On behalf of the Board and the 55,000 faculty subscribers worldwide that make up Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, I wish to express our support of the invitation of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren to speak at your commencement. Our support comes from many levels. Michael Oren, before his appointment to the ambassadorship was himself an academic and one of our ranks. He is a well-informed and highly accomplished historian. We are also very aware, as undoubtedly are you, that there has been a wave of protests on any Israeli speaker appearing on US campuses. Michael Oren himself was subject to a massive disruption on the campus of UC-Irvine, and although he was eventually able to finish his remarks, several students are now facing legal charges. This attempt across North America to silence voices from Israel is not only harmful to students and campuses, but is ultimately a threat to any reasoned and civil discussion of the very complex situation in the Middle East in general. We, as scholars across many disciplines, campuses and countries feel it is our responsibility as professional academics to preserve the principle of integrity, honesty and civility of discourse on college and university campuses. We support you in defending the right of Dr. Oren to speak, and be heard in a way that is consistent with the standards of your university. Please see the following letter from one of your students. We hope that you will suport their petition request.
Peter J. Haas
Abba Hillel Silver Professor of Jewish Studies
Chair, Department of Religious Studies
Case Western Reserve University
Dear Brandeis Faculty,
I would like to invite you to show your support of President Reinharz and his decision to invite Michael Oren to speak at Brandeis University commencement ceremonies on May 23rd.
As I am sure many of you are aware, this has been a controversial topic of conversation among students on campus- as it should be. However, We, along with many other students at Brandeis, became concerned when a good amount of the dialogue regarding this issue shifted from general discomfort that students had expressed towards a controversial speaker at commencement to ignorant and accusatory anti-Israel remarks, calling Ambassador Oren a radical right-wing figure and accusing him of committing war crimes.
We believe that it is important for President Reinharz, the faculty, the student body, and all those connected to Brandeis to know that many people on campus and outside of Brandeis support the decision to invite Ambassador Oren to speak at commencement. Most importantly, it is crucial that members of the Brandeis community demonstrate the intellectual maturity that thrives here and receive Ambassador Oren’s comments respectfully and in good manner. Therefore, I invite you to add your names to the following letter which will be presented to President Rehinarz as a statement of support before commencement. Please feel free to be in touch if you have any questions.
We appreciate your help.
Adam Z. Ross ’10 and Supportive Students at Brandeis