Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Left versus Right: Wrong Person Won

A couple of nights ago, the Likud on Campus group at Bar Ilan University (Ta Lavi) hosted a moderated debate between Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, and Ayelet Shaked, head of My Israel.  This was supposed to be a debate and open forum between leaders from the left and right.
Already, I feel they screwed up.  If you're going to bring in such an important person, such as Yariv Oppenheimer, then bring in a big name, such as Moshe Feiglin.  I had never heard of either Shaked or My Israel until I got to the event.  In my opinion, as well as some other people I spoke to, it showed.  She raised some solid points, but she did well because she had virtually the entire crowd hanging on her every word.  She could do no wrong.  She controlled the crowd at her will.  Had the exact same debate/forum taken place in virtually any other university in the country, she would've been eaten alive.

To the actual debate: Forum was supposed to be moderated with a supposedly impartial moderator asking questions to both, challenging each with points with points raised by the other, and finishing off with an equal amount of questions for each.  Very quickly into this, the crowd proved this would be no civilized forum.  It was an absolute debacle.  A shouting match with who can come up with the most annoying time to yell the loudest and be the most obnoxious.  Now I am no fan of Yariv Oppenheimer.  But I came to listen to him.  And I was denied that opportunity.  What did the shouting accomplish?  To get Oppenheimer to know what you're thinking?  Trust me, he knows.  To get him to change his viewpoint?  Mission failed!

Here's the message I just sent to him on Facebook:
I'm writing this in English, and hope that's OK with you.  I'm a student at Bar Ilan and was at the "debate" on Sunday night.I'll start off with I come from the Right.  I'm quite to the Right.  That being said, I wanted to personally thank you for the Mesirat Nefesh you showed simply by coming to Bar Ilan, and by coming to a Ta Lavi event at that.  You impressed me with your courage, and standing strong in the face of the rudest of rude.  I was appalled by members of "my camp" and the way they would listen, or refuse to listen.  The way you were treated is disgusting, and I'm deeply ashamed.  I came because I was genuinely interested in what you had to say, and I feel I was robbed of a unique opportunity.Do I agree with Shalom Achshav?  Absolutely not.  But something we share is the idea of democracy and human rights and freedom, and you weren't granted the most basic modicum of human decency.  For that, I apologize.I apologize for those who called you anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.  As thick-skinned as this business might make all, I'm sure those aren't easy things to hear.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anti-Zionist, and he's both my enemy and yours.  But to call you anti-Zionist defeats the purpose of inviting you and listening to what you have to say.  No one has a monopoly on Zionism.  We disagree vehemently on what steps Israel must take, and on the rights/roles of the Palestinians.  But we agree on the most basic of principles - Israel is the Jewish homeland.  It's the historical land of our people, and it's the one place in the world that Jews can call "home."I hope you do come back to Bar Ilan at some point so I can hear you speak, and you don't allow people who treat you like an animal to get in the way of that.
It's sad.  And at the end of the day, Oppenheimer won.  Why?  Because he sat and listened to people act like animals, screaming and shouting, and calling him names, but he kept his cool.  He never lost it.  He behaved the way a mensch should behave, and he behaved while unfortunately, my side didn't.


  1. Good post! No point in bringing someone with a different viewpoint if you are not willing to hear them out. I think it is a huge problem when one is coined anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist when simply stating their opinion about how to improve the situation. Instead of feeling threatened and feeling paranoid, both sides need to understand that the name calling should only be saved for people who do not have the best interests of Israel in mind. Yariv Oppenheimer is someone you do not have to agree with but one definitely cannot call him anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. Once those names are being used, the dialogue goes out the window.

  2. I am going to have to disagree with you on this one.

    I was at the very same debate and I am worried you feel directly for Oppenheimer's shtik.

    A. While I too was appalled by the actions of the right wing people at the debate dont for a second think that the left wingers in the room remained silent throughout. In fact I think it is inaccurate to characterize the room as "hanging on every word" of Shaked. The entire row in front of me was left wing and incredibly rowdy, one man even rushing the stage at the end.

    B. Oppenheimer DID NOT behave like a mensche. He made a number of snide and sarcastic remarks about Shaked, Bibi, and the right wingers in the audience. Perhaps you missed it because of the calm tone he possessed while doing so but none the less please dont fall for the Cheshire cat act. Yariv Oppenheimer will soft-spokenly send Israel to its demise to wash away his liberal guilt.

    C. You and Oppenheimer are not on opposite ends of the Zionist spectrum. Peace Now is an anti-Zionist organization whether they admit it or not. What kind of Zionist entity creates an app so that you can track and tattle on settler activity, INCLUDING 100% NON-DISPUTED LEGITIMATE SETTLEMENTS??? Daniel Gordis once explained the terms "Inside the Israel tent" and "Outside the Israel tent". You should look it up. Peace Now definitely falls outside the tent. Heck they are in a whole nother circus.

    Oppenheimer doe not represent the ideas of the Jewish homeland and I pray you come to realize this in time.

  3. Hey Doni,
    I think one needs to be careful in differentiating between motives and results of a certain ideology or opinion. Yariv Oppenheimer's goal is not to send Israel to its demise although one may come to the conclusion that it will. A policy unfortunately could lead to that result but I do not think that this is its goal and if it were he definitely could be considered anti-Semitic/anti-Zionist. Also, behavior from one side cannot be justified due to the fact that the other side was not behaving correctly as well. That kind of behavior should be inexcusable from both sides. I am not defending Oppenheimer but I am just saying that we have to be careful in terms of goals and results as well as how we define what Zionism is and what its goals are. Also, there are a large variety of ideas that represent the Jewish homeland and while obviously there is overall consensus on certain values, many other values or priorities can and should be clarified among the different sides of the political spectrum. On a side note, I am looking forward to being in the fantasy baseball league and I hope that can still be an enjoyable experience after I post this.