Breaking: Students rise up against NY Jewish school’s ‘prohibition’ of Rashid Khalidi

Israel/Palestine
on 23 Comments
Rashid Khalidi

Rashid Khalidi

Ramaz is a Jewish day school in New York. Evidently the head of the school has barred a neighbor, the scholar Rashid Khalidi, from speaking to the student politics society there. And students are not taking the prohibition lying down. Here’s a petition that I believe went up one day ago:

I, an open-minded, intellectually honest, and unprejudiced student of the Ramaz Upper School support The Ramaz Politics Society’s (RamPo) event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict headlined by Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi. I believe it is critical that Ramaz students are exposed to different perspectives and that open dialogue be encouraged at Ramaz—not limited. I call upon Head of School Mr. Shaviv to realize how important academic equitability is to the Ramaz community and reverse his prohibition on Professor Khalidi’s address to RamPo.

I see that the petition has 112 signatures. Some of them are young people in the Open Hillel movement, which is seeking to end the prohibition on free speech about Israel/Palestine at campus Hillel chapters.

One signer says:

David Cahn “Freedom of speech is a fundamental rights. When schools ban certain points of view, they limit the ability of their students to form educated opinions. Ramaz is not inviting Khalidi – the students are. That’s an important distinction that needs to be made. Keep up the good work!”

Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia, is author of Brokers of Deceit, a book anatomizing the US role in the peace process. He is a former adviser to the PLO delegation to the Madrid talks and was said to be close to Barack Obama when they were Chicago neighbors, but the relationship became an issue in the 2008 campaign and the Obama campaign threw Khalidi under the bus. (And Khalidi is a friend.)

Ramaz’s student politics society lately hosted a talk by Joe Lhota, a Republican.

I have reached out to Ramaz Head of School Paul Shaviv, the Politics Society and Rashid Khalidi, who is traveling. I will update when I learn anything.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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23 Responses

  1. hophmi
    February 20, 2014, 2:23 pm

    Ramaz is not just any Jewish day school. It’s probably one of the two or three most important Modern Orthodox high schools in the country, with the intellectual rigor of a top private school. I will sign the petition. As a graduate of a Modern Orthodox high school myself, I strongly support exposing students to diverse viewpoints on the conflict, which were absent when I was a high school student.

    • Donald
      February 20, 2014, 2:41 pm

      ” I strongly support exposing students to diverse viewpoints on the conflict,”

      Glad to hear it. And actually, I’m not surprised. I think you’re wrong most of the time when you post here, but I’d have expected you to sign such a petition.

    • adele
      February 20, 2014, 3:34 pm

      Hophmi,
      you say you were denied the opportunity of being exposed to “diverse viewpoints”; fair enough, everyone’s education is lacking in some way. There are ways to make up for it. But what I would like to know is, are you in pursuit of “diverse viewpoints” just for the novelty factor or do you actually plan to incorporate that knowledge into your political outlook? After all, I imagine that some members of the MW community will be a bit sceptical given your track record on denying basic rights to others, rights that you yourself enjoy.

      Bear in mind that you say you are willing to sign a letter that starts off by stating: “I, an open-minded, intellectually honest, and unprejudiced student….”.

      How do you reconcile that statement with your expressed views here on this forum?

      • Kathleen
        February 21, 2014, 9:40 am

        Such great points and suggestions Adele. Wonder if Hop will respond? Doubt it.

      • hophmi
        February 21, 2014, 10:55 am

        Putting aside Kathleen’s hypocritical nastiness (especially since Kathleen never answers the questions I put to her), I wouldn’t read Mondoweiss if I weren’t interested in diverse viewpoints.

        “are you in pursuit of “diverse viewpoints” just for the novelty factor or do you actually plan to incorporate that knowledge into your political outlook?”

        I certainly do incorporate them into my political outlook. I’m not sure about others here; the impression I get, and I say this from long experience talking to people who are politically active on this issue, is that most are not especially interested in seeking out diverse viewpoints because they think arguing about the conflict is a waste of time.

