J Street U Brandeis Statement on Disruption of Knesset Members

April 7, 2011

J Street U Brandeis issued the following statement in response to an incident in which a number of students disrupted an event featuring a number of Members of Knesset

J Street U Brandies is troubled by the recent incident at our university in which students disrupted a panel discussion with six Members of Knesset. Since its founding, Brandeis has served as a center of intellectual life, providing a place for civic and open debate between parties that disagree. As students, we often learn the most in these moments of disagreement, when we are challenged by uncomfortable ideas and forced to reconsider our preconceptions. Passionate political speech can and should be a part of this lively campus environment, and we support all of our fellow students’ right to respectfully challenge one another, as well as public figures who visit our campus. The disruption of the Knesset members’ presentation, however, was not in this vain. This disrespectful interference of the event was aimed at obstructing the civil discussion that is a bedrock of any educational experience. These actions, rather than encourage dialogue between students, only turn away students from participating in difficult conversations. As a result of our fellow students’ disruption, an opportunity for engagement and vigorous debate was lost. Such actions only strengthen the skeptics’ thesis– that on challenging issues, we cannot engage in civil conversation, only in screaming accusations and divisive confrontations. Ultimately, this does not serve the Brandeis community, Israelis, or Palestinians. The consequence to such a polarized environment is that many students avoid engaging in the issue of Israel altogether, driving the political and campus landscape to the black-and-white extremes, and undermining efforts to create a broad coalition for peace. As we strive to return civility to the conversation over Israel and the Middle East, we hope students and the community at large, across the political spectrum, will recognize the damage done by the polarizing attacks that have characterized this issue for too long, and instead engage in open, constructive dialogue that promotes reconciliation, understanding, and peace.