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Ramaz says, Jewish high schoolers can handle Beinart, but Khalidi would overpower them

Israel/Palestine
on 28 Comments
Rashid Khalidi.

Rashid Khalidi.

Last week we broke the news that Ramaz, an orthodox school on the Upper East Side of New York, had overruled a student club’s invitation to Rashid Khalidi, the Palestinian scholar and former diplomat. And that the students had bridled, organizing a petition to force the school to reverse the ban (267 signatures so far).

The story has now moved forward. Let’s catch up.

The New York Times’ Jacob Sotak reports that the idea of inviting Khalidi was seeded by Peter Beinart, the liberal Zionist, during a “presentation” at the school. Beinart writes in Haaretz that he was a guest of the Ramaz Politics Society last year and suggested they ask the “world-renowned expert on Palestinian history.”

Khalidi agreed; the students were thrilled. He was set to speak on February 19

The Forward picks up a letter from Paul Shaviv, head of School, to the Ramaz community:

When I learned of this invitation, I, along with others, felt that the controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible. Professor Khalidi, who is an international personality of great political stature, was not the right partner for “dialogue” with high school students, and we needed to cancel his visit….

Shaviv expanded on why Khalidi is not an appropriate partner in an interview with the Times:

Mr. Shaviv described Professor Khalidi, whom he overlapped with briefly while at Oxford, as a “world-class academic,” but suggested that any dialogue between the professor and students would be distinctly imbalanced.

“It would be a bit like inviting the head of our high school tennis team to play an exhibition match with Andre Agassi,” he said. “We are not a university. We are not a graduate institute on the Middle East and politics. We are not a political organization. We are a high school. Given the sensitivity of this issue, this was simply not an appropriate or balanced dialogue.”

So if Khalidi is Agassi, what does that make Peter Beinart? The tennis pro at the country club? I can’t believe that. The issue is essentially religious and racial. Beinart is a Jew and a Zionist. Khalidi is Palestinian and not a Zionist.

In his letter on the schoolhouse door, Shaviv says he even met with Khalidi. This sounds very painful indeed:

In an effort to maintain a professional and respectful relationship with Professor Khalidi, it was very important that I meet with him personally to explain why we did not think his visit was appropriate. After an amicable and civilized discussion, which included a recognition that we were both graduate students at Oxford at the same time, he acknowledged he understood the issues at hand. The entire school appreciates Professor Khalidi’s realistic understanding of the school’s position.

Khalidi (a friend) is nothing if not courtly. It seems to me he was being kind to Shaviv, and absorbing the insult with the same nobility that he displayed when Barack Obama threw him under the bus. More of Shaviv’s explanation:

Please note that the issue has never been about whether or not students should hear another view; they should. Our question was, “Is this the appropriate program?” To this end, we are working with RamPo to arrange an event that will provide the program content they originally envisioned.

Throughout this process, I have been speaking to the RamPo students and have come to admire their passion and engagement.

Yes but they’re not mature enough to hear from the ferocious overpowering Khalidi. The tragic fragile Jewish community, committing intellectual suicide. Yes and who will draw the line between racism and pedagogy?

PS. Here’s some video of mine of Khalidi in Brooklyn last November, explaining what the negotiators mean by a Palestinian state. Scary, huh?

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28 Responses

  1. annie
    annie
    February 27, 2014, 11:03 am

    “It would be a bit like inviting the head of our high school tennis team to play an exhibition match with Andre Agassi,”

    the students would not be in competition with Khalidi, this is a false paradigm. the students are there to learn, as observers. it is the palestinian narrative imparted by khalidi that would challenge what they have been taught thus far. in that sense it is shaviv and the instructors that would be challenged to a match.

    the truth is what’s at stake here and it is a very imbalanced playing field in that regard because israel’s defense is primarily hasbara and based on falsehoods. that narrative is only sustainable when truth is absent. so whether they are exposed to the palestinian narrative now or in the future, inevitably the truth will prevail.

