Several writers have responded vigorously to Thomas Friedman’s grievous Dec. 13 column in the New York Times. (“Tom Friedman doesn’t let facts get in his way,” Dec. 22). Most have focused on the appalling claim that Congress is “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” However, a second claim is just as pernicious — that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not receive anything like a standing ovation were he to speak at the University of Wisconsin since students increasingly find themselves unable to identify with the Jewish state.
Readers should be aware that those same University of Wisconsin students have written to Mr. Friedman directly, in a letter cosigned by students representing the broad spectrum of campus activists, liberal, conservative, Jewish, non-Jewish, fraternities, Hillel, etc. The letter thoroughly debunks Friedman’s theory and affirms their invitation for Netanyahu to speak at any time in Madison, where he will receive a warm and respectful reception (while properly noting that not all students agree with all of Israel’s or the current government’s policies).
There is no empirical or other evidence that Jewish college students are increasingly unable to support or identify with Israel. Max Kleinman, executive vice president of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ; Melanie Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee, and I attended a program recently at Rutgers University in which the latest empirical research among college-age students was presented. It does not show any deterioration in support for Israel on campus. It is no stretch to conclude that here as well as elsewhere in his piece, Friedman draws political conclusions without bothering to research the empirical facts on the ground.
As Jewish parents and community activists, we are generally fearful and anxious that the Jewish students on campus may be intimidated and not supportive of public expressions of support for Israel. The letter from Wisconsin students disproves that notion, notwithstanding disagreements over Israel’s policies that the students themselves acknowledge. In furtherance of that goal, our CRC intensively supports and devotes much of our resources to Israel advocacy, an approach that mirrors the commitment of many other CRCs around the country.
David Lentz, chair
Community Relations Committee
United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and Central NJ