Articles

Not news: Cambridge still full of Tabs

In People, Politics on Monday 8th February, 2010 by Guy Tagged: ,

From the Jewish Chronicle:

Benny Morris talk cut by Cambridge Israel society

Cambridge University’s Israel Society has been slammed for bowing to pressure from Muslim students to cancel a speech by a top Israeli historian.

Benny Morris used to be an enfant terrible of the Israeli history establishment, and was considered a “revisionist” for questioning the mainstream historiography of that country, especially with regards to its war of independence in 1948 and the exact nature of what happened to the Arabs living in Israel at that time. At some point in the mid-1990s he even considered moving away from Israel because of the hostility he was facing for carrying out his research.
Which is why this story is so incredibly stupid. Why would Muslims want his talk to be cancelled, and not the right-wing Israelis who disagree with his view of history?
The article continues:

Prof Benny Morris had been due to speak on Thursday, but the event was cancelled after complaints from, among others, the university’s Islamic and Pakistan societies who claimed he was an “Islamophobic hate speaker”.

He must hate absolutely everybody then. No examples were given in the article of any Islamophobic comments he made.

[…] the JC understands the cancellation may have been part of a pre-emptive strategy ahead of a planned visit by Daud Abdullah, Muslim Council of Britain deputy secretary.

He is due to speak on February 18 as part of Islam Week. Last year he signed the Istanbul Declaration which threatened violence against supporters of Israel and British troops. Cambridge’s Jewish students now plan to ask for his invitation to also be withdrawn.

The level of Stupid here is now too high. In order to get a talk by someone advocating violence cancelled, the Israeli society needs to “balance” it with its own cancellation? What exactly is Morris accused of, which is equal to threatening violence against those exercising their right to free speech?

Mr Witzenfeld said: “While Prof Morris’ contribution to history is highly respectable, his personal views are, regrettably, offensive to many.

Ultimately, we place respect for those who have been offended above the importance of hosting this speaker.” [emphasis added]

So Morris is simply accused of offending someone, somewhere. By that standard, no-one will ever give a talk at the Israel Society. How about intellectual curiosity and integrity being a priority instead, Mr Witzenfeld, and letting those who are offended by intelligent debate simmer in their self-righteousness while the adults get on with their lives?
Some questions that need to be answered, urgently: how did the society come to make this decision? Was it made purely by Mr Witzenfeld, by the committee, or by the membership? If Morris is an unacceptable speaker, why was he invited in the first place?
The final irony is that Morris is going to speak at Cambridge (his alma mater, for goodness sake!) anyway:

Prof Morris said: “Basically, it is foolishness. But the cancellation has generated an invitation for me to speak at Cambridge’s Department of Political and International Studies, which will have a bigger audience.”

If the leadership of the Israel Society of Cambridge is the cream of the crop of British Jews, I’m very worried for the future.
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