Calling Israel's efforts to maintain authority over Palestinians in the occupied West Bank "a policy that in the end can only lead to dire tragedy:" Benjamin Schwartz '38. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, yesterday at the Riesman Center defended the right of American Jews to criticize publicly Israeli actions.
But Benjamin Halpern '32, professor emeritus of Near Eastern and Judaic studies at Brandeis University--debating with Schwartz whether American Jews are obligated to speak out for Israel--said a "cohesive Jewish community" is crucial in the midst of current controversy over Israeli policy toward Palestinians.
"However much I might be entitled legally to do whatever I please," Halpern said before 70 people at the center. "I have no moral or intellectual right to substitute my judgment for theirs on issues where their survival is at stake."
"I wouldn't be the one to sit with my children in the bunkers while the Arabs were sending over another artillery barrage," he said.
But Schwartz said that despite physical distance. American Jews are "inextricably involved in the internal affairs of Israel."
He agreed that only Israeli citizens should participate in policy making, but argued that the Israeli government often uses the support of the American Jewish constituency to bolster its position internally.
"No Israeli government should think that it has the automatic full support of the Jewish community of America, and it's bad for their foreign policy to think that it has," Schwartz said.