Dear experts: It’s not the debate that’s the problem. It’s the framing. From Tablet, an online magazine:
Last October 3, a two-year old infant was stabbed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian terrorist, who murdered the baby’s father and critically wounded his mother. On January 15, a mother-of-six was stabbed to death at home in front of her teenage daughter by another terrorist. Last Sunday, April 10, participants at the U.S. Universities Debating Championship (USUDC) at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, were challenged to justify attacks of this nature with the motion, “This House Believes That Violence By Palestinians Against Israeli Civilian Targets Is Justified.”
According to Jordan Trafton, a student from Claremont McKenna College, who judged at the tournament, the motion failed to arouse controversy when announced. “I look around and nobody is doing anything, and I’m so shocked,” he said. “This is Morehouse, a historically black college where everyone is up in arms about social justice.”
From the press release that just arrived from the Anti-Defamation League:
“It is outrageous and deeply offensive that students participating in the debating championship, some of whom were Jewish, were essentially forced to choose between losing points in the national championship or advocating for violence against Israeli civilians,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides plenty of issues that may be worthy of debate, asking students to argue in defense of terrorism against civilians is insensitive and abhorrent. It says enough that some students started crying during their presentations because they were so deeply unsettled for having to advocate in favor of terrorism and violence.
Greenblatt added, “It is hard to imagine that the organizers would ever have asked students to defend Al Qaeda’s attacks against the U.S. on 9/11, and this shouldn’t be any different – there is no legitimate justification for terrorism. While ADL is a fierce advocate for freedom of speech and the role of debate in the public square, whoever devised the question exercised extremely poor judgment.”
ADL called on organizers of the United States Universities Debate Association, which organized the event, to publicly apologize for this incident and use it as a teachable moment so that future debates do not include questions that require them to defend immoral positions that are anathema to reasonable and rational debate.