‘Civil­i­sa­tions’ de­bate evades Is­rael clash

Del­e­gates con­sider the Mayor of Lon­don’s Satur­day con­fer­ence to have been un­ex­pect­edly bal­anced

The Jewish Chronicle - - HOME NEWS - BY LEON SY­MONS

DE­SPITE GLOOMY an­tic­i­pa­tion from some mem­bers of Lon­don’s Jewish com­mu­nity, last Satur­day’s “Clash of Civil­i­sa­tions” con­fer­ence, hosted by Mayor Ken Liv­ing­stone, pro­vided some sur­prises and some bal­ance — much of which em­anated from the open­ing de­bate be­tween the mayor and the Amer­i­can aca­demic, Daniel Pipes.

More than 2,000 peo­ple at­tended the con­fer­ence at the Queen El­iz­a­beth II Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in West­min­ster.

The mayor had al­ready earned the ire of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion by hold­ing the con­fer­ence, which fea­tured one ses­sion on an­tisemitism and an­other on demo­cratic so­lu­tions for the Mid­dle East, on Shab­bat, thus ex­clud­ing ob­ser­vant Jews. He was for­given af­ter adding an evening ses­sion, the panel for which fea­tured jour­nal­ist and JC colum­nist Jonathan Freed­land.

Ob­servers at the open­ing de­bate who have spo­ken to the JC agreed that Mr Pipes, di­rec­tor of the Mid­dle East Fo­rum think-tank, more than held his own with one of the most slick and ac­com­plished politi­cians in Bri­tain. Both had a sec­on­der: the writer Douglas Murray with Prof Pipes, and Birm­ing­ham Coun­cil­lor Salma Yaqoob — a mem­ber of Ge­orge Gal­loway’s Re­spect Party — with Mr Liv­ing­stone.

“The ap­plause at the end showed what the au­di­ence thought,” said Jonathan Hoff­man from North Lon­don. “Daniel Pipes and Douglas Murray gained equal ap­plause to Mr Liv­ing­stone and Salma Yaqoob. I thought Daniel Pipes set out his case very well.

“It was no­tice­able that the de­bate did not de­gen­er­ate into a slang­ing match, which could have hap­pened very eas­ily. But per­haps that was be­cause there was ini­tially lit­tle men­tion of Is­rael.”

Mr Liv­ing­stone opened the de­bate and praised Lon­don’s mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. He spoke about his meet­ings with the con­tro­ver­sial Mus­lim cleric Sheikh Qaradawi, while quot­ing the Chief Rabbi’s ref­er­ence to a “tsunami of an­tisemitism”, which, the mayor said, was de­clin­ing in Lon­don.

In the evening ses­sion, Adrian Co­hen, chair of the Lon­don Jewish Fo­rum, was heck­led as he ar­gued that an­tisemitism was in fact still very much in ev­i­dence in the cap­i­tal.

Prof Pipes be­gan with Samuel Hunt­ing­ton’s orig­i­nal 1993 Clash of Civil­i­sa­tions es­say on for­eign af­fairs, in which he warned that clashes be­tween civil­i­sa­tions had be­come the great­est threat to world peace. Prof Pipes spoke of a clash not be­tween civil­i­sa­tions, but of civil­i­sa­tions against bar­bar­ians.

“Can a world civil­i­sa­tion ex­ist?” asked Prof Pipes. “No, as Hunt­ing­ton de­fined it” — but a world civil­i­sa­tion was pos­si­ble if un­der­stood as a coali­tion against “bar­barism”. He then de­fined “ide­o­log­i­cal bar­bar­ians” — fas­cists, Com­mu­nists and now Is­lamists. The great ques­tion, he said, was how to op­pose the “bar­bar­ians”.

The mayor, he said, pro­posed mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. But he — Pipes — wanted vic­tory over “bar­bar­ians”.

He asked why some el­e­ments of the tra­di­tional left (in which he in­cluded Mr Liv­ing­stone) were so sup­port­ive of Is­lamism when it con­tra­dicted so much of their world view. His an­swer: that they shared the same en­e­mies.

In the ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion fol­low­ing the de­bate, Mr Liv­ing­stone said that while he be­lieved that Is­rael should not have been cre­ated be­cause land was “stolen” from Arabs, now that it ex­isted he ac­cepted it. He added that the US had sup­ported the cre­ation of Is­rael be­cause it “was scared that if it did not, it would be deemed an­tisemitic”.

Daniel Pipes (left) lis­tens to the Mayor of Lon­don (right) at a de­bate chaired by News­night pre­sen­ter Gavin Esler (cen­tre)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.