Are violent acts against Jews, including murder and terrorism, justified? The question of course, is one that makes all but the most rabidly anti-Semitic recoil with horror and disgust but this is precisely the question that was thrust upon debating participants at a prominent national debating championship.
On April 9-11, 2016 Morehouse College, Dr. Martin Luther King’s alma mater, hosted the U.S. Universities Debating Association national championship where the following repugnant debate topic was proposed;
“This House Believes That Palestinian Violence Against Israeli Civilians Is Justified”
As an aside, Dr. King was an admirer and a strong supporter of Israel and had noted that Israel was one of the great democracy outposts of the world. He also astutely observed that “when people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
Debate participants were given 15 minutes to prepare for the topic and some were actually expected to advocate for the slaughter of innocent Jews. Those who refused to advocate such heinous positions were penalized by the judges. Others tried to frame the debate in a more general, non-specific tone and they too were penalized for failing to address the specific topic.
Even those who advocated against the position were adversely affected. For example, one debater noted that although she was tasked with arguing against the slaughter of Jews, the shocking nature of the subject matter reduced her to tears during her brief preparation time.
An “equity officer” who was tasked with ensuring that all debate participants were treated fairly and equitably, acknowledged that the subject matter was unacceptable and that participation should have been optional. Approximately 30 of the participants filed equity grievances to the equity officer and some teams decided to leave the tournament prior to its completion. A meeting was supposed to have been held concerning the appropriateness of the subject but that never materialized.
The troubling incident at the USUDA championship demonstrates the banality of overt anti-Semitism and raises multiple issues including;
- Who framed the instant debate topic?
- How did USUDA permit discourse on such a malevolent topic?
- What, if any, influence did pernicious anti-Israel, anti-Semitic elements play in formulating the debate topic?
The Zionist Organization of America conducted an investigation which revealed several disquieting facts that contributed to the culmination of this charade.
An “adjudication team” is selected by a “convenor.” The team is composed of three individuals who formulate the topics. In this case, two of the three team members, Sharmila Parmanand and Samuel Ward-Packard, maintained pro-Palestinian links.
Sharmila Parmanand is co-coach of the “Palestine National High School Debate Team,” lectured at the “Palestine Debate Academy” and worked with the Open Society Institute, an organization founded and financed by the notorious anti-Zionist, George Soros. Samuel Ward-Packard maintains similar anti-Israel credentials, though his “Linked In” profile, which had highlighted these credentials has, as of this writing, been inexplicably removed.
The ZOA investigation also revealed that some of these Palestinian and assorted anti-Israel debate groups receive funding from the U.S. State Department, the EU, George Soros and Hamas’ principle benefactor, Qatar.
The USUDA released a statement indicating that it was not responsible for selecting the adjudicating team, was unaware of the selected topic and was powerless to stop the motion from being run. The statement also noted that the USUDA was “saddened that several of [its] members and colleagues were negatively impacted.”
While the USUDA’s statement seems sincere, it falls well short of an outright denunciation of the anti-Semitic spectacle. The USUDA’s statement should have been unequivocal and made clear that such debate topics fall well outside the boundaries of controversial discourse. Forcing a participant to advocate violence and murder against civilian members of a certain ethnic group, to the exclusion of all others, should spark outrage not sadness.
Moreover, the nexus between the State Department and these nefarious “debate” groups cannot be overstated. The United States should not be in the business of financing organizations whose sole purpose is to undermine a U.S. ally and whose ultimate aim is to bring about the destruction of the Jewish State.
There is an important lesson to be learned here. Left unchecked by feckless and vacillating academic officials and administrators, pernicious hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and their radical leftist allies have succeeded in mainstreaming anti-Semitism. The disgraceful incident at Morehouse College demonstrates the progression of anti-Semitism. It begins with belligerent displays and demonstrations, where Israel is demonized and its legitimacy challenged, and mutates into a “debate” about killing Jewish civilians. It is indeed a sad day for academia.