JUSTICE - No. 68

41 Summer 2022 n a study tour in Israel with other Jewish American professors in 1981, I asked the “wrong” question at an Israeli Foreign Ministry briefing. Noting the recent dramatic changes in Israeli-Arab relations, including the peace treaty with Egypt,1 I asked when Israel would acknowledge the “existence” of the PLO and begin a dialogue with its leaders. The Foreign Ministry official was furious, and after screaming at our group leader, he stormed out of the room. American academics are used to disagreements, but we certainly did not expect a government official, especially in a ministry that specializes in “diplomacy,” to be so unprofessional. Kenneth Stern’s important book, The Conflict over the Conflict, reminded me of that incident. The book’s central theme is that people on all sides of The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate need to open lines of communication among students, faculty, and other stakeholders. An attorney and former senior staffer at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) specializing in antisemitism, Stern has written a tough, thoughtful, and brave book. Stern stresses the importance of free speech and dialogue and the need to respect academic freedom on campuses in the face of McCarthy-like pressures on scholars from shrill activists on all sides of this issue. He criticizes the failure of smart people along this divide to seize opportunities to create discourse. Paraphrasing Abba Eban, these days both Israeli and Palestinian partisans never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to have productive conversations.2 Stern’s last chapter, “Blueprint for Rational Campus Discussion on Israel and Palestine,” offers a path forward and should be required reading for all university administrators, government education officials, funders, and activists. “Rational discussion” will not easily be achieved. Campuses face pressures from community members, alumni, lobbyists, funders, and donors, besides having to deal with the passions of students and sometimes faculty members. Furthermore, politicians, often with limited understanding of universities or academic freedom, jump into the mix, motivated by commitment or cynically fishing for votes. The main argument of Stern’s brave and challenging book, illustrated by anecdotes from his long career fighting antisemitism, racism, and prejudice, is that people on both sides need to talk to each other and stop trying to silence their opponents. Like Hamlet, however, he will suffer the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” from all directions. Both Jewish Voice for Peace and the Zionist Organization of America have already tried to prevent him from speaking on campuses.3 Attacks from both the Jewish left and the Jewish right are a tribute to his honest and sophisticated O 1. This was in the wake of the Camp David Accords in 1978 and Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat sharing the Nobel Peace Prize that year. In 1979, the two countries signed a peace treaty that has now lasted more than four decades. 2. Stern quotes Eban’s 1973 quip: “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” and notes it is often misquoted as “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” (p. 148). See also Arsen Ostrovsky, “Palestinians never miss an opportunity,” NEWSWEEK, Sept. 15, 2020, available at https://www.newsweek.com/ palestinians-never-miss-opportunity-miss-opportunityopinion-1531588 3. Dion J. Pierre, “Barnard College Anti-Zionists Urge Cancellation of Talks With Author of IHRAAntisemitism Definition,” THE ALGEMEINER, Nov. 9, 2021, available at https://www.algemeiner.com/2021/11/09/barnardcollege-anti-zionists-urge-cancellation-of-talks-with-authorof-ihra-antisemitism-definition/; Morton Klein, “ZOA Letter to Feinstein Center for American Jewish History,” ZOA (2021), available at https://zoa.org/wp-content/ uploads/2021/04/ZOA-Letter-to-Feinstein-Center-forAmerican-Jewish-History.pdf BOOK REVIEW Reviewed by Paul Finkelman The Conflict over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate By Kenneth S. Stern University of Toronto Press/New Jewish Press (2020, 276 pp., Notes, Bibliography, and Index)