Friends Mideast Visit


 In his “Mideast Visit With An Arab Slant” (March 30), Steve Lipman reports on the latest fallout from an ongoing controversy largely invented by Alan Dershowitz, and now perpetuated by Abraham Foxman and colleagues at the Anti-Defamation League, against Friends Seminary, a respected New York City independent secondary school. Lamentably, while Friends is known for its long history of promoting fairness, tolerance and justice and asking its students (including my children) to live these values, it has not received similar treatment from Dershowitz, Foxman and others.

The story began in January, when Dershowitz began an attack against Friends after Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli-born musician, joined others in a Martin Luther King Day jazz performance in a space shared with Friends (which is a Quaker school with a sizeable Jewish population). Lipman correctly notes that Atzmon is a professed self-hating Jew who has espoused offensive, anti-Semitic rhetoric. Atzmon was not invited by Friends, and did not speak, but rather performed music with others. Given his extreme views, it is fair to question whether he should have been invited by anyone. But this does not justify Dershowitz’s unfair and factually unsupported accusations published online by the Jerusalem Post and repeated elsewhere, that the Friends administration and faculty have been “preaching anti-Zionism” or “tolerating anti-Semitism.”

As an involved and committed Jewish parent of children educated at Friends Seminary, these hurtful assertions do not comport with the experience my children have had there.

The crux of Foxman’s claim is that Friends Seminary recently organized a student visit to Israel and the West Bank that was supposedly “imbalanced” because it was co-led by a history teacher he blithely asserts holds “anti-Israel views” and because the group supposedly is not devoting as much time to visiting people apparently more suited to his perspective. He cites no evidence for his accusation about the history teacher. My eldest child, a recent Friends graduate, was continually challenged by the views of this teacher. That debate has infused an ongoing discussion at home about Israel, its history and future, that has deepened our family’s interests in and devotion to Israel and its neighbors. No one at Friends has “preached anti-Zionism” or “anti-Semitism” to him, nor to any other students I know of.