Here's the letter, followed by my response.
"Objective analysis of Israel lacking" -- Northwest Arkansas Times, September 10, 2006
Not long ago I attended a forum at the University of Arkansas on the recent Israel-Hezbollah war, which claimed to feature analysis from UA professors Joel Gordon (History), Najib Ghadbian (Political Science) and Ted Swedenburg (Anthropology). Although I had been warned that this group of professors would present an avidly anti-Israel stance, I was dismayed at how completely one-sided the presentation was. The organizers had refused to allow the participation of anyone with a pro-Israeli view. They focused all of the negativity on Israel, while claiming an “ objective ” analysis. Is this what our university has become — no consideration of different points of view ? No opportunity for students to think through the reasons for different perspectives ? The program left me with the clear impression that these professors were, in fact, promoting the end of the democratic nation of Israel, as opposed to seeking peace and understanding for all in the region. I suggest that these professors attempt to balance their presentations, first by providing a large map of the Middle East so that all can see the size of Israel compared to its neighbors. Secondly, the audience should be informed of which of Israel’s neighbors are dedicated to its destruction, and which are dedicated to peaceful coexistence. Third, invite co-panelists from a different perspective to engage in peaceful dialogue, thus demonstrating to students that reasonable people can have differing opinions and can share a forum peacefully.
Darla Newman / Fayetteville
My response, which I just sent off to the editor. We'll see if it's published.
Darla Newman's letter (September 10) concerning the recent forum I participated in along with Professors Ghadbian and Gordon deploys the standard smear tactics that partisans of Israel use against anyone who dares criticize the Jewish state. Newman describes our presentations in generalities ("anti-Israel," "one-sided," and "negativity") and offers no specifics, and concludes that we were "promoting the end of the democratic nation of Israel." I challenge her to cite a single example of such a call. I did deplore Israel's recent prosecution of its war against Lebanon, citing, for instance, statements by Human Rights Watch that Israel was guilty of "indiscriminate attacks against civilians" in Lebanon, and I concluded by arguing that Israel's assault on Lebanon's civilians and infrastructure was not in its best interests. But apparently for Newman, such criticism of Israeli government actions is "anti" Israel and equivalent to arguing for its obliteration.
Newman also is dismayed by the forum's lack of "balance" and our "refusal" to invite someone with a "pro-Israeli" stance to participate. Professor Gordon in fact spoke informatively at the forum about conditions inside Israel, which he visited this summer as the guest of two Israeli universities, and where he has relatives and friends But perhaps for Newman "pro-Israeli" means defending Israel's Lebanon war, and it is true that no one at our forum took this position. Instead, we argued that the US, Israel's chief ally, should engage in diplomacy with Hizbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. That is, we advocated a peace policy and argued against Israel's aggressive war policy in Lebanon and Palestine and against US support for it.
In sum, although Newman argues for "balance" and "peaceful dialogue," she has in fact misrepresented both the intent of our forum and the nature of the discussion that took place.
Update: My letter was eventually printed in the Northwest Arkansas Times. Newman's letter subsequently also appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and my response (a somewhat shortened version of what appears above) was also printed.
Tags: Lebanon, Israel, Arkansas