ZOA Criticizes Riverdale Fieldston School For Israel-Hating Program
May 9, 2006

New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Riverdale, New York for proceeding with plans for a day-long program on the Israel-Palestinian conflict on May 9 that consists largely of providing a platform for vociferously anti-Israeli speakers. Only weeks after the well-known prep school canceled a lecture by two Palestinians in the wake of harsh protests from student and parents claiming it was anti-Israel, this new daylong program has ignited numerous protests from Jewish communal organizations.

Speakers at the program’s final panel include self-described Israel-hating anti-Zionist academics Tony Judt (New York University) and Rashid Khalidi (Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies, Columbia University), but Fieldston has refused to place a single pro-Israeli speaker on that panel. Other anti-Israel participants in the program include Fawaz Gerges (Professor of Middle East Studies, Sarah Lawrence College, New York), Kenneth Roth (Executive Director, Human Rights Watch) and Sara Roy (Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University). Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, withdrew from one of the panels on the Fieldston program, saying he felt “violated” and “duped” after discovering the content of the rest of the program (Jewish Week, May 5).

Selected statements on Israel & Zionism by Judt:

  • “The very idea of a “Jewish state” … is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism … For many in the current US administration, a major strategic consideration was the need to destabilize and then reconfigure the Middle East in a manner thought favorable to Israel … But what if there were no place in the world today for a “Jewish state”? What if the binational solution were not just increasingly likely, but actually a desirable outcome? It is not such a very odd thought … The depressing truth is that Israel today is bad for the Jews … [a] belligerently intolerant, faith-driven ethno state … in such a world Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one … To convert Israel from a Jewish state to a binational one would not be easy, though not quite as impossible as it sounds: the process has already begun de facto. But it would cause far less disruption to most Jews and Arabs than its religious and nationalist foes will claim. In any case, no one I know of has a better idea (’ Israel — the Alternative,’ New York Review of Books, October 23, 2003).
  • “Even if I felt threatened as a Jew … I would never want to go to Israel” (Forward, December 26, 2003).
  • “It is the policies of Israeli governments, especially in the past two decades, that have provoked widespread anti-Jewish feelings in Europe and elsewhere … Israel itself has made a significant contribution to the resurgence of the anti-Semitism” (‘Goodbye To All That,’ Nation, January 3, 2005).
Selected statements on Israel & Zionism by Rashid Khalidi:

  • “[Israel] is basically an apartheid system in creation. [American Jews have] been brainwashed into forgetting that there’s been an occupation of 90-odd percent of the West Bank (Jordan Elgrably interviews Rashid Khalidi,’ Open Tent, October 2000).
  • On Jerusalem: “an Arab city” whose control by Israeli “foreigners” is “unacceptable” (New York Post, August 25, 2003).
  • “They [Hamas] have an interpretation of this [suicide bombings against Israelis] that is actually closer to the view of most Palestinians and most people in the Arab world than to the American or Israeli interpretation, which is that the overwhelming majority of the violence that goes on daily is the violence of the [Israeli] occupation … until that stops there’s going to be resistance … Now, the Israelis want to be able to maintain their occupation and have the Palestinians abjure any form of violence … it means you can do anything you want as the most powerful party, and that what you do is not bad and that anything they do is unacceptable” (Independent Media Review & Analysis, March 7, 2006).
  • “We should treat Israel as a pariah state, the same as Syria ,” Villanova University lecture, early 1990s.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are appalled that the Fieldston School, having already cancelled one Israel-bashing talkfest, would organize another involving virulently anti-Israel speakers, especially a panel without any balancing pro-Israel speaker at all. There are no shortage of qualified, credentialed pro-Israeli speakers who could have afforded Fieldston students the benefit of hearing a pro-Israeli perspective to balance the anti-Israel rhetoric of Judt and Khalidi, two academics who are unambiguously opposed to Israel.

“On its website, Fieldston School prides itself on ‘a rigorous and humanistic education as preparation for becoming thinking, responsible, caring adults. We actively engage a diverse and pluralistic student body in a rich and challenging academic, moral and aesthetic education.’ Is it rigorous and humanistic to hold an event that features speakers who believe Israel has no right to exist and who apologize for those who would destroy her? Where is the rich, challenging and aesthetic education for a diverse and pluralistic student body in a school program that basically demonizes Israel and gives little scope for pro-Israeli speakers to present a balanced picture?

“This Fieldston program is but the latest example of many educational institutions giving platforms to Israel-hating anti-Israel extremists while claiming to support a rounded, balanced education. Friends, parents and alumni of Fieldston School who share our concerns should make their views known to Fieldston without delay and Jewish parents should especially rethink whether it is wise to send their children to the Fieldston School.”

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