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The case for a more ‘kosher’ debate

Published: September 11, 2011
Section: Editorials


Time and again, this editorial board has condemned the acerbic rhetoric that has at times engulfed all sensible discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In April, this newspaper called for a “cease-fire for protests” following disruptions made by students at a campus event with prominent Knesset members. We wrote, “Student leaders and advocates on all sides of the debate can agree to disagree, but they must also agree to respect all speakers—our guests—when they visit campus. Ask tough questions, engage speakers, but do so in an academic context.”

On Wednesday, members of The Hoot met with David Makovsky and Gaith al-Omari, leading scholars on the Israel-Palestine conflict, who were on campus as part of a tour of sorts where they have visited campuses around the country to show that middle ground is possible, demonstrating that real debate on real policy matters can proceed cordially.

Makovsky and al-Omari consider each other friends, and while they may not agree on every issue, they look at the Middle East conflict from a policy rather than an emotional perspective, leading to a way of thinking about the conflict that—as Makovsky emphasized—can be “disorienting for college students.”

“To respect the other side’s narrative is valid,” al-Omari said. And healthy debate? “It’s safe—it’s kosher.”

If the goal of the Schusterman Center in inviting Makovsky and al-Omari is to frame the debate on campus over Middle East politics, they are certainly charting an admirable path. And not just by inviting a Palestinian speaker who uses the term “Kosher.”

Campus discourse should be grounded in critical thinking about shaping the future, not getting tied up in a past that only reopens old wounds. Makovsky and al-Omari are proof that there is a way forward and students, new and returning, would do well to pay attention and follow their lead.