Bret Stephens, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said yesterday that Israel is the victim of unfair criticism during a speech in the Michigan League.
Stephens, who specializes in international affairs and at one time served as editor-in-chief for the Jerusalem Post, began his speech by discussing why Israel is popular topic among the media.
Stephens said Israel has received unfair treatment from the rest of the world.
“The bibliography of works on what is a Jew, and who is a Jew, and when is a Jew not a Jew, and what is a Jewish state, and can a Jewish state be a democratic state, and if so, how, stretches, I think, bookshelf after bookshelf,” Stephens said. “The Jews have been around as a people historically speaking for some four thousand years or more and these questions still go unanswered.”
He said the media also unfairly targets Israel.
Stephens’ talk, “Israel and its critics” came about one week John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt authors of “The Israel Lobby,” visited the University and argued that Israel is backed by a powerful lobby of organizations interested in influencing the United States to further Israel’s interests.
Stephens then attacked Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument, saying that the scholars should have held themselves to higher, more academic standards.
“This is, quite simply, not scholarship,” Stephens said.
Instead, he said, it is part of a larger pattern among the world that treats Israel with hostility.
Stephens said he wasn’t sure why people seemed so critical of Israel.
“I really wish that I could have come here with some kind of answer to that,” he said. “I don’t think I have an answer to that, and don’t think I ever will have an answer to that.”
After the speech, Stephens held a brief question-and-answer session with the 100 students or so in attendance.
Following the event, LSA senior Hena Ashraf, co-chair of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a group that promotes campus discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said she didn’t agree with most of the columnist’s statements.
“I think he pained a distorted picture of what’s going on in Gaza and the West Bank,” she said.
LSA sophomore Eitan Ingall, chair of Israel IDEA, which sponsored the event, said Stephens’ invitation wasn’t meant to rebuke Walt and Mearsheimer. Instead, he said Stephens’ speech was part of recognition of Israel’s 60th birthday.