        My support of a two-state solution, which offers a measure of justice for both parties to this conflict, rather than just one, is based on my recognition that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances and deserve a state of their own. I don’t discount their narrative, in the way the Israeli narrative is routinely dismissed here. The talking I do with people in my own camp is informed in part by what I read here and elsewhere.

        “I imagine that some members of the MW community will be a bit sceptical given your track record on denying basic rights to others, rights that you yourself enjoy.”

        Obviously, I’m not looking for validation from members of the MW community. I find that like most political activists, human rights for them is a convenient buzzword that they use to argue for their preferred political outcome, rather than a system of beliefs and principles that they’re willing to stand for. Most are unwilling to engage any complexity in the conflict, whether they are complexities of history, geography, or politics, which is probably why they like BDS; it’s a solution that rejects the dialogue that might force them to engage that complexity. Most seem satisfied to amplify their own simple solutions, whether it’s the “one-state” solution, where pluralistic democracy and civil liberties will simply break out in a region where they are wholly absent, or the Judenrein solution, where the Jews simply leave unless they “indigenize.” Most seem relatively uninterested in human rights elsewhere in the world. Some are just garden-variety antisemites who feed the fire of their bigotry with conspiracy-theory websites that reside in the dark corners of the internet. Some shriek on and on about the media, finding bias where none exists, or by parroting every story supportive of their movement as if it were the first story ever written on the subject. Some, like Kathleen, are primarily here to trumpet their own personal activism, and to degrade the activism of others (see her many snide remarks about anti-Zionist Jews). I know all of these tendencies, because they all reside in my camp, and I recognize the same ones here.

        My support for exposing Ramaz students to diverse political viewpoints is consistent with my work in college to do the same for students at Vassar, and my history generally of supporting open and free inquiry, which I view as a personal struggle, and not necessarily an organizational struggle (which is why I can understand Hillel’s viewpoint, and argue that they have the right to hold it, while criticizing it as self-destructive). My view is consistent. I support UC students being exposed to the viewpoint of Michael Oren, and I support Ramaz students being exposed to the views of Rashid Khalidi. I also supported exposing Brooklyn College students to Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, and told people in my own community that if it bothered them that much, that they should encourage kids in Hillel to bring more pro-Israel speakers to campus, with poli-sci’s sponsorship, and to attend the Butler/Barghouti lecture with an open mind and to ask pointed questions, as I always did as a student when I attended lectures by people like Norman Finkelstein or Norton Mezhvinsky.

        Like many people in activist movements, Adele, you make the mistake of assuming that everyone must arrive at the same conclusions as you have, rather than questioning your own assumptions, as all people who are intellectually honest with themselves must do on a regular basis.

      • gingershot
        February 21, 2014, 4:17 pm

        ‘I don’t discount their narrative, in the way the (abusive, intimidated, paid) Israeli narrative (heard non-stop the world round thanks to paid hasbarists) is routinely dismissed here’

      • The Hasbara Buster
        February 22, 2014, 9:29 am

        @hophmi

        I don’t understand your chastising the MW community over its advocacy. This is not a newspaper; it’s a blog that has taken a position. Basically, that position is that a state shouldn’t separate its citizens into categories with different theoretical and practical rights. This is not to discount the Israeli narrative; it’s just to support a principle that collides with that narrative.

        Your high opinion of yourself notwithstanding, the reality is that you don’t come here to learn anything, but to confront an opinion you don’t like. Your well-mannered tone only thinly disguises your use of tired talking points and diversions (e.g. “Most seem relatively uninterested in human rights elsewhere in the world,” as though not speaking about something were the same as not being interested, and as though there were something wrong in picking one’s fights). True, you keep phlegmatic most of the time, but you revert to crude hasbara when pressured. There’s nothing wrong with that; many of us do something similar on Zionist sites. But it’s amusing that you portray yourself as holding the moral high ground before an intolerant and simplistic community when you’re doing exactly the same as us: one-sided (however polite) advocacy.

        Some shriek on and on about the media, finding bias where none exists

        I recall a very good example given the other day on this site: when newspapers report “the wall is considered by many to be illegal. Israel disputes this,” thus equating a finding of the International Court of Justice to the opinion of an interested party in the conflict. Whether the reporter is aware of their bias, that’s debatable; but bias it is.

