[On March 9, 2011, The Beacon published an op-ed critical of the Gandhian Forum for inviting Rashid Khalidi to speak. This letter was submitted to the Beacon in reply, but the editor-in-chief refused to publish it. We contacted him, asking for an explanation and offering to resubmit the letter as an op-ed if he preferred. He did not respond. Therefore, we are posting our letter here.]
To the Editor:
Courtney Turner in her op-ed in the March 9 Beacon ("Prospects for Peace and Intolerance") criticizes the Gandhian Forum for sponsoring a talk by Rashid Khalidi without at the same time presenting "equal representation" for "the Israeli standpoint."
There is, however, no single Israeli view. There is an Israeli government view, which favors continued occupation and expansion of the settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There is also the view of the Israeli peace movement -- groups like Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, and the Alternative Information Center -- which, like peace groups elsewhere, opposes the occupation. American Jewish peace groups (among them Jewish Peace Fellowship, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Tikkun Community) are also opposed to Israeli policy in the occupied territories. Indeed, the leader of the Tikkun Community, Rabbi Michael Lerner, spoke at William Paterson University in April 2009 on "prospects for peace and justice." He was sponsored by the Gandhian Forum.
We chose as our speaker someone who was part of the peace-group consensus against the occupation, but who was willing to criticize not just Israel, but the United States, the Arab states, and both wings of the Palestinian movement. We chose someone who was a strong critic of violence, both on the part of Israel and on the part of the Palestinians. We chose someone who insists that human rights apply to all people in the region. We chose someone who was not a demagogue but a highly regarded scholar at Columbia University, whose erudition, as the Beacon op-ed acknowledges, is "virtually unmatched."
Unfortunately, the op-ed provided no report of what Prof. Khalidi actually said and the Beacon chose not to run a news story offering a report of the event. We hope that those who weren't present will watch the video of his talk once it is posted on the Gandhian Forum's website, and see for themselves Khalidi's intelligence, compassion, and commitment to the universality of the values of peace and justice.
Stephen R. Shalom
Director, Gandhian Forum for Peace and Justice,
and Professor of Political Science