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      February 27, 2014, 11:30 am

      This is such an absurd analogy, but at the same time revealing of the mindset – ie that the debate over Palestine is some kind of competition in which one side must win (and we know which side they are on). And of course, the school is scared to allow the students to face someone who might be able to bat back and expose their limited, learned dogma. There is no conception that the students might benefit from the wealth of experience and history that Khalidi might bring to the debate, that it might open their minds to other voices and other cultures, that it might free them from the narrow confines of their upbringing. The school is implicitly rejecting that educational ideal in favour of keeping their students from hearing views which might challenge their received ideas, which would also imply that they believe that they do not possess the arguments, or any facts, to challenge a non-Zionist view of history and culture. Which is feeble and pathetic in the extreme. Of course, it is hardly surprising – the only way to sustain zionist mythology is apparently to keep the kids inside the bubble, lest someone should prick it. At least the students seem to have some desire to hear some truths their teachers would rather they didn’t encounter. What a dispiriting, timid and craven lot these zionist advocates are, who cannot handle open debate and discussion, and especially not in front of the children.

      • pabelmont
        pabelmont
        February 27, 2014, 11:53 am

        “Dogma” — “propaganda”. Think of the stories that are, I presume, taught in Israel to Jewish kids, stories which support the party line. This is not religious instruction — tho that too, if based on the Bible, would be propaganda, given the Bible’s now near universally agreed falseness as history — but political indoctrination. And these Ramaz kids know there is another story (another propaganda if you insist) and are hungry to hear it.

        The BOSS is afraid that the Palestinian story will sound much truer than whatever pabulum they’ve been dishing up in their pro-Israel classes (or at home or at synagogue). He’s afraid these kids will move right into Open Hillel even before they graduate High School.

        Amazing that Beinart suggested it. We should thank him.

      • chet
        chet
        February 27, 2014, 1:50 pm

        It’s indeed chilling to consider the one-sided and very likely grossly false narrative that Israeli schoolchildren have been, and continue to be, indoctrinated by.

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      February 27, 2014, 12:03 pm

      oh, it makes perfect sense, annie. word is the school turned down an opportunity for the students to attend a talk to be given by the spirit of Maimonides because his knowledge of the torah would be too profound, too intimidating. in his stead they had a first year yeshiva student from Brooklyn.

  2. February 27, 2014, 11:15 am

    “So if Khalidi is Agassi, what does that make Peter Beinart? The tennis pro at the country club?”

    Nice, Phil!

    (Wouldn’t you like to know!!)

  3. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    February 27, 2014, 11:27 am

    Maybe RamPo can find a Palestinian speaker with training wheels (a third-rate degree and a stutter?).

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      February 27, 2014, 11:33 am

      Yes, apparently only lower league Palestinian speakers, who will be easily defeated by these kids (armed with their super-zionist training), can apply. Can’t the Central Propaganda Unit supply a fake Palestinian from one of their top-notch youtube videos?

    • February 27, 2014, 11:38 am

      The Maltese Falcon:

      Joel Cairo (frustrated): You always have a very smooth explanation.

      Sam Spade: What do you want me to do — learn to stutter?

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        February 27, 2014, 3:55 pm

        Silence of the Lambs

        It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again.

  4. LeaNder
    LeaNder
    February 27, 2014, 12:20 pm

    I can “understand” that Mr. Shaviv and others fear Rashid Khalidi, the first time I saw him on a panel he drew my attention maybe not least since it was also my also my first visual encounter with Martin Indyk. I guess that is an American Jewish standard? Thus I have absolutely no doubt that the “Jewish establishment” or maybe better even the “status quo society” out there fears Rashid Khalidi. He is just too amazing for a Palestinian to ever allowed to be. ;)

    Yes, your headline was appropriate, and I loved it. But yes too, my mind drifted off to Kafka.

    Standard (and misguided) PR, I would love to see a survey on what it does in the recipients heads:

    We want to make you aware of publicity surrounding an invitation that Ramaz extended–and later rescinded–to Professor Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. As this receives increased media attention, it is important for you to know the background and Ramaz’s position.

    Professor Khalidi, who is an international personality of great political stature, was not the right partner for “dialogue” with high school students, and we needed to cancel his visit.

    Maybe I am too “carnevalesque” (lots of this type of activities around me), but could you possibly add a link to your source here, dear Phil?

    Shaviv expanded on why Khalidi is not an appropriate partner in an interview with the Times:

    Besides, no matter how small the exposure, I love you get attention you deserve in this case in the Forward, who admittedly angered me, concerning the debate about the Cologne Mosque.

  5. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    February 27, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Students learn from their experiences, perhaps more vividly and forcefully from having their invitation overruled by authority (valuable oppression), than by what Khalidi might have said.