      • Ellen
        February 23, 2014, 10:57 am

        hophmi, this rings of the old “it is to complicated, it is not possible….” argument: Most are unwilling to engage any complexity in the conflict, whether they are complexities of history, geography, or politics, which is probably why they like BDS; it’s a solution that rejects the dialogue that might force them to engage that complexity.

        And with that one big sweep, the BDS movement, and those who support it, is discounted.

        I am not taking a stand on BDS, but what do you say to the attempt by the international Jewish community attempt to boycott the Nazi regime in it’s early days?

        The Birmingham bus boycott? The boycott of Apartheid South Africa? Ghandi’s swaraj (self-rule) movement, which relied on boycotts of British goods. These boycotts told hold after many many decades of debate and dialogue to arrive at resolution. Were these non-violent boycotts after decades of dialogue wrong? If not, how are they different from the BDS movement to a boycott Israeli goods and services from the illegally occupied lands?

        Thanks for you thoughts on this.

      • adele
        February 21, 2014, 12:04 pm

        He’s busy at hasbara central taking pointers, give him time, he’ll come back with some nonsense.

      • hophmi
        February 21, 2014, 1:51 pm

        “He’s busy at hasbara central taking pointers, give him time, he’ll come back with some nonsense.”

        Since I gave you the benefit of a extended and candid answer, Adele, I’d appreciate it if you asked the moderator to remove that comment, which was posted before my answer to you, which I sent earlier, was published.

        I think it’s really rather unkind of you to leave it up.

    • ritzl
      February 20, 2014, 3:50 pm

      Good for you, hophmi. Sincerely.

      Tell your friends… :)

  2. Krauss
    February 20, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Phil, a recent Op-Ed from the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, on Canadian Jewry closing in on itself. I think you’ll enjoy reading it:
    link to nowtoronto.com

    I really liked this venomous part:

    Still more now see our community becoming so increasingly parochial that we take little, if any, interest in anything Canadian. Indeed, even our newly minted advocacy arm, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, has omitted Canada from its name.

    • Jethro
      February 20, 2014, 7:13 pm

      That’s interesting. Calling it “parochial” to advocate for a foreign country. I’m not sure “parochial” is the right word.

    • RoHa
      February 20, 2014, 9:09 pm

      Oops! Isn’t it anti-Semitic to suggest that Jews are more loyal to other Jews and to Israel than to their fellow citizens?

      • Talkback
        February 21, 2014, 8:29 am

        Yes, because this is a negative stereotype of Jews as such.

  3. Kathleen
    February 20, 2014, 2:49 pm

    Fantastic!

  4. Annie Robbins
    February 20, 2014, 9:14 pm

    sorry for being OT, but i just checked their tuition fees. high school is 34-35,000 per year. wow, that’s an incredible amount of money.

  5. sydnestel
    February 20, 2014, 10:14 pm

    It may amuse some (it does, me) to know that Paul Shaviv, the Head of School at Ramaz – who apparently is responsible for the prohibition on Khalidi from speaking at Ramaz – did his graduate work at Oxford, on the life and death of Jacob Israël de Haan, and anti-Zionism in Palestinian Aguda of the 1920s.

  6. amigo
    February 21, 2014, 8:06 am

    So this Jewish school is boycotting an Academic.

    Hmmmm !!.

    Whatever would Israel have to say about that.

  7. Nevada Ned
    February 23, 2014, 8:29 am

    Rashid Khalidi is at Columbia University, whose President, Lee Bollinger, has publicly denounced the boycott of Israel. Bollinger claims all sorts of noble motives, including support for academic freedom, on which he is a credentialed expert.

    Now the Ramaz school, an orthodox Jewish school, is boycotting Prof. Klalidi. Where is Bollinger? Is he denouncing this boycott?

    Of course not. The main job of Bollinger, and any modern university president, is fundraising. And Bollinger doesn’t want to say anything that could anger a potential donor.

    I challenge Bollinger to arrange a venue at Columbia University so the students at the Ramaz school (censored by the authorities at the Ramaz school) to come to Columbia University to hear a talk by Prof. Khalidi and exchange perspectives with him.

    Does anybody think Bollinger will do this? Me neither.

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