It’s actually painful to watch Brandeis president Jehudah Reinharz’s desperate dissembling over the ongoing Carter debacle. As we reported earlier, major donors said they will withdraw as much as $5 million from Brandeis as punishment for giving Jimmy Carter a platform (and, one assumes, a respectful reception). Later Reinharz announced he’d be putting on hold campus speaking engagements with both the right-wing Daniel Pipes and left-wing Norman Finkelstein as the school set up a new vetting process for Middle East speakers. Surprise, surprise, The Jewish Week now reports that:
A free speech dispute over campus speakers has continued to roil Brandeis University in the wake of controversy over its hosting of former president and Israel critic Jimmy Carter.
Brandeis’ president waded personally into it this week, voicing hope that right-wing Middle East policy advocate Daniel Pipes would soon lecture there — but issuing no such statement for Norman Finkelstein, a left-wing academic students have also invited.
In a personal letter to Pipes — after Pipes called publicly on Brandeis donors to consider cutting off the school — Jehuda Reinharz disavowed a report that he and an aide had criticized Pipes. Indeed, Reinharz wrote, he and his aide, John Hose, looked forward to personally attending Pipes’ lecture and meeting with him afterward in his presidential office.
Not everyone at Brandeis is happy about the new “process”:
“In 59 years, Brandeis has never had an oversight committee for speakers, nor has it ever needed one,” complained sociology professor Gordon Fellman, who chaired the faculty-student committee that invited Carter. “It doesn’t seem to me we need one now — unless some people want to keep speakers out whose views on the Middle East they find unacceptable.”
In a presentation at a faculty meeting earlier this month, Fellman advocated following up Carter’s appearance by opening the school to a new range of speakers on the Middle East.
“We also need to hear Avigdor Lieberman” — an Israeli Knesset member who advocates stripping Israeli Arab citizens of their citizenship — said Fellman. “We also need to hear a right-wing Orthodox settler convinced that God commands Jews to live in the West Bank. We need to hear more from Israelis who reject the occupation and reject the violence. … We need to hear Palestinians who have lived under occupation tell their sides of the story. … We need to hear from the rejectionists on both sides, and we need to hear from the accommodationists on both sides.”
Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam does a terrific job of diving deeply into the debate at Brandeis. He gives details about two Brandeis academics who have been specifically attacked by Daniel Pipes –Natana DeLong-Bas and Khalil Shikaki–and mentions Pipes’ pivotal role in the the case most recently covered in the New York Times Magazine about Tariq Ramadan. These stories will be covered with greater depth in Muzzlewatch in the coming months.
And over at Semitism.net, Stephanie Schamess digs into the archives to answer the question WWBD-What Would Judge Brandeis Do?
My guess is that Justice Brandeis would not be pleased with what is happening at Brandeis University right now. And those donors who in the past have given to the school because it bears his name, dishonor him now by witholding funds only because the university has chosen to allow the exercise of free speech he so eloquently defended in the quotes above. Furthermore, the donors seem to have forgotten that they are giving to an educational institution, not to an organization that exists for the purpose of promulgating a particular ideological position.
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