Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finkelstein barred from Oxford

Here's a slightly bizarre example of Oxford shutting down a debate by barring Norman Finkelstein. From J'Post:

Oxford cancels one-state debate

The Oxford University Student Union debating society has been forced to cancel a debate on the Middle East following the withdrawal of the proposers of the motion: "This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."

Prof. Avi Shlaim of the university's St. Antony's College at Oxford, and Dr. Ilan Pappe and Dr. Ghada Karmi, both of Exeter University, were due to present the one-state solution at Tuesday's debate.

Norman Finkelstein, formally of De Paul University in Chicago, Peter Tatchall, a gay rights activist, and David Trimble, a former first minister of Northern Ireland, were due to present the case for a two-state solution. Shlaim and Pappe are both Israelis.

When Peace Now-UK co-chair Paul Usiskin saw Finkelstein's name on the team opposing the motion, he expressed concern that "a far-left detractor of Israel" had been chosen to defend the existence of the Jewish state.

He told the Student Union they were "seeking sensation over substance" and were denying a proper and balanced debate.

Following talks with Oxford Union President Luke Tryll, the union decided to drop Finkelstein and invited Usiskin to participate along with Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow of the Middle East program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, who is also Israeli.

Usiskin told The Jerusalem Post that a Jewish student informed him Sunday that the proposers of the one-state solution were disgruntled at his inclusion in the debate and demanding Finkelstein's re-invitation. When this was refused, Shlaim, Pappe and Karmi withdrew from the debate.

"They clearly thought they had it sown up," said Usiskin. "I believe they're desperate for another arena in which to deligitimize Israel, after the failure to begin the academic boycott of Israel - in which all three were key. What they expected was a clear field for a one-state solution as the start of creating that new arena. Those of us who believe in Israel and support a two-state solution remained steadfast and denied them their victory."


At 10:34 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Since this was Peace Now that complained and not some right-wing Campus Watch-type organisation, I wouldn't get too excited about this. The student union did the right thing by diversifying the participants, which isn't only fairer, but more interesting to hear. It was a mistake on the one-staters' part to cancel the event.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Hmm, not so sure about that. Read this...

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

It's interesting that she doesn't mention Peace Now. I guess that their involvement is quite inconvenient for those who would like this story to sound much more sinister.

What seems ridiculous to me about the whole thing is that if it really was the Israel Lobby that made the union drop Finkelstein, wouldn't it have made more sense to target the ones who were on the more radical side - the supporters of a one state solution? After all, the one state solution is seen by the vast majority of Israelis, myself included, as another term for the destruction of Israel.

I can't blame Alan Dershowitz for refusing to participate. I also find it hypocritical that she criticizes him for threatening to "devestate and bankrupt" those who were trying, via academic boycott, to "devestate and bankrupt" Israeli universities.

Sometimes pro-Israel groups are too hysterical and overreact, but as I see it, that isn't what happened in the case of this particular debate.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Fair points and noted.

I see it more as a (ridiculous) boycott and ensuing counter-boycott.


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