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Special Interview Brandeis Professor Voices Alarm at Bitterness of Jewish Debate Since Israel Went I

A Brandeis University professor, who specializes in rabbinic thought, voiced alarm here at the bitterness in the debate among Jews which has emerged with special vehemence since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon a year ago.

Marvin Fox, director of the Lown School of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, indicated in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Brandeis has not been spared the rancor which has pervaded the American university scene. Fox, in Toronto as Beth Tzedec’s “Scholarin-Residence,” said spokesmen for Peace Now are strongly represented on the Brandeis campus and their influence can be felt in much of the discussion on the Mideast.

During the last campus campaign for the United Jewish Appeal members of the Peace Now coalition on the Brandeis campus wanted to circulate materials through which the Brandeis fund-raising effort would dissociate itself with the Begin government. Fox indicated that he had personally intervened to persuade his associates not to include such a disclaimer.

HOSTILE TO BEGIN

The Brandeis professor, who spent much of his early academic career at Ohio State University, feels that the Peace Now forces are made up primarily of Begin-haters who are unable to accept the fact that the Labor government is no longer in office.

Asked if the Peace Now movement has influenced the thinking of students on the Brandeis campus. Fox replied:

“The first thing that you have to understand is that Peace Now represents the ‘positive’ wing among the forces critical of Israeli society. There are other Jewish academics who are far more hostile.”

Fox says that during a recent visit to the campus of Brandeis University by Noam Chomsky, the linguist, who has written the preface to a book by the notorious French historian Robert Faurisson, a book denying the factuality of the Holocaust, Chomsky was confronted by well-informed Jewish students who heckled the anti-Israel academic mercilessly. On the other hand, noted Fox, Meir Kahane had also spoken recently on campus and had been cordially received by the Brandeis students.

POLARIZATION IN ISRAEL

A frequent guest in Israel where he has lectured in several universities, Fox expresses some anxiety about the polarization of feeling in that country. He described the explosiveness of the situation in the following way:

“During my last trip to Israel I was invited to a gathering of distinguished Israeli academics. The evening was an especially congenial one and the talk very elevated and non-controversial. There was not a hint of discord among the group.

“Then as we were about to leave and were standing at the door someone made an innocuous remark of a political nature and within seconds the atmosphere became volatile. Everyone began shouting.

“One of my colleagues said to another: ‘When you say things like that you are sticking a dagger into the back of every soldier in Zahal.’ The bitterness of the debate was all the more shocking when compared to the convivial discussion that had occurred during the evening. When we finally left I asked my host who was driving me back to the hotel why he had not participated in the heated exchange at the door.

VEHEMENCE EXPRESSED

“My host, who is a distinguished professor of humanities at the Hebrew University said to me that he has learned to keep his mouth shut because every time he has participated in discussion he is cut short with the remark that he has an American passport.

“At this point I asked my colleague the following question: Assuming that every one of Begin’s aims had been realized as a result of the invasion of Lebanon, what would you say to that?

“Whereupon my host, normally the most rational of people, began to scream at me in a manner not unlike the way his colleagues had been shouting at each other at the gathering. Such is the nature of political discourse in Israel today.”

Alarmed by this unfortunate development in Israel, Fox feels that the situation in North America has been affected by the Israeli scene. He indicated that at some American campuses anti-Israel forces, composed largely of Arab students working in concert with other groups, have made the university an unsafe place for Jewish students. The anti-Semitic quotient is inordinately high on those campuses.

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