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It’s about Freedom of Choice, not Freedom of Speech

May 22, 2012 – 10:14 pm132 Comments

It's hard too see what positive contribution this could add to Limmud Oz

By Anthony Frosh
As happened last year at Limmud Oz in Sydney, advocates of the destruction of the State of Israel have had their application to host a session rejected. And just as happened last year, these same advocates and their supporters have been complaining via social media that they have been censored by the Limmud Oz committee. They claim that their free speech has been violated, and they also claim that it is a violation of Limmud’s principle of pluralism.

However, these claims do not hold up to much scrutiny.

The organisers misrepresent themselves as peace activists. In actuality, they are rabid anti-Israel activists, who call for the destruction of Israel. The organisers should at least have the decency to be honest about who they truly are.

The organisers are in favour of full boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel (including academic boycott) and therefore it is disingenuous of them to claim the moral high ground with regard to pluralism or free speech.

While Limmud is pluralistic, there of course needs to be limits.  For example, Limmud includes sessions on the Holocaust, but need not include sessions that promote Holocaust denial or take a pro-Nazi line.

Likewise, just because Limmud has some sessions that delve into the Arab-Israeli conflict, it does not mean that Limmud is under the obligation to accept all applications for sessions relating to that conflict. It is also worth mentioning that Limmud Oz will include at least one panel session involving Palestinians and AJDS members focussing on Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue .

This is not about Freedom of Speech, as the complainants try to frame it.  Rather, it’s about the freedom of an organisation to choose to whom it grants a platform. Similarly, at an event at which one of the session organisers spoke recently, where the crowd marched under the Hezbollah flag, one can safely assume that Zionist voices were not welcome. And that is the fair prerogative of the organisers of that event.

Furthermore, these people who support calls for the destruction of Israel are free to organise their own day of learning (or day of hatred at it would likely be). One can only imagine the very limited level of pluralism that would be on display if that were to occur.

In the interests of full disclosure: Galus Australis is involved in promoting Limmud-Oz events. However, the above is solely opinion of the author, and is unrelated to any association between this publication and Limmud Oz.

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