Home » Anthony Frosh, Politics and Media, Rachel Sacks-Davis, Recent Posts

BDS Advocates and Sympathisers Accuse Limmud-Oz

May 18, 2011 – 10:56 pm139 Comments

Member of Knesset, Tzipi Hotovely, was a speaker at last year's Limmud-Oz in Melbourne

By Anthony Frosh & Rachel Sacks-Davis

Advocates of boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Vivienne Porzsolt and Peter Slezak, have had their applications to speak at Limmud-Oz next month in Sydney denied. Limmud-Oz Program Director, Michael Misrachi, explained that this decision was made because BDS includes advocating a ban on Israeli academics and performers whereas Limmud-Oz supports engagement with Israeli academics and performers.

Porzsolt has called on Limmud-Oz to reconsider their decision, which she warns, “can only, once again, bring ridicule and contempt on the Jewish community.” Since receiving the email informing her that her application to speak at Limmud-Oz had not been successful, Porzsolt has contacted a number of publications including Galus Australis regarding the incident.

Despite Porzsolt’s claim that BDS “is not aimed at individual writers and academics but at academic and cultural institutions,” it is unclear why advocates of BDS are not themselves boycotting Limmud-Oz, which not only hosts Israeli speakers, but is associated with Limmud International, a global organization encompassing branches in Israel amongst other places.

In response to the claim made by BDS advocates that BDS distinguishes between individuals and institutions, Misrachi said, “The distinction they draw between boycotting institutions and individuals is disingenuous. If the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is boycotted, it affects academics from the institution. The reality of the BDS campaign is that it is part of a calculated attack on Israel’s legitimacy.”

Regarding the decision by Limmud-Oz, Porzsolt alleges, “the Jewish community leadership has chosen to oppose the free expression of ideas and misrepresent the facts.” Limmud-Oz has responded to these allegations, stating that they do “not deny that proponents of BDS have the right to express their views to whomever they like. But that right does not impose an obligation on [Limmud-Oz] to provide them with a space to do so.”

In a statement, Limmud-Oz has added that it does not “shy away from the tough issues or from challenging points of view.” It points out that there are a number of sessions at Limmud-Oz that tackle the very issues of BDS and criticism of Israel.

Michael Brull, who states that he is against BDS but supports targeted boycotts against settlements, claims that Limmud-Oz have “dis-invited” Vivienne Porzsolt and Peter Slezak from presenting on the “grounds of inadequate loyalty to the Israeli government.”

Limmud-Oz emphasised that, “Criticism of Israel or the policies of its government similar to that levelled against any other country is entirely acceptable, and is an everyday occurrence within Israel itself. However … the BDS campaign is an attack on Israel’s basic legitimacy and harms the Jewish people as a whole, as does the singling out of Israel for unjust criticism.”

Although Brull stated that he was concerned that he too might not be welcome to speak at Limmud-Oz, the organisers have confirmed that he will be speaking at the event on a panel titled, “Beyond the Pale: Disagreeing about Israel.”

In the interests of full disclosure: In the past (and quite possibly in the future), Galus Australis has promoted Limmud-Oz events.

Print Friendly