Thursday, April 11, 2013
This past Monday morning I received an email advising me that a student group at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School was planning to honour former President of the United States Jimmy Carter with an award for his years as an international mediator. I was stunned.
It isn't only that President Carter has done grievous harm to the State of Israel over the years, slandering it as an "apartheid state" and lending the stature of the American presidency to delegitimization of Israel. I can accept that someone might have a view that is different from mine. My problem is that Mr. Carter has been overtly dishonest and stubbornly close-minded on the matter of Israel. He has shut his ears to reasoned, lucid criticism. [See Professor Alan Dershowitz's brief list of criticisms of his work here; for an extensive account of President Carter's response and non-response to criticism of his book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, see the footnotes here.] Is this someone to be honoured for peacemaking? How could students at a Jewish university not be aware of the cloud over the man's head?
Of course, it was immediately obvious that nothing was going to change. Realistically, no American university is going to rescind a student invitation to a former American President. Further, the university itself - as noted by President Joel here and by the Cardozo Board of Overseers here - does not control what a student organization does.
Nonetheless, I think there is something to be done, beyond this particular crisis. Education is required, perhaps via public awareness and education programs, as well as student activities. In a Jewish university, it should be obvious to all - Jewish and non-Jewish - that no award should be given to a person like President Carter.
This is true beyond Yeshiva University, in all of our high schools and elementary schools. The views of President Carter and his ilk are popular, and their unwillingness to consider all of the evidence and address their opposition directly is swept under the rug by their supporters. This is our competition, and our children are exposed to it all the time. May we re-double our efforts with our children and students, to make sure they are exposed to our perspective as well.