A high de­gree of fool­ish­ness

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

OVER THIS com­ing week­end a con­fer­ence will take place at the Univer­sity of Ex­eter on the theme “Set­tler Colo­nial­ism in Palestine”. Or­gan­ised un­der the aus­pices of the univer­sity’s Euro­pean Cen­tre for Palestine Stud­ies, it will ex­am­ine “Is­rael’s coloni­sa­tion of Palestine”, “re­sis­tance against the set­tler colo­nial regime by the in­dige­nous Palestine pop­u­la­tion”, and “the Pales­tinian na­tional strug­gle”. The con­fer­ence (in other words) is a crudely dis­guised anti-Zion­ist and (I would say) anti-Jewish con­clave.

But then what else could we ex­pect from a cen­tre whose Ad­vi­sory Board, chaired by the Jew-lov­ing Desmond Tutu, in­cludes other note­wor­thy Jew-lovers as Noam Chom­sky, John Du­gard, Richard Falk and Ron­nie Kas­rils? Just as there is no at­tempt at bal­ance in the make-up of the Ad­vi­sory Board, so there is no at­tempt at bal­ance in the sub­ject mat­ters of the con­fer­ence it­self: noth­ing about Jewish rights in Man­date Palestine; noth­ing to sug­gest that Jews, also, were part of “the in­dige­nous Palestine pop­u­la­tion”; noth­ing about the Jewish na­tional strug­gle.

In one sense I can well un­der­stand the anger of those who re­gard it as a dis­grace that the univer­sity author­i­ties per­mit the Cen­tre to op­er­ate as a ve­hi­cle for a thinly dis­guised anti-Jewish in­vec­tive. In another, these author­i­ties can ar­gue that they are com­mit­ted to aca­demic free­dom and its pro­tec­tion, and that if the Cen­tre wishes to pro­mote such a bla­tantly prej­u­diced event, so be it. Ac­tu­ally, I have some sym­pa­thy for this po­si­tion. This grubby gath­er­ing should have been al­lowed to pro­ceed on its grimy way, its spite­ful de­lib­er­a­tions soon for­got­ten and con­signed to the dust­bin of academia.

Now, how­ever, a mis­guided and ir­re­spon­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion from within Bri­tish Jewry has guar­an­teed this will not hap­pen. More than that, this in­ter­ven­tion has set some awe­some prece­dents, and has stored up fu­ture trou­bles. I re­fer to the id­i­otic ini­tia­tive taken by the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, whose en­tirely un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive and self-serv­ing – but, ad­mit­tedly, se­ri­ously mon­eyed – man­age­ment man­aged to el­bow its way into the con­fi­dence of the vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Ex­eter, with breath­tak­ing re­sults.

“In the lead-up to the aca­demic con­fer­ence on Set­tler Colo­nial­ism in Palestine [boasts an Ex­eter press re­lease] …the Univer­sity and the JLC have worked to­gether to adopt a plan which, it is hoped, will form the ba­sis of an ap­proach for fu­ture sim­i­lar con­fer­ences.”

The JLC “has been in­vited to nom­i­nate two aca­demics to at­tend and par­tic­i­pate in the con­fer­ence in its cur­rent form” and (as if this achieve­ment was not enough to sat­isfy the in­flated egos of JLC mach­ers) “an aca­demic event will be held later in the year and co-hosted by the Univer­sity of Ex­eter and the JLC, which will pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for fur­ther aca­demic de­bate, en­sur­ing that many top­ics are cov­ered from a range of speak­ers on both sides of the de­bate. The JLC and the Univer­sity will jointly agree the ti­tle, for­mat and con­tent.”

So the con­fer­ence will go ahead, but now with a JLC hechsher, sim­ply be­cause the JLC has been given the right to nom­i­nate two aca­demics to at­tend it. These in­di­vid­u­als — how­ever em­i­nent — will be rightly re­garded as stooges. But look also at the prece­dent that has been cre­ated. On its web­site the JLC boasts that “a model” has been es­tab­lished “for univer­si­ties to en­gage with the com­mu­nity through the JLC”.

The re­al­ity is that a body with no aca­demic cre­den­tials what­so­ever — and with no for­mal con­nec­tion with the univer­sity in ques­tion — has been per­mit­ted to nom­i­nate par­tic­i­pants at an aca­demic event. We may be sure anti-Zion­ists will seize on this prece­dent, and ex­ploit it: they will de­mand the right to nom­i­nate par­tic­i­pants in all man­ner of schol­arly gath­er­ings that take place on UK cam­puses.How—given­theEx­eter­prece­dent (ap­par­ently blessed by Univer­si­ties UK, the body rep­re­sent­ing all vice-chan­cel­lors) — can such de­mands be de­nied? But worse will fol­low.

This in­ter­ven­tion by the JLC will be held up as an ex­am­ple of Jewish in­flu­ence and power. It will be said that Bri­tish univer­si­ties are con­trolled by the Jews. This would be a lie. But at its heart there’d be an awk­wardly un­de­ni­able truth

It’ll be held up as an ex­am­ple of Jewish in­flu­ence and power

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