Sunday, March 6, 2016

Peter Beinart at Vassar

On Wednesday, March 3, J Street U sponsored a talk by Peter Beinart, Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at CUNY. The lecture, entitled “The Crisis of Zionism” (also the title of his 2012 book), was co-sponsored by President Hill’s Dialogue and Engagement Across Difference Fund, the Jewish Studies Program and the Religion Department.An alum who attended the event published a detailed account on Facebook, stating that Beinart, who describes himself as a "liberal Zionist," "offered an educated perspective (whether you disagree or not with his views) on the issues involving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well as on BDS.” According to the report, Beinart "explain[ed] his views on why he believes in a two-state solution and his criticism about current Israeli leadership." He was also quite critical of the BDS mission and positions, while stating that he agreed with some boycotts of Israeli settlement products, and suggested that BDS does not have the actual needs of Palestinians on its radar. In response to a question, he also addressed "the concerns of alumni as well as the generational gap differences with millennials" by challenging both to understand each other's concerns.

On the subject of the convergence between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the report suggests that Beinart "failed to some extent to understand that the language being used at Vassar and other campuses goes beyond anti-Zionist rhetoric and crosses quickly in antisemitism."

The attending alum indicated that students in conversation after the event wished to convey the following message:
they feel they are happy and able to be Jews at Vassar and that the BDS movement is not limiting their voice or their ability to represent their causes; that the BDS movement is a big concern to them but they are addressing it and working to combat the referendum; that there is a concern about the Jewish Studies Department where there is a strong anti-Israel bias that is in some sense driving the BDS movement on campus; that the Puar speech did create angst and concern within the Jewish community; and they would like to see more alumni engaged in personal dialogue with them on the campus.
According to the report, President Hill and a number of faculty members attended the event.

Those who are on Vassar4Israel's Facebook page can read the full report here

For a comprehensive analysis of the response to Beinart's book, see: