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Letters to the Editor – Baseless Lies about Limmud

April 23, 2011 – 7:52 pm6 Comments

As a devotee, participant and lecturer at five of the previous Limmud-Oz Jewish cultural events in Sydney and Melbourne, I am jealous of its reputation. Limmud-Oz is one of the finest, most all-encompassing, educative, entertaining and enriching programmes for the Jewish community and its reputation has spread around the world.

Those who know Limmud-Oz understand that within its curriculum of Jewish and Israeli topics, it is an event which encourages discussion, and never shies away from subjects which are controversial.

But recently, an anonymous email has been circulating among the Jewish communities, criticising the organizers of Limmud-Oz in Sydney for incorporating into its rostrum of speakers somebody who advocates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The email writer tells us that Samah Sabawi is one of the lecturers invited to speak at this year’s Limmud-Oz in Sydney in July.

This is completely untrue. It is a lie and threatens to do damage to the reputation of Limmud-Oz, something which its thousands of devotees will not allow. The email writer says ‘we know she (Sabawi) was invited to speak at Limmud-Oz…’

Not true! She will NOT be appearing, and will have NO platform in a Jewish cultural event. Perhaps the BDS will be discussed at Limmud-Oz, because that’s the nature of free and untrammelled discourse, but not as a position which is advocated by those invited to teach.

The other name which the anonymous email writer casually throws around as though it were some disease, is that of Naomi Chazan, a distinguished Israeli academic and politician. Chazan is Chair of the New Israel Fund was invited to Australia by them and the Union of Progressive Judaism. She is their guest, and Limmud-Oz has afforded her the opportunity to share her views. Many in the audience will disagree with her, and make their points known. But is the anonymous email writer seriously saying that an educational event like Limmud-Oz shouldn’t include many different perspectives and allow the audience to decide? There’s a huge difference between Chazan’s views on the future for Israel, and Sabawi who effectively advocates the destruction of Israel.

I am writing this because Limmud-Oz is a jewel in our Community’s crown, and ignorant, baseless and ill-informed emails must not be allowed to go unanswered if their intent is to sully its reputation.

Alan Gold

Novelist, Literary Critic and Opinion Columnist

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  • Sol Salbe says:

    Is Mr Gold not aware that Samah Sabawi was a guest of the 2010 LimmudOz in Melbourne where she was interviewed by Dr Mark Baker? If she has already been given a platform to air her views at Limmud what’s the fuss about community members being able to hear her first hand in Sydney? I doubt that too many people agreed with her in Melbourne. I know (because the audience was much smaller) that not a single person agreed with her when she addressed an AJDS forum. I doubt that hearing an articulate Palestinian would harm anybody in Sydney.

  • samo says:

    Thanks Alan.

    A shame that an email is circulating to discredit Limmud Oz. I’ve also been to the last 10 and think they are brilliant.

    Samah Sabawi did speak at Limmud Oz last year in Melbourne and she was excellent. (on a panel with baker and mugrahbi)

    I disagreed with alot of what she said, but to have such an articulate voice for the Palestinian people at a Jewish conference was really refreshing and enlightening.

    Limmud Oz is about diversity, and there are bound to be many opinions expressed that we disagree with (no matter what political perspective we may come from). This is the beauty of a limmud conference. It is a meeting place of ideas, an opportunity for all sections of the community to come together to engage with each other in a respectful way.

    The organisers of Limmud Oz should be encouraged to invite speakers who will challenge us, and take us out of our comfort zone.

    Let’s defeat hateful ideas through constructive debate as opposed to censorship.

    See you at Limmud 2011 :)

  • Emes4 says:

    Hey Alan,

    Chazan’s NIF finances many NGOs that are virulently anti-Israel, employ anti-Israel rhetoric, and support BDS. See http://ngo-monitor.org/article/new_israel_fund

    In other words, how is Chazan any different from Sabawi?!

  • watcher says:

    Chazan’s NIF and all the other leftwing Jewish self-haters remind me of the Mapam party – once the 2nd biggest in Israel!

    See the AJNWatch post re the mapam’s condolences upon the death of their comrade talin! Fair dinkum!

  • Larry Stillman says:

    So what if Samah Sabawi or Ali Kazak speaks at Limmud or any other event? Wasn’t it Menahem Begin who invited Sadat to speak before the Knesset? Or is that still regarded as a betrayal?

    Are we to engage in such censorship that we won’t even talk to other people, even when Israelis regularly talk to Palestinians? It goes to show how extraordinarily isolated some elements in the Jewish community in Australia wish to be from current developments.

    Like Sol, I have heard Samah Speak speak, I have engaged in arguments with her, and on many issues, such as the position she takes on BDS, we have fundamental disagreements. But it does not mean that we can try to build bridges and common ground between disputing communities through respectful interchange.

    As for the other comments. I don’t think we need to bother to counter the mud-slinging concerning Noami Chazan, Stalinism and visiting the sins of the fathers and mothers on people several generations later, or the lies about NIF. Is this the best that can be said?

  • Reality Check says:

    Watcher, those left wing, self hating, communist, Arab loving, war hating, peace loving, anti-Zionist, Jews; I think I’ve just about covered it, Oh yes – politically correct, will be the life of us all.

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