It’s a familiar chain of events: A prominent scholar and public intellectual visits an elite college campus to speak to students. In his remarks, he shocks his audience and the Jewish community by questioning the right of the Jewish people to a state, and asserting that the Zionist treatment of the Palestinians is morally equivalent to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Naturally, the address elicits strong condemnation from the local Israeli ambassador.
But this is 1961, not 2014. The setting is Montreal, where the famed British historian Arnold Toynbee, a specialist in international affairs, delivered a controversial lecture to students at McGill University. And the story didn’t end with an exchange of op-eds, press releases, and public apologies. Instead, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog, responded by challenging Toynbee to a public debate, just five days after his initial comments. On Jan. 31—53 years ago today—the two squared off at McGill’s Hillel House for an exchange that was broadcast live across the country and later that evening in Israel.
53 years ago from this past Friday, what Israeli President Shimon Peres has called "one of the most dramatic debates in the history of our people" took place. I wrote about it for Tablet, on the day of its anniversary:
What happened, and what can we learn from it today? Find out here.
I see journalism as an excuse to interrogate people who interest me under the guise of professional obligation. So when I report, I tend to collect a lot more information from my sources than can fit into my pieces. Here I post some of the greatest hits for your entertainment, along with other brief thoughts on religion, politics and culture. Well, that and funny YouTube videos.