“Real Talk” on Palestine at Bard College: Marcus Avoids “Difficult Questions”

Dima Khalidi speaking after Kenneth Marcus at "Real Talk" conference.

Dima Khalidi speaking after Kenneth Marcus at "Real Talk" conference.

Last Friday, Palestine Legal Director, Dima Khalidi, spoke at a conference at Bard College, “Real Talk: Difficult Questions about Race, Sex and Religion.” The conference looked at recent controversies on campuses, with speakers presenting opposing viewpoints. 

Khalidi was invited to speak to the difficult climate for Palestine activists on campus, while Kenneth Marcus, head of the Brandeis Center and architect of the use of Title VI complaints alleging that Palestine activism creates an antisemitic climate for Jewish students, was invited to discuss antisemitism on campus.

As the conference organizer revealed in introducing the conversation, Marcus had refused to share the stage with Khalidi. The program was therefore organized to have two separate conversations, first with Marcus then with Khalidi. When a student in the audience confronted Marcus about this, he made vague and muddled comments about the principled refusal to debate holocaust deniers and people who hold antisemitic views.

As Khalidi’s comments illuminated, Palestine Legal’s work to protect the right to dissent on the issue of Israel/Palestine is often reliant on making a clear distinction between antisemitism and criticism of Israel, which Marcus and other Israel advocates routinely conflate in their efforts to thwart the campus movement for Palestinian rights.

The unfounded insinuations about Khalidi’s views and Palestine Legal’s work illustrate precisely the kinds of tactics that Palestine Legal is challenging.  In response to the controversy, Khalidi wrote: “Notably, when Marcus was asked if he thought Canary Mission went too far in blacklisting and defaming students and academics, he couldn't... so in my view, Marcus' tactics, Canary Mission and [David] Horowitz, with his posters plastered on campuses around the country accusing individuals of ‘Jew hatred’ because they advocate for Palestinian rights, are all cut from the same cloth.”

Watch the video of the conversation here (part 2, minute 276).