Eric Alterman declines request to debate Max Blumenthal at Brooklyn College

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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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EA doesn’t want to embarrass himself more than he already has.

No surprise. Max Blumenthal has done his homework, and knows the facts about the I/P struggle, including inconvenient facts that are very often omitted. Eric Alterman is an expert blatherer, but really doesn’t know much, as was painfully evident during the his exchanges with Blumenthal about Goliath.

If I were Alterman, I’d decline to debate for fear of getting creamed!

I think maybe Alterman is tired of Blumenthal, and others in the pro-Palestinian movement, being untruthful about his views and his writing, and he feels no need to provide Blumenthal with an additional platform.

I’m sure you guys will celebrate this as some sort of victory, but it’s really just another example of how Blumenthal is being marginalized because he’s over the top.

Yup, gives the lie to the Zio claim of a desire to have balanced discussions. What they really want — I’d guess — is not a balanced discussion, their claim TTCNWS, but either a Zionist-only “debate” or no debate/discussion at all but merely to shut-down any pro-Palestine voice (or voice critical of Israel) from being heard whether or not there is a balancing voice. I’d ask Alterman whom — since not himself by his own… Read more »

At this point Alterman is just a total trainwreck. You can’t get your eyes from it unfolding. He keeps saying that he’s “done with this” yet keeps coming back, like a glutton for punishment. He attacks Rania Khalek’s call for a more balanced roster of debaters on I/P instead of almost only pro-Zionist Jews. He all but calls her an anti-Semite. He keeps attacking the pro-democracy crowd as one-sided, but refuses to engage them in… Read more »