    I am reminded of Noah Feldman’s NYTimes Magazine article, Orthodox Paradox about being excluded from Maimonides School alumni publications when he started dating a non-Jew, who became his wife and the mother of his children: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/magazine/22yeshiva-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    And of his vivid recollection in that article about a particular incident in which an alumni-physician-guest speaker explained his interpretation of Sabbath law to allow him to always care for non-Jews on the Sabbath, which was challenged by a rabbi on the fine Talmudic point of whether his intent was to help the patient in need or to protect the Jewish community, followed later by the rabbi’s apology to the class for having made his point in a mixed meeting, rather than in a Jews-only discussion. Where will such tribalism come out in its clash with the American values of separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and equal rights for everyone? Trend seems pretty clear.

  6. Don
    Don
    February 27, 2014, 1:16 pm

    I have no idea if this is another of Phil’s “cancelled events”, but I just received an email from Givat Haviva saying that, “due to unforeseen circumstances, the DC JCC has been forced to cancel the celebration of Givat Haviva’s Through Others’ Eyes exhibit which was scheduled for Monday, March 3rd at 6:00 pm. We hope to reschedule a Givat Haviva Through Others’ Eyes event in the near future.”

    description of event is here…
    http://www.allmep.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=200:givat-haviva-jcc-event&catid=11:newsallmep&Itemid=25

    The upside, I think, is Givat Haviva itself…

  7. Naftush
    Naftush
    February 27, 2014, 2:15 pm

    The derision expressed in the article and the comments would be better understood had Ramaz torpedoed, say, a debate between Prof. Khalidi and Dr. Martin Kramer, with question-and-answer time for the high schoolers afterwards. Ramaz offered no such thing; a performance by a polemicist on one side of the conflict without representation of the other, in front of an audience that cannot judge the polemic, is quite another matter.

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      February 27, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Ah yes, when it is the the Palestinian case being presented, it is ‘polemic’. The years of zionist dogma and plethora of pro-zionist speakers at their school was never ‘polemic’ presumably, yet apparently it is threatened by one hour of a rational and reasonable alternative case being made. If the poor dears are unable to ‘judge the polemic’ (how do you know this, btw, before hearing it?), then it is a miserable reflection upon their teachers and institution that they cannot think critically. Any half-decent teacher would of course place the talk in context and ask the students to critically examine the ideas and weigh up the evidence. That is what passes as normal in most schools. But apparently the zionist education system, as we have seen in Israel recently, cannot handle any critical voices or alternative points of view, however mild or reasonable. Perhaps you would be better employed pondering why these students themselves asked to hear this speaker, and what it says about them and desire to learn; a desire which so discomfits their school. Clearly they haven’t done a good enough job of preparing their charges to deafen, and blind themselves, to reason, justice, history and the universality of human rights.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      February 27, 2014, 3:37 pm

      Dr. Martin Kramer? LOL. The whole Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is not a challenge.

      • Naftush
        Naftush
        March 2, 2014, 2:58 am

        I mentioned Dr. Kramer for a reason. He accuses Prof. Khalidi of falsifying the origins of Leon Uris’ “Exodus” and EOZ, commenting on Prof. Khalidi’s modi operandi (Oct. 11, 2011), goes much farther. It wouldn’t be a far stretch to hear Prof. Khalidi return the compliments. I see both as scholars in service of their respective causes and this is my intent in using the word “polemic” and its derivatives. Note that I did not promote the idea that Ramaz should boycott Prof. Khalidi.

    • Donald
      Donald
      February 27, 2014, 5:00 pm

      “a performance by a polemicist on one side of the conflict without representation of the other, in front of an audience that cannot judge the polemic”

      Hophmi said the other day (if I’m remembering this right) that Ramaz was a school with very impressive academic standards. So you’re telling me that a school of such high quality, located in Manhattan, is incapable of presenting Zionist perspectives on Israel. Nobody there knows anything about Zionism, and they never have outside speakers who speak in favor of Israel. So, until now, they never ever spoke about Israel, and the one time they do, the poor students are subjected to a lecture by a famous Palestinian historian and scholar. Does this seem plausible to you? It doesn’t to me.

  8. Ismail
    Ismail
    February 27, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Shaviv’s hysterical panic at the thought of his tender charges being exposed to the wiles and pomps of the Other reminds me of the reactions of 50s white parents to rock and roll. These poor kids, unprepared to resist the jungle drums of Palestinian independence.

    Rashid Khalidi, our very own Chuck Berry, duckwalking those teenagers into enlightenment.

    How scary!

    • just
      just
      March 1, 2014, 9:05 am

      lololol! Well done, Ismail!

