Deal over Is­rael con­fer­ence is a ‘waste of time’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY NAOMI FIRSHT

THE JEWISH Lead­er­ship Coun­cil has been crit­i­cised over a deal with Ex­eter Univer­sity that will see two pro-Is­rael aca­demics take part in a con­fer­ence on “set­tler colo­nial­ism in Palestine”.

Con­cerns were raised in the sum­mer by the Board of Deputies and grass­roots pro-Is­rael groups that the con­fer­ence, due to take place this week­end, would be anti-Is­rael.

Talks be­tween the JLC and the univer­sity’s vice-chan­cel­lor, Sir Steve Smith, led to an agree­ment in which the JLC agreed to nom­i­nate two lec­tur­ers to present the Is­raeli po­si­tion, and to co­host a sec­ond aca­demic event later in the year with the univer­sity.

But Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion chair­man Paul Char­ney said this week: “We think the deal is a bit of a waste of time. We don’t think it will have any pos­i­tive ef­fect. It will give cre­dence to on­go­ing bash­ing against Is­rael. I don’t think it will help.”

Writ­ing in to­day’s JC, colum­nist Ge­of­frey Al­der­man de­scribes the deal as a “mis­guided and ir­re­spon­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion”. He said it set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent for anti-Zion­ists to nom­i­nate speak­ers at fu­ture aca­demic events, as well as en­cour­ag­ing the stereo­type of Jewish in­flu­ence.

“I would have been ashamed to ap­pear at a con­fer­ence as the nom­i­nee of some ex­ter­nal body that had el­bowed its way in. I am hor­ri­fied,” Pro- fes­sor Al­der­man added.

The JLC nom­i­nated Alan John­son, Bi­com’s se­nior re­search fel­low, and Pro­fes­sor Gabriel Noah Brahm, a se­nior re­search fel­low at the In­sti­tute for the Study of Global An­ti­semitism and Pol­icy, to par­tic­i­pate in the con­fer­ence in or­der to pose ques­tions and pro­vide re­sponses to speeches. Re­spond­ing to the crit­i­cism, JLC chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon John­son said: “The vice-chan­cel­lor reached out to us. There was no form of con­trol. It was a con­struc­tive dis­cus­sion with the univer­sity. Had we not been in­volved, no pro-Is­rael voice would have been heard in this con­fer­ence at all.”

Prof Brahm said: “If we don’t en­gage then the Is­rael-bash­ers go un­chal­lenged, yet again. I be­lieve in the free ex­change of ideas in a bal­anced way — the con­fer­ence at Ex­eter is not bal­anced, but I hope at least to share a Zion­ist per­spec­tive.”

Fol­low­ing crit­i­cism from Jewish groups and MPs, in April Southamp­ton Univer­sity can­celled an aca­demic con­fer­ence chal­leng­ing Is­rael’s right to ex­ist, cit­ing safety con­cerns.

‘If we don’t en­gage, the bash­ers go un­chal­lenged once again’

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