Forum takes up Mideast troubles

It wasn't long before the Holocaust became a point of heated argument during a Sunday discussion of U.S.-Israeli relations at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"You are a fool if you think the threat to Israel is just a Jewish problem. You are repeating an error of the 1930s," said Dennis Prager, a conservative American Jewish talk show host, referencing the persecution of Jews leading up to World War II.

Prager was also pessimistic about Israel's future, claiming it's convenient for Israelis, like his fellow panelist, Avraham Burg, to be optimistic and think, "The people surrounding me really don't want to destroy me." But that's not realistic, he said.

Burg, a former member of the Israeli Knesset and a Middle East peace advocate, replied that "being a pessimist in America is easy" where there are no consequences for the fall of Israel.

"I see now as an opportunity," Burg said of the Israeli democracy and seeing promise in other possible democracies in nearby Turkey, Egypt and Syria.

They spoke during a Moskow Speaker Series discussion Sunday at UNLV sponsored by Temple Sinai of Las Vegas.

Burg also faulted Prager for comparing the current threat to the Jewish state of Israel to the prelude of the Holocaust. Unlike in the 1930s, Israel has the support of the world's major powers, he said.

Burg then asserted that an Israeli arsenal would become a liability, not provide safety. He'd prefer no Middle East country having nuclear weapons.

Prager couldn't disagree more, claiming it would be best for Israel to have nuclear weapons, but no other Middle East governments.

But that wouldn't create a "long-term sustainable existence," Burg rebutted.

In the end, they agreed on something, which Prager stated.

"I never believed American Jews should tell Israel what to do," Prager said.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.