NEW YORK – By all of the parameters set out by its organizers, The Jerusalem
Post Second Annual Conference held in New York on Sunday was a resounding
Nearly 1,500 people attended, top politicians and security
officials spoke articulately and the conference made headlines around the world,
boosting the Post’s brand as well as positioning the conference – titled
“Fighting for the Zionist Dream” – as a key platform for debates about Israel in
the United States.
Our speakers gave us a fascinating tour of the region
– from Iran to Gaza and Syria to Egypt to the peace process with the
Palestinians and the recent reconciliation with Turkey.
It was my honor
to serve as the conference moderator, but I did walk away slightly disturbed by
the response among some in the crowd to several of the speakers. I will
The first to get booed was Ehud Olmert, the former prime
Next was Harvard Law School Prof. Alan Dershowitz. The
booing took some people there by surprise since the conference, they had
thought, was supposed to be a place where fellow pro-Israel activists could
exchange ideas and where people would be allowed to speak
Instead, I was reminded at one point of some of the college
campuses I have spoken at over the years where anti-Israel students often
heckle, hiss and boo when I try to get across a point in Israel’s
I wonder, for example, if the people who booed Dershowitz knew
what he does on these same campuses.
How he stood up last year, for
example, to debate Noam Chomsky, one of Israel’s greatest detractors, at
Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government – not the most sympathetic of forums for
Israel – to defend the Jewish state and its policies.
Dershowitz is one
of Israel’s most passionate advocates and defenders and is doing so on the front
lines of American academia. Does he deserve to be booed for having an opinion
that some people disagree with? I don’t think so.
Then there was Olmert.
Do I even need to review his record? Let’s suffice to say that while the current
government might be facing tough decisions down the road, Olmert has already had
to make some.
Whether it was the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Operation
Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, the bombing of Syria’s nuclear reactor in
2007 or conducting peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Olmert led Israel
through a critical period.
Even if you oppose him politically, his record
speaks for itself. Israel has enjoyed seven years of unprecedented quiet along
the northern border, Bashar Assad never obtained nuclear weapons and Cast Lead
flipped the paradigm on Hamas.
Don’t get me wrong. The purpose of this
article is not to defend Olmert or Dershowitz on a personal level. I am, though,
trying to impress upon those who felt the need to heckle and boo that they might
want to reconsider what it means to exchange ideas and what the purpose is of a
newspaper like The Jerusalem Post.
Last year, the Post celebrated its
80th anniversary, and I believe it has carried on the tradition of what its
founder, Gershon Agron, envisioned in 1932 – to create a newspaper in Israel
that could tell the world what was happening within this ancient land but also
in the wider region.
Over the years, the Post has grown and is obviously
no longer just a leading newspaper in print but is the most widely read
English-language website in Israel and the Diaspora and serves as an unwavering
and reliable source of news for what happens in Israel, the Middle East and the
It has always strived to bring you, the readers,
perspectives from across the political spectrum – from the Left to the Center
and Right. Some of these opinions you might agree with, others you read and
probably can’t even begin to understand.
But, in my mind, that is the
paper’s purpose – to help educate, enlighten and of course to tell
The issues the paper deals with are tough and while they may
seem to sometimes divide us, we need to realize that there is value and
importance in being challenged.
The outcome should not scare
Either we will have our opinions reinforced or we might just become
aware of a different and new narrative.
Either way, we can only gain. If
the Post just told us what we wanted to hear, then what good would it be doing?
The writer is The Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent and is on sabbatical
at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.