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Debating Israel At Columbia

Went to see a lively debate at Columbia University on Israel featuring Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens, Hussein Ibish, Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, along with author and political commentator, Peter Beinart. The motion under consideration was: “Are Israel’s Policies Justified in Light of the Security Issues it Faces?”

Beinart and Iblish argued that the policy of subsidizing and supporting the settlement enterprise is incongruent with Israel’s security concerns and detrimental to its future. Stephens and Boteach, on the other hand, argued (ignoring the motion) that the core of the problem is not the settlements but rather the culture of hatred and violence endemic to Palestinian society and supported by its leadership.

Beinart and Iblish responded by situating the problem of Palestinian cultural violence within the oppressive structure of the occupation (which Rabbi Boteach dismissed with air quotes). Stephens and Boteach remained focused on issues of values and culture, with Stephens arguing that as long as a future Palestinian state resemblances Iran more than Canada, the Palestinian people have forfeited the right to self-determination.

Unusual moment of the night: Philip Weiss brought the debate to an uncomfortable halt when he refused to abide by the no filming rule. This seemed to have irked Boteach who had his own camera crew in the audience. I’m sure we will read about this soon enough.

*Update: Here is Weiss’ post on the event

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