Eric Alterman declines request to debate Max Blumenthal at Brooklyn College

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Columnist and author Eric Alterman. (Photo: Center for American Progress/Flickr)

Brooklyn College professor and Nation columnist Eric Alterman has declined to debate author Max Blumenthal over the question, “What would a just settlement of the Israel/Palestine issue be, and how can it be brought about?”

This week, the Students for Justice in Palestine club at Brooklyn College asked Blumenthal and Alterman whether they would agree to a debate at the school.  “We believe that Brooklyn College would be the perfect platform if such a debate were to happen,” the club’s leader, Sundus Seif, wrote to Alterman and Blumenthal.  “We hope that a debate on yet another controversial topic—in this case, the contents of Mr. Blumenthal’s book—would create a space for more of these much needed, and very difficult conversations to have.”

The request came after weeks of debate raged between Blumenthal and Alterman over the contents of Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.

This website had previously called on Brooklyn College or The Nation to host such a debate.  Alterman replied to the request from Students for Justice in Palestine with a simple, “no thanks.” (He’s also previously declined a request to debate Blumenthal on Bloggingheads.)

I followed up with Alterman by e-mail to clarify why he declined the request.  “You’ve got to be kidding,” he told me.  After asking one more time, he wrote: “You’ve got my quote. Your future emails will go into spam.”

Of course, Alterman is not obliged to debate Blumenthal.  It’s his right not to.  But last year, when Brooklyn College found itself in the midst of controversy over the Political Science Department’s co-sponsorship of a panel on the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, Alterman questioned why the talk would be one-sided.

While the professor came out in favor of the college’s right to host such a panel, he wrote:

The second, far more difficult question raised by the controversy was what should one’s position be with regard to BDS itself, and by extension, the political science department’s decision to lend legitimacy to a talk at which its arguments would be presented without opposition or clarification from its opponents.

He now has his chance to oppose Blumenthal’s ideas at Brooklyn College.  It would be a debate between individuals known to have very different views on Israel/Palestine.  Too bad it won’t happen.

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