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Brandeis University and Jimmy Carter: What's in a name?

Reader comment on item: [Brandeis University President Jehuda] Reinharz, Israel and Me

Submitted by Aaron Eitan Meyer (United States), Feb 14, 2007 at 22:56

While it should be noted that Brandeis University refrained from officially inviting Carter to speak, the essential message of this article remains my view.

Earlier this week, Brandeis University, named after the esteemed late Justice of the Supreme Court, provided a forum for former President Jimmy Carter with which to propound his ideology, which has been recently published as Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The many pervasive flaws, inaccuracies, misrepresentations and otherwise questionable statements that populate the work itself have been met with a range of rebuttals, and are not being reiterated here. The fact that Brandeis University, of all institutions, provided a free forum for Carter is very troubling in and of itself.

As many know, Justice Brandeis was a passionate Zionist and the leader of American Zionists at one time, doing much to raise awareness of the cause in America during the early part of the Twentieth Century. Alpheus Thomas Mason's definitive biography 1 makes explicit mention of the fact that Jacob de Haas and others at one time even promoted Brandeis as 'President of Palestine,' to which William Jennings Bryan famously replied that he would vote for Brandeis as President of the United States. 2

The Zionism that Brandeis so passionately believed in was neither the result of his upbringing nor indoctrination. He developed it by the very same means that made him a towering figure of American jurisprudence. As he himself stated, "Knowledge has its source in interest, but it can be attained only through persistent pursuit. It is not something which may be had easily."3

Much as Brandeis' remarkable accumulation of knowledge was of importance to his legal work, so too did his belief in Zionism continue to be based on comprehensive knowledge – precisely the commodity that Carter has always lacked, most noticeably in regards to the Middle East, and which has been glaringly shown in his recent book. In this failing, even more than his baseless accusations against the Zionist state of Israel, Carter's viewpoint becomes not only repugnant to Brandeis' memory, but in fact antithetical to the late Justice's entire life.
As stated by Brandeis University's homepage, it was founded in 1948, and named after the late Justice with the goal of reflecting "…the ideals of academic excellence and social justice he personified."4

This leads to the heart of the problem. The means by which Justice Brandeis achieved all that he did in the realms of academia and social justice were the same as the means he employed in his Zionism. His achievements were reached by simply knowing more about a situation than anyone else. Indeed, his method of introducing evidentiary material in the form of statistics and other factual information revolutionized our legal system.

While space constraints preclude a complete exposition of Brandeis' Zionism and legal achievements as much as it does a full analysis of Carter's book, it may be easily grasped that giving a free platform for Carter to proclaim thoroughly uninformed views on a subject dear to the late Justice's heart represents a highly troubling issue. The combination of kneejerk anti-Israeli sentiment and emphasis on innacuracies and opinion make the work thoroughly discrespectful to Brandeis' memory.

This leads to the final, and ultimate question in this matter. Does Brandeis University have an ethical duty to its namesake? It seems obvious that nobody would seriouisly demand that an institute named after Charles Darwin give a free platform to an espouser of Creationism. So too here, where an institution has benefited from its usage of the name and ideals espoused by one of America's greatest jurists. Granting Carter a podium from which to assail his audience virtually unchallenged, and permitting only a clearly demarcated rebuttal by a man who was not even allowed to be seated in the audience when Carter spoke is a complete betrayal of the late Justice, and a lukewarm half-measure at best.

And so what ethical duty is in fact owed? That question can only be truly answered by the administration and board of trustees of Brandeis University, and it is incumbent upon them to consider their school's ethical duties in this regard. However, it is abundantly clear that there is, in fact, such an ethical duty.

As a final note, it is interesting to theorize how Justice Brandeis would have responded to former President Carter's book and speech. In fact, Alpheus Thomas Mason recounts a situation in which one of Brandeis' law clerks, who happened to be Jewish himself, used a similar epithet with which to disparage the Zionists, calling Brandeis' own Zionism a form of 'Jewish Hitlerism,' much as Carter has attempted to smear Zionism with the tainted brush of apartheid. "Brandeis coldly inquired: "Have you read so and so?" reeling off a long list of authoritative books. The young man confessed that he hadn't. "Well," the Justice rejoined, "until you have done so, it will not be profitable to discuss the subject with you."5

Unfortunately in this instance, the school that claims to uphold the late Justice's principles has wilted in the face of negative publicity and other pressures. It is to be hoped that the university consider its ethical duties to its namesake, so that a recurrence of this disheartening event not take place. It is the very least that the University can do.

