A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:
Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?
He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:
Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.
Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?
This is a microcosm of the “shut up” attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.