From Fathom: Antisemitism and Oren Ben-Dor

Before the University of Southampton’s conference on Israel and international law was cancelled/postponed, a petition was set up insisting that this controversial topic was a legitimate subject for discussion and debate.

We affirm, as academics from various disciplines and institutions of higher education, that the themes of the conference, such as the relationship of international law to the historic and ongoing political violence in Palestine/Israel, and critical reflections on nationality and self-determination, are entirely legitimate subjects for debate and inquiry.
We are very concerned that partisan attempts are being made to silence dissenting analyses of the topic in question.
Many who disliked the conference’s stance still supported its right to go ahead, and cautioned against an illiberal or counterproductive overreaction.  Ben Gidley, for example, argued that we should challenge opposing views, not seek to ban them.
I am sure that I would strongly disagree with the views expressed by many of the speakers at the conference. It may be that some speakers may contribute to a climate in which antisemitism is not taken seriously. These positions, however, should be challenged through argument, and not by banning an event.
I agree with this evaluation of the conference.  However, the spotlight on Southampton made many look more closely at the views of one of the conference organisers, Oren Ben-Dor.  I would be interested to know how those who supported the agenda of the conference (not simply its right to go ahead) respond to his published views on ‘Zionism, Anti-Zionism and the Jewish Prison’.  You can read my own response to this abhorrent piece here on Fathom.

5 Responses to “From Fathom: Antisemitism and Oren Ben-Dor”

  1. Jacob Arnon Says:

    Two points: people should read Ms. Brown’s article in full. I admired her article in Fathom tremendously.

    Still I disagree, for more reason than I have time to enumerate ,with the view that the conference should have been held.This is not a free speech issue: imagine a conference sponsored by a subtle racist Black “thinker” on the essential nature of “Blackness” and how it contributed to the enslavement of Black people in the US and elsewhere as well as the ongoing violence in Africa. Such a topic wold have been rightly vetoed.

    Besides this is not a free speech issue since the conference can be held elsewhere. It should not he held under the aegis of an Institution of higher learning.

    I understand that many people at the Engage website support the view that the conference should have been held. I hope my opposing view will not be vetoed.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Many, Jacob, but no means all. I took the view consistently throughout the debate here on the conference that whatever else it was, it wasn’t an academic conference. The scope for disagreement and, thus, for for free and frank argument appeared to have been closed down by the manner in which the conference was organised and those slated to deliver papers.

      My solution was that it should be held elsewhere, not on academic premises, where the impression may be given that this was, indeed, academically sound.

      People can believe what they wish, and, within the law, say what they wish, but shouldn’t, necessarily, be allowed to say on university premises. There conference could, and should, have been moved elsewhere.

      Then let them speak to each other, because no-one else would have been paying the slightest attention.

  2. josephinebacon Says:

    The academics can waffle on endlessly, after all that is what they are paid to do. The fact remains that no country in the world is singled out for this kind of “debate”. Can you think of ANY OTHER COUNTRY whose legitimacy has been the subject of an “academic” conference? If so, please name it.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “The academics can waffle on endlessly, after all that is what they are paid to do.” No, Josephine, that is not what they are (and I was) paid to do. They are (and I was) paid to think and to persuade (mostly young) people that this was and is a worthwhile activity. Your anti-intellectual attitude towards academics doesn’t affect what they actually do, though it can severely undermine the efficacy of the activity.

      Your single-minded attention on the apparent “ivory tower” mentality of academics (as you see it) completely obscures the fact that it was thanks to pressure from the self-same group you denigrate that the Southampton U conference was cancelled. It was the unremitting efforts of academics stating that this was not an academic exercise but a purely political one (as well as the evidence that the conference would have been far from peaceful) that persuaded the Southampton U authorities that they didn’t need this kind of publicity.

      Of course the focus is ideologically (and not factually) focussed on Israel, but your style of ranting is hardly conducive to solving the problem. That needs the clarity of the “academic” approach to disputation.


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