April 11 virtual lecture will explore college culture and clashes over Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The land where the Jewish state of Israel now sits has been a site of deadly conflict for decades. The conflict rages on today between the Israelis whose country was dedicated in 1948, and the Palestinians who have been displaced by that development.

College campuses have long been hot spots for polarizing protests and debates. Now Memphians can examine those intense campus conversations at an upcoming event with author Kenneth S. Stern.

Stern is an author, attorney, and current director of Bard College’s Center for the Study of Hate. He will be leading the discussion about his 2020 book, “The Conflict Over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate.”
Kenneth Stern is an author, attorney, and current director of Bard College’s Center for the Study of Hate. He will be leading a virtual discussion on April 11 about his 2020 book, “The Conflict Over the Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate.”
“Some pro-Palestinian students call supporters of Israel's right to exist racist, and disrupt their events. Some pro-Israel students label pro-Palestinian students terrorists and the Jews among them traitors,” said publisher University of Toronto Press in the book's description.

The Memphis Jewish Community Center and Rhodes College are teaming up to welcome Stern for a virtual lecture and live Q&A session on April 11 at 2 pm.

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For those who are not able to attend live, a recording of the lecture and Q&A will be available to view anytime on the Jewish Community Center’s website.

The book “chronicles one of the most divisive and toxic issues on today’s college and university campuses,” according to the publisher. 

After his lecture, Stern will field questions from event organizers Marcy Stagner and Jason Judaken, as well as audience questions selected by the moderators. Stagner is Director of Arts and Culture at the Memphis Jewish Community Center, and Judaken is Humanities Chair at Rhodes College.

With this event they hope to draw a wide variety of people from Memphis, from college students and parents of students to any other Memphians who are interested in the subject.

“We want attendees to understand the importance of having these hard conversations. That criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, and that Jewish people don’t all believe one thing. No group of people is monolithic, and we can all benefit from the opportunity to talk and learn,” Stagner said to High Ground News.

Stagner and Judaken say they chose Stern as guest lecturer for this event because he is a respected thought leader on hate crimes, human rights, militias, and other concepts related to Zionism and anti-Semitism.

“Stern is masterful at helping people who are vehement in their views on an issue with at least two inherently conflictual narratives understand that there is more than one viewpoint to this conflict,” Judaken told High Ground. “And in a climate of cancel culture, for which the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a paradigm case, his legal background and commitment to free speech guide his steady moral compass.”

In an article he wrote for the Guardian in 2019, Stern said, “I’m a Zionist. But on a college campus, where the purpose is to explore ideas, anti-Zionists have a right to free expression. Anti-Semitism is a real issue, but too often people, both on the political right and political left, give it a pass if a person has the ‘right’ view on Israel.”

Stern’s appearance is a collaboration by Rhodes College’s Communities in Conversation Series and the Memphis Jewish Community Center’s Jewish Literary and Cultural Arts Series.

Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.
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