at Columbia University.

    Probably ,when teaching the Bible, Jeremy would advocate that the school,in addition to presenting the viewpoints of Adam,Eve and God, for balance , should invite the serpent to present his point of view.

    • HH

      Hilarious

    • RABBI ROSEN SAYS: Pirkei Avot commands us to “know how to answer the Apikorous.”

      I SAY:Rambam said if you dont know how to answer then dont engage yourself.

      ROSEN SAYS: if you do not expose your charges to an opposing point of view, they will be totally unequipped to deal with the challenges they will face on the outside in situations when there may be no one there to consult or to give them another point of view.

      I SAY: very very true as is shown by the Israeli goverment and people who know nothing of their own history from 1967 BACK TO ABRAHAM AVEINU.

      ROSEN SAYS: I have always thought it important to actually listen to them in a context in which they can be challenged, both for their own good (though it rarely achieves that, hatred rarely tolerates a riposte) and in order to learn how to respond.

      I SAY:’the key word is ‘challenged’, I have heard challenges by Jewish nincompoops especially, versus the ‘professional’ missionary.

      ROSEN SAYS:Once again, it is the season for anti-Israel campus events

      I SAY:the school system creates ZOMBIES NON THINKERS of our kids. The dumbing down of the american and Israelis is a sign that MASHIACH MUST BE COMING..how much dumber can we get.

      ROSEN SAYS: dialectic, of classical philosophical debate, is an invaluable tool for young people to learn not only how to think for themselves, but how to try to persuade others. Similarly, when it comes to religious issues I have welcomed atheists, such as Anthony Grayling. I think it essential that young Jews learn how to defend themselves. After all, even Pirkei Avot commands us to “know how to answer the Apikorous.”

      I SAY: YOU LEFT OUT THE RASHA OF RASHIIM MICHAEL BROWN
      _________
      IF OUR TORAH ORTHODOX RABBIS themselves came out of the cave they would prepare our children to handle the missionary activity rampant throughout the world.
      No longer can a Rabbi hide behind a gemara in the kollel thinking the propblems will work itself out on its own. These world problems are tests for every one on earth.Will the goyim continue to curse Jews, seducing them to accept a dead mangod? Will the Jews be educATED ENOUGH TO OVERCOME THESE EVIL DARK TEMTATIONS,LIES AND GLITTER TO ADHERE TO THE ‘ONE G-D THE ONE CREATOR AND ‘HIS’ TORAH?

      Both can be and will be punished severely.
      The xtians especially, by the heavens in that wonderful day of MASHIACH ARRIVING….
      islam watch out! you got major problems from the sufferings you are bringing today to Jews.
      ______
      STEVIE..you are accidently correct…the lessons learned by that chapter about the serpent is the foundation of man…..

      • DanS.

        One can teach about the hate without the need of having the purveyor come to spew the filth in person. Show videos and stop and discuss at salient points – focus the message, guide the direction of the class but do not let the hater hijack and mesmerize – do not give the hater the dignity and honor of speaking before the class – shun him. And Dr. Michael L. Brown, the purveyor of Yeshua? heh- his philosophy saved his life, not many others – I know Mike for a loooooong time – old friend – he’s just misguided. :>)

    • DanS.

      The CBS tape in the vault!!

  • Aurora Aronsson

    Mr. Rosen: by this reasoning, since inviting defenders of assassins and proposers of genocide is OK, in your un-Jewish mind-frame in order “to educate” young Jews one should bring in all sort of idolaters to explain their side…
    How far removed you are from Jewish ethics and Law!

  • Aurora Aronsson

    To even think of inviting such an extremist, antisemite, supporter of islamic terrorists, to speak in a so-called “Orthodox” Jewish school is just indecent.
    Only people who are callous and have no human sympathy and did not get injured or whose family members were not murdered by these predators can think it’s OK.

  • Reuven

    Ramaz was 100% right to disinvite Khalidi. Why did Algemeiner Journal publish such an absurd article?

  • Joe Hedaya

    You don’t seem to understand the reasoning behind the Ramaz school’s decision to uninvite Mr. Khalidi. As a student in Ramaz High School, and in fact as a member of the club that invited him in the first place, I can tell you that the reason isn’t so simple. Ramaz is open to hearing different points of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; in fact last spring the school hosted Peter Beinart, a well known historian and writer about the conflict, and he did tell us some of the other side of the argument. However the reason they denied Mr. Khalidi is that he may have been affiliated with the PLO; he even represented them in Madrid and Washington during the peace talks in the early 1990’s. The administration, fearing backlash from outraged parents, students, alumni, and any otherwise affiliated parties, felt the need to take back the invitation. There was a mutual understanding between the school and Mr. Khalidi and the club that invited him, and the administration agreed that if a more appropriate guest should be invited next time they will allow it.

    • Jeremy

      Joe
      So what if hes a member of the PLO? Israel is prepared to talk to the PLO. But yes you have hit the nail on the head. There are parents and others who take a very Right Wing stand on Israeli affairs who do not want another point of view to heard. And I strongly believe they are wrong.

      • Joe Hedaya

        Keep in mind that this is a high school in Manhattan we’re talking about here, not the Knesset. Bringing in a PLO affiliate to talk to students at a Jewish High school simply isn’t appropriate. As for the parents, their objection is to a Palestinian feeding propaganda towards their children, not to their children being educated on an important issue. As i said, I go to Ramaz, and I know that part of being in this school is the Zionism, but not blind Zionism. We are encouraged to partake in open discussions and the parents know and accept that. Their objection would’ve been to discussion with THIS person.

    • Jeremy

      Then Joe it seems even stranger that if the Government of Israel is prepared to talk to the PLO and the administration of the USA does , the position you are taking seems to me to be so far to the right that it is unbalanced.
      But worse, if the school is capitulating to pressure from parents as you suggest ( and I am assured by the Head of School himself that this was NOT the case) its even more troubling that such bullying compromises the integrity of an educational institution.

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