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In the Wake of Controversial Panel, Another Misguided Invitation from the New School

There ought never to be a debate between those who fan the flames of hatred and those who suffer its consequences

Liel Leibovitz
November 15, 2017
Wikimedia Commons
The New SchoolWikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
The New SchoolWikimedia Commons

Yesterday, Tablet reported that The New School, the New York university that rose to prominence by offering refuge to Jewish intellectuals fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s, will host a panel about anti-Semitism featuring Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voices for Peace director Rebecca Vilkomerson. Sarsour has made a number of inflammatory comments, including arguing that one cannot be both a feminist and a Zionist and praising the notoriously anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Vilkomerson’s organization has supported convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, and was blasted by the Anti-Defamation League for using “its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.”

Following our report, the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, took to Twitter to criticize The New School for hosting the event. “Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism,” he tweeted. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”

In a follow-up tweet, Greenblatt added that “there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease… would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together. It’s a sad day for @theNewSchool.”

Reached for comment, the New School had this to say:

The New School has been contacted by several individuals who have expressed their concerns about the university’s participation in a forthcoming panel discussion, titled “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice.” This panel, moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, marks the publication of a new book, On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice. The organizer of this event, Jacobin magazine, has planned several other public forums in collaboration with the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism program at The New School.

The New School is founded on principles of tolerance, social justice, and free intellectual exchange. These values remain central to our mission today, and we believe that engaging in debate on a range of issues and ideas is critical to our role as an academic institution.

We understand that there are differing views on the issue of anti-Semitism. For that reason, the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism Program has invited representatives of the magazine Tablet to organize an event to present some of these differing views on this important topic; the program has also invited to participate Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

The aforementioned invitation arrived several moments later, to myself and other editors at Tablet, strongly suggesting that it had more to do with stanching the bleeding of a public relations problem that seriously resolving a brutal moral error. Even more insulting and infuriating is the fact that the invitation suggests that the New School sees this as a matter of balancing out two equally legitimate sides, each with its own point of view.

There ought never to be a debate between those who fan the flames of hatred and those who suffer its consequences. The New School of all institutions ought to know this, and it’s a shame that this once revered institution now peddles in the bluntest form of moral relativism rather than speak out against bigotry of all stripes.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.