Tony Kushner and the Question of Palestinian Humanity

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The City University of New York trustee who has blocked the awarding of an honorary degree to the playwright Tony Kushner, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld (who I knew back in the days he worked for Al D'Amato), is interviewed by Jim Dwyer in the Times:

I tried to ask a question about the damage done by a short, one-sided discussion of vigorously debated aspects of Middle East politics, like the survival of Israel and the rights of the Palestinians, and which side was more callous toward human life, and who was most protective of it.

But Mr. Wiesenfeld interrupted and said the question was offensive because "the comparison sets up a moral equivalence."

Equivalence between what and what? "Between the Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "People who worship death for their children are not human."

Did he mean the Palestinians were not human? "They have developed a culture which is unprecedented in human history," he said.

If Wiesenfeld had said, "I have proof that Tony Kushner has spoken out in favor of Hamas and the al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigade, two organizations that have both developed a very unusual and repulsive culture of death, which has allowed them to use Palestinian suicide bombers, often very young Palestinian suicide bombers, to murder Israeli children; therefore, I don't believe Tony Kushner is deserving of this honor," well, that would have been one thing. But he didn't say that. He broad-stroked the Palestinians -- some of whom I know, and some of whom, from what I have observed, love their children -- in the manner many Palestinians, particularly those in the Hamas camp, broad-stroke Jews. 

This has not, so far, been a helpful episode.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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