Perspectives: Dr. Richard Rubenstein on “Nuclear Weapons and the Middle East”

Perspectives: Dr. Richard Rubenstein on “Nuclear Weapons and the Middle East”

On the evening of Wednesday, November 15, approximately 80 students and faculty members made their way to the duPont Tower Room at the University of Bridgeport (UB) to spend an evening listening to Dr. Richard Rubenstein, the school’s president emeritus, talk about “Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East.”

The matter of the Middle East, persistent and omnipresent, migrates to and from leading news. But the nuclear issue—whether in the Middle East or elsewhere—has reasserted itself as an ever-troubling concern due to current tensions between North Korea and the United States. (In one poll released in August, 82 percent of Americans say they are afraid of nuclear war with North Korea.)

Rubenstein’s focus, however, has never wavered. As a theologian and author of numerous books about the Holocaust, including the New York Times-bestselling After Auschwitz and The Cunning of History, he has spent his lifetime pondering the perfidy of men and nations alike.

His contributions to the public dialogue have been met with acclaim and controversy. Nonetheless, he has much to say, and his insights are especially valuable for today’s university students as they are “confronted by the news of the day,” said UB President Neil A. Salonen, who personally introduced Rubenstein to the evening’s gathering.

“Of all the problems facing the world, some are much more difficult to resolve. Achieving peace in the Middle East is among the most difficult but most important among them, because we’re talking about nuclear warheads,” Salonen said.

“This is an opportunity for students to see what they’re hearing about today has developed over time,” he continued. “They don’t have context, and [Rubenstein] provides that very well.”

Rubenstein exchanged views with fellow religious scholar and UB Provost Stephen Healey. The evening was moderated by Dr. Mohammed Al-Azdee, a former reporter who covered the Iraq War for USA Today and Newsweek and who is currently an associate professor at UB’s College of Public and International Affairs, which hosted the event.

In the case of Israel, Rubenstein said, a dual understanding exists: such weapons can provide a country with leverage in cases of military imbalance and, secondly, such weapons must never be used.

Yet, the issue of security throughout a politically divided Middle East was evident as students posed questions, sometimes differing in their viewpoints. To that end, Dr. Rubenstein reminded the audience that, concerning the Middle East, more than one perspective exists and that the differing views must be discussed to further mutual understanding.

Speaking personally, Rubenstein recalled meeting David Ben-Gurion, founder and first prime minister of the State of Israel, who had encouraged him to live in Israel. But Rubenstein, who earned his PhD in theology at Harvard, explained to Mr. Ben-Gurion his strong commitment to academia and his appreciation of the unique opportunities only available in the American university setting.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625,