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Published on Feb 9, 2011
In a public debate in Montreal, the famous historian Professor Arnold Toynbee was challenged, by a brilliant diplomat and scholar, the late Dr. Yaacov Herzog to defend his previously expressed attitudes on Israel and the Jewish people. According to his theory, civilizations, like human beings, have life cycles that are marked by rises and falls. But the story of the Jewish people, who were determined to survive 2,000 years in the Diaspora only to rise again as a modern nation, did not suit his theory. Thus Toynbee described the Jews as a historic "fossil" - not dead, true, but also not really alive. Professor Toynbee then repeated views he had published earlier which compared Israel-Arab relations to the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Dr. Herzog thereupon wired Professor Toynbee: "In view of the extreme gravity of your allegations, I wish to invite you to a public discussion with me.." Toynbee's criticism of Israel has many similarities to those of today's critics and Herzog's successful counter- arguments apply today as well as they did then. The debate was held on January 31, 1961at the Bnei Brith Hillel House at Mc Gill University, before an audience of students, faculty and news reporters. It aroused wide interest, and is presented here as a major document of living history.