The description is submitted to:


Session R4861 (Navigating Jewish Campus and Community Debates on Israel/Palestine in the Age of Trump), 2017
Almost everyone who has taught or spoken publicly about Israel/Palestine has confronted demands that s/he be “balanced” or “objective.” What is the operative meaning of these terms? Since no one can stand on an Archimedean point outside society, public culture, or politics, calls for objectivity most commonly devolve to embracing the point of view advocated by those who make such calls or something close to it - that is reinforcing what advocates think they already know. Teaching anything radically new is rendered impossible if this demand is heeded. Calls for “balance” are similarly pernicious. They presume that the truth of any proposition is midway between two contending positions, or at least not at either end of the spectrum of possible views. There is, however, no epistemological warrant for such a claim. In the era of the abolitionist struggle against slavery, the U.S. Congress repeatedly attempted to find a compromise between opponents and proponents of slavery. Not only did such efforts fail spectacularly, with the benefit of historical hindsight we commonly judge some of those efforts (for example the Fugitive Slave Act) to be morally repugnant. Is there a way to teach and speak about Israel/Palestine that both respects the opinions of students and listeners without a falsely claiming to be “balanced” or “objective” with regard to the issues or valorizing the epistemologically problematic implications of "balance" and "objectivity"?