1 Brandeis: A Free Man's Life, Viking Press, N.Y. 1946
2 Brandeis at p. 456
3 "The Pilgrims Had Faith" in Brandeis on Zionism: A Collection of Addresses and Statements by Louis D. Brandeis. Zionist Organization of America, Washington D.C. 1942 at p. 128
4 http://www.brandeis.edu/overview/historical.html
5 Brandeis: A Free Man's Life at p. 464

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Title Commenter Date Thread
What is wrong with you people? [110 words]NickApr 20, 2010 09:32171488
Islamization of Europe [280 words]Boris ScheinFeb 18, 2007 15:1577811
1Why leave islamic countries, if life is so good under islam ? [127 words]Phil GreendMay 12, 2007 09:2177811
Concerned Citizens for National Security Respond to Travesty of Academic Freedom [428 words]V NolonFeb 18, 2007 01:1077751
Email correspondence with Dr. Reinharz regarding Brandeis University and Israel (June 2006) [1586 words]Michael SpielholzFeb 16, 2007 21:4477547
Why don't you get it? [125 words]NickApr 20, 2010 09:4677547
The Brandeis Calumny [73 words]Persia Gran-FreelandFeb 16, 2007 20:1277538
some constructive discussion with Mr. Reinharz about battlegrounds [575 words]RivkaFeb 16, 2007 19:4877532
He is on their side [114 words]Yuval Brandstetter MDFeb 15, 2007 17:5477375
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The Brandeis Justice-13/2/07 [141 words]David GoshenFeb 15, 2007 02:2777280
Brandeis University and Jimmy Carter: What's in a name? [936 words]Aaron Eitan MeyerFeb 14, 2007 22:5677265
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The blind leading the blind [196 words]Carol SolfronkFeb 14, 2007 21:0277251
Jehuda Reinharz responds [386 words]Steve MullanyFeb 14, 2007 19:3977242
most unfortunate [77 words]Nurit GreengerFeb 14, 2007 18:4777236
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1Brandeis Women [32 words]s. vladimerFeb 14, 2007 16:2477217
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Brandeis University Sinks Lower and Lower..... [55 words]Domenic PepeFeb 14, 2007 10:4477169
Given Brandeis's recent history this should not be too surprising [30 words]Mark GoldFeb 14, 2007 09:5877162
Unbelievable [78 words]S A KapadiaFeb 14, 2007 07:4877151
Brandeis University: A weapon of misguided instruction -Al Quds exchange program threat to national security [113 words]Ben van de PolderFeb 14, 2007 07:3577149
contracts -put your money where your mouth is [181 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
jFeb 14, 2007 06:4277146
Letter to Reinharz @ jreinharz@brandeis.edu [299 words]Margo ItskowitchFeb 14, 2007 01:4477126
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D Pipes - Operating at a level above the 'run of the mill' academics [139 words]E KurtockFeb 13, 2007 23:0077110
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OUR RESPONSE AS ALUMNI TO BRANDEIS' TRANSFORMATION [70 words]Herb JuristFeb 13, 2007 22:3277101
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Brandeisi president [22 words]edward darmohrayFeb 13, 2007 18:4177080
Dr. Reinharz, Another Islamist co-conspirator among many Ignorant non-Muslim idiots. [217 words]TTSFeb 13, 2007 18:1677075
University [47 words]Dusan LipenskyFeb 13, 2007 17:5277071
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fear of being called racist [181 words]Phil GreendMay 12, 2007 09:0277066
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Give everyone the right to talk [65 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
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Brandeis' schtick [237 words]MauryFeb 13, 2007 16:1877052
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Reinharz comments [78 words]Stephane S LubiczFeb 13, 2007 15:3777047
Here is an email exchange I had with Dr. Reiharz in which he defends inviting Carter to Brandeis [449 words]William F. KatzFeb 13, 2007 14:5477041
Any instruction or leadership available in a university? [139 words]Felipe OrnelasFeb 13, 2007 19:0077041
please organise response to Brandeis [20 words]bunuelFeb 13, 2007 22:2577041
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question for mr pipes on Islamic campus watch [53 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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