The Academic Friends of Israel
20 January 2008
Oxford Union debate
This coming Tuesday at the Oxford Union four academics who all support boycott against Israel will be debating the motion “This House Believes That The State of Israel has a Right to Exist.” American academic Norman Finklestein along with Prof Ted Honderich will be speaking along with for the proposition whilst opposing them will be Exeter University academics Ghada Karmi and Ilan Pappe. You can read about Finklestein and his fellow debaters by searching the Engage website at: http://www.engageonline.org.uk
Putting aside the point that, why is Israel the only country whose right to exist is frequently questioned, the debate begs the question why do they think that Finklestein and Honderich are the best people to debate whether Israel has a right to exist? All four speakers have questionable backgrounds and have given support in the past to organisations that have called for the delegitimisation and destruction of the State of Israel.
Finklestein is on a UK tour next week which has been organised by FOSIS, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK & Eire and supported by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and Action on Palestine. He will also be speaking next week at Manchester, Keele, LSE, Sussex and Edinburgh Universities. The Union of Jewish Students [UJS] is coordinating local responses to these events. The posters advertising the event show a one state solution for the region having eliminated Israel, with Palestine shown in red and dripping blood – shades of the blood libels? So if Finklestein is on a speaking tour for FOSIS whose aim is a one state solution one must conclude that he supports Israel’s right to exist, but not as a Jewish state.
The Jewish Chronicle
This weeks Jewish Chronicle front page story is headlined “New push to smear Israel lobby” http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m11&SecId=11&AId=57452&ATypeId=1
The letter to the UK Government’s Standards committee in Public Life, which formed the basis of the article complained about the influence in Parliament of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It was sent by a group of people who are known to be anti-Israel and are looking for the publicity that the JC has given it.
Thirty minutes research on the internet reveals that in addition to well known boycotters such as Mona Baker and Derek Summerfield some of the other signatories have been published on websites that have links with Gilad Atzmon and Counterpunch. Go to http://www.wakeupfromyourslumber.com/node/5111 to read the letter.
This is a prime example of giving publicity to Israel’s enemies especially when there is no story. The Jewish Chronicle quoted Standards Committee secretary Charles Ramsden who said “It is very unlikely that this will come up on the agenda, because we deal with issues involving individuals.” According to the JC’s rival, the Jewish News, a spokesperson explained: “We wrote back to the senders saying that given the committees remit which is not committed to investigating specific and is essentially UK-based, that it is unlikely we would take it any further.”
What we must avoid is to legitimising any future public boycott or related calls, especially when they have no substance.
A majority of the Anglo-Jewish community has always assumed that the JC was pro Israel and would publish factual articles about the activities of Israel’s enemies whilst at the same time acting as Israel’s critical friend. They were right to publish the article about the letter but if the piece had been properly researched it would not have been given front page status especially when Jewish Chronicle headline articles are frequently picked up by the Israeli and National press. If this assumption about the JC is wrong and it no longer speaks for a majority of Anglo- Jews then the community should be made aware of it.
Ron Prosor, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK
Finally a word of praise for the new Israeli Ambassador in London, Ron Prosor who since his arrival 2 months ago has ramped up Israel’s PR effort in the UK. He spoke this week to students at London's School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS].
Proser is quoted in Haaretz http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/946030.html saying he wants to influence British public opinion, which he says is more extreme than the political establishment in its criticism of Israel, and hugely influential. He is quoted as saying “You've got to consider the alternative - If I don't show up, the vacuum I leave will be filled by someone else," he says. "So I will go to Universities, to trade unions, to relevant conferences. So long as somebody gives me a platform - I will come."
The Ambassador has set out his stall for the future so it is now up to you to issue an invitation for him to speak at your University.
Academic Friends of Israel
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Henry Grunwald Q.C. - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA
Dr Robin Stamler
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
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