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Groups Voice Concern Over World Affairs Panel

June 11, 2009 By:
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Robin Wright

Several Jewish groups have expressed concern that a June 11 Center City program featuring a Washington Post columnist and an Iranian-American writer could devolve into an Israel-bashing fest, even though the Israeli-Arab conflict isn't the stated subject of the event.

For the last of a three-part series focusing on "The Future of Radical Islam," the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia has planned a panel discussion at the Union League featuring award-winning journalist Robin Wright, author Reza Aslan and Villanova University Professor Thomas Ricks.

According to the leadership of the Zionist Organization of America's Greater Philadelphia district, each participant slated for the panel has published articles or made comments that have displayed anti-Israel bias.

The letter, signed by the ZOA, along with the National Order of Brith Sholom and the Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel, expressed worry that "there will be a clear lack of balance, and that your audience may be misled by being given a distorted view of Islam, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah, Hamas and Israel."

The Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League also expressed concerns to the council.

World Affairs Council President Claudia McBride, in a written response to ZOA, said the series wasn't meant to focus on the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the previous speakers, British historian Bernard Lewis and Roman Catholic theologian George Weigel, are both known to be strong supporters of Israel.

McBride also noted that the council -- which recently hosted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf -- has long featured pro-Israel presenters, as well as Israeli politicians themselves, such as Yitzhak Rabin.

"We try to provide different perspectives on complex issues, but I would be really surprised if anyone thought that we were anything less than supportive of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship," McBride said in an interview.

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