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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letter to the Editor

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: Opinions

In response to the editorial entitled “What is a debate when no one listens?” published in the last issue of The Brandeis Hoot, it is necessary to emphasize that the forum was not, in fact, a debate.

From the opening statement made by Daniel Terris, the director of the Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, “this is not a debate…The goal is illumination.” Therefore, the purpose was to be an exploration of a specific situation and the principles involved. As Reinharz and Terris said, at the end of this conversation “we will not take a vote.” For The Hoot Editorial Staff to treat this forum as such and criticize it because no solution was found, nor compromise made is not appropriate. Just because “Justice Goldstone and Ambassador Gold went into the debate knowing what the other would say, and neither budged from their beliefs,” does not mean it did not lead to “learning and open discussion,” as The Hoot claims, but rather it enhanced the discussion since both speakers were able to demonstrate their knowledge as well as assert their opinions. While we do agree that there were flaws in the structuring of the event, for instance the adversarial roles Gold and Goldstone were forced into by placing the two presenters on opposite sides of the issue, the event nevertheless served its purpose: to inform the audience of the findings of the report and allow them to decide for themselves what they thought of it. The Hoot editorial’s most serious flaw was the great over-simplification of the speakers’ stances. In fact, Goldstone presented a very even-handed and objective argument, pointing out the flaws in his report, such as the discrepancies between the two U.N. mandates, and the possibility of biases amongst committee members. Goldstone stated from the start that he was not condemning Israel alone, but rather his study had found both Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Militants guilty of war crimes, and so to have Gold–a fiercely biased ambassador from Israel–speak after him was neither logical nor appropriate. From the point of view of two students who knew very little about the U.N.’s Gaza report going into the event, we felt that the forum served as a wonderful source of information, and watching Gold and Goldstone present their differing understandings of the report was a great learning experience. It is over-ambitious for anyone to expect that the result of the two-hour forum would be for the speakers to come to some sort of a conclusion, or even “find common ground,” as The Hoot calls for. In last week’s panel each party presented its viewon the report, along with the protestors who peacefully presented their point of view as well. The forum produced many interesting ideas and many “truths,” which The Hoot so eagerly searches for, did come out. The brief presentation achieved its goal, which was to engage the audience in an exploration of ethics and principles, after having established the facts of the report, and the controversial “truths” which arose will not disappear simply because the event is over, nor must it be the “last chance for the Brandeis community” to discuss these issues. We are just getting started.

~ Elly K., 2013 and Eve M., 2013