    • Naftush
      Naftush
      March 2, 2014, 3:06 am

      Well, I had white parents in the 50s who reacted badly to rock and roll and mostly I circumvented them like nearly all my peers. Now I revisit that genre and notice the undertone of violence and nihilism that wafts from those boys-and-girls lyrics. As for wiles and pomps, I consider Prof. Khalidi an academician in the service of a cause and, for high-school educators to present students with his messages in perspective, his invitation should be matched with a counterpoint followed by question-and-answer time.

  9. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    February 27, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I think it’s obvious why the powers that be at Ramaz cancelled the visit by Khalidi.
    They didn’t want any Jewish students to come away with the idea that the Palestinians can be reasonable.
    They certainly didn’t want anyone making a case for the Palstinians in a rational way.
    They certainly didn’t want anyone to hear criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Even mild criticism. Even justifiable criticism.
    The students at the Ramaz school are undoubtedly indoctrinated that “The Arabs want to kill us!” The parents don’t want their children to come away with the impresssion that Khalidi (an Arab-American) is a reasonable person, making a strong case. If a Jewish students says to his or her parents, “Why can’t we be friends?” the administration at the Ramaz school will get complaints from the parents.

    How many Palestinians have the students at Ramaz ever met in person?

    Miko Peled, the peace activist and son of the famous Israeli General Matthieu Peled, remarks in his book (“The General’s Son”) that [most] American Jews are really not interested in the truth about Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, American Jews want to hear that Israel is good, and the Arabs are bad.

    Max Blumenthal has lifted the carefully constructed veil on Israel and the Palestians. The authorities at Ramaz want to put the veil back on.

  10. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 27, 2014, 3:52 pm

    “When I learned of this invitation, I, along with others, felt that the controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible”

    I feel so sorry for these young Jews

    It’s intellectual curiosity

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1e7N9yupi8

    versus

    herd thinking

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh2FRFhS7QY

    The way things are going economy-wise young Jews need all the intellectual food they get

  11. Talkback
    Talkback
    February 27, 2014, 4:13 pm

    Phillip: The issue is essentially religious and racial. Beinart is a Jew and a Zionist. Khalidi is Palestinian and not a Zionist.

    Isn’t it obvious that this is not about religion or race but about the fact that they don’t want their students to be confronted with unfiltered truth and without any equivalent Hasbara deception?

    “controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible” is code for “dissenting thoughts would disrupt Hasbara brainwashing disguised as conversation”.

  12. ritzl
    ritzl
    February 27, 2014, 8:28 pm

    Shaviv is totally right to fear exposure to Khalidi. That, and I think he’s doing a great job instructing his students in power politics by insulting them, if not slapping them in the face (rhetorically). By all means, tell teens that they’re not allowed to do something…

    This was going to be a debate-characterizing teaching moment which ever way it played/plays out. For the kids, the glaring and unresolved question becomes, “What are they trying to hide from us?” If they’re (students) as open and curious as they seem, at least some of them will probe deeper and involve their friends in that experience. Can opened. Moment seized. Generational shift accelerated. Lose-lose for Shaviv, et. al.

  13. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    February 28, 2014, 12:37 am

    The original statement by the principal- “When I learned of this invitation, I, along with others, felt that the controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible” is inaccurate. The controversy would indeed be inevitable and that would massively overshadow the conversation and it would make the educational experience secondary rather than impossible and to avoid the controversy was paramount. I do not know the people involved and I am assuming, but I think they would not have minded a conversation even between a tennis pro and their amateur student tennis players, but the coverage of the event by the media and the parents would make the advantage gained from the educational experience seem like a pittance compared to the loss entailed by the controversy. (In other words, if the students could have met with Khalidi without the world knowing, that would have been fine. But given that such a press/media free event was impossible, the gain to the students would not have been worth it to the school.)

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      February 28, 2014, 7:07 am

      More bullshit.

      Sounds like you just don’t want kids to be exposed to a different point of view other than the implicit Zionist upbringing in their lives.

      I think if the imbecile, Eric Alterman (who you pathetically plagiarized), were asked to speak – you’d be jumping for joy (which means, you wouldn’t be commenting, as you do not comment in the many topics referring to Israeli human rights violations).

  14. iResistDe4iAm
    iResistDe4iAm
    March 1, 2014, 8:52 am

    When I learned of this invitation, I, along with others, felt that the controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible. Professor Khalidi Associate professor Beinart, who is an international personality of great political stature, was not the right partner for “dialogue” with high school students, and we needed to cancel his visit.

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