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Professor Geoffrey Alderman disinvited from panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East”


Earlier in the year, Matt Seaton, who, at the time, was the editor of “Comment Is Free” (now editor of CiF America), threatened to outlaw Guardian contributor Professor Geoffrey Alderman if he continued to write for CiF Watch. As Alderman related, shortly after penning the piece for CW he received an email from the Commissars threatening to cast him to the wind:

“Last August, “CiF Watch” was launched. Its primary aim is to monitor anti-Jewish content appearing on CiF.  In November, I accepted an invitation to write for CiF Watch a piece on Peter Oborne’s Channel 4 documentary Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby and on Tony Lerman’s defence of it on CiF.”

I can now reveal that, within days of the publication of my critique, I received an email from the Guardian telling me that, if I dared to continue writing for CiF Watch, I would no longer be able to contribute to CiF. It was, I was summarily warned, “an either/or choice”.

As Cif Watch noted at the time:

“How childish – but how typical. Remember when they denied Robin Shepherd the right to correct a complete misrepresentation of his book by Tony Lerman?

“Such spiteful, nasty behaviour is typical of the unreconstructed left which is in the ascendancy in the UK at present.

“It is a sign of the Guardian’s lack of confidence in their editorial stance – of weakness, not strength. It means that all our other guest posters are also persona non grata with the Guardian.”

This is the context that makes the recent decision, by the Director of the Belfast Festival, to disinvite Alderman from a discussion on the Middle East assume even greater relevance.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

THE BELFAST FESTIVAL, 18 OCTOBER 2010

STATEMENT BY PROFESSOR GEOFFREY ALDERMAN

The following statement is issued by Professor Geoffrey Alderman:

On 20 September 2010 I received an email from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Mr. Graeme Farrow, inviting me to join a panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East” as part of the 2010 Belfast Festival, held under the auspices of Queen’s University Belfast. Mr. Farrow’s exact words were: “I would be delighted if you would join our panel.”

I was naturally pleased to accept this invitation.

The panel discussion is due to take place on Monday evening, 18 October 2010, in Belfast.

On Friday afternoon, 15 October 2010 I was shocked to receive an email from Mr. Farrow informing me that “a mistake” had been made in extending the invitation to me  and that although I could join the audience the event was to go ahead without my panel participation.

In effect, I was being “disinvited.”

In a series of email exchanges with Mr. Farrow I refused to accept this situation, and I have made it clear to him that I intend to travel to Belfast tomorrow and shall expect to participate fully as a member of the panel.

I am frankly appalled at the way I have been treated, for which I hold Queen’s University, Belfast, responsible.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

As CiF Watch noted in the row over the possibility of losing his writing privileges at the Guardian (a paper, it should be noted, who has even given space to known supporters and even leaders of Hamas and Hizbollah) but is just as relevant to this latest incident:

“It is of course part of the creeping delegitimisation of Israel and all those who are not prepared to join the haters or stay silent. It is the same mentality as those who gagged Benny Morris in Cambridge this week, as those who want visiting Israelis arrested and as Stephen Sizer’s clumsy attempts to silence Seismic Shock, using the police. It is anti-democratic and censorious.”

The festival’s director, Graeme Farrow, reportedly told Alderman that he had made “a mistake in agreeing to extend an invitation to you Geoffrey without consulting the academics in question”.

As the Jewish Chronicle reported:

“Professor Alderman, who has gone to Belfast, has rejected an offer to participate in the debate as a member of the audience. He said he was “appalled at the way I have been treated”.

“After a meeting with Mr Farrow early this afternoon, Professor Alderman said he had given the organisers three options: to allow him to join the panel and if his fellow-panelists were to object, “they could stay away”: to let him to take part while sitting on a separate table: or simply to call off the event.

“But an hour before its scheduled start, the event appeared set to go ahead without his participation. Professor Alderman, who is due to return to London tomorrow, described that as “outrageous”.

Professor Alderman is now sitting in the hotel in Belfast while the meeting proceeds at the University.  “Outrageous” is a profound understatement to describe both the treatment Alderman received, as well as the hostile atmosphere towards Israel and her supporters consistently on display within such “elite” circles.

If you wish to protest Alderman’s treatment to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Peter Gregson, here is his contact information:

Executive PA: Mrs Fionnuala Newton – (0)28 9097 5134; Secretary Mrs Monica Salomeia (0)28 9097 3131

E-mail: vc.office@qub.ac.uk

Update 1

Asaf Romirowsky had a similar experience to Professor Alderman across the pond a few years back.

Update 2

So far this story has been picked up by the Belfast Telegraph, Augean Stables,  Harry’s PlaceYaacov Lozowick’s RuminationsMelanie Phillips, Daled Amos, Israel News, Daphne AnsonSolomonia and IsraellyCool.

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29 replies »

  1. Disgusting

    Maybe the identity of the other two panellists had something to do with the disinvitation to Prof Alderman: Avi Shlaim and one of the founders of Conflicts Forum, Prof Beverley Milton-Edwards: a founder of Conflicts Forum who believes in a dialogue with Hamas.

    http://www.melaniephillips.com/diary/?p=1555

    Are they so frightened of being worsted by the truth in debate?

  2. My post was deleted. Quelle surprise!

    What did I say?

    a) The Guardian’s decision sounds like bollocks – but can we see the actual letter to Alderman?

    b) I found the use of the term “Commissars” ridiculous.

    What was my crime?

  3. This is yet another case where my first response is “Incredible!”.

    And then reality sinks in, and I remind myself – no, just Israel-bashing business as usual.

  4. Jonathan Hoffman

    Are they so frightened of being worsted by the truth in debate?

    Seems the only answer. Geoffrey Alderman is a formidable debater.

    2010 Belfast Festival, held under the auspices of Queen’s University Belfast

    The festival is ‘diminished’.

    Queen’s University Belfast is ‘diminished’.

  5. You can not have a debate if only one side is allowed to present its views. This is a shameful stand taken by a university who will be teaching students studying humanities that you must consider all positions and then come to a conclusion based on evidence, of course applicable to any subject unless it is Israel, the only democracy in the middle east. The war waged against Israel is on many fronts. Stifling honest debate, is cowardly, unfair, dishonest and is academic totalitarianism of the worst kind.

  6. Charlene

    You can not have a debate if only one side is allowed to present its views.

    You must tell that to the BBC too.

  7. Just another example of loopy Irish thinking, i.e. a one side only “discussion”. Will they ever learn?

  8. Just seen this on HP:

    “In her Queens University website picture, Beverley Milton Edwards stands before some pro-Palestinian Belfast graffit. Wholly in view is Make Love not War, with a Palestinian flag:

    http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofPoliticsInternationalStudiesandPhilosophy/Staff/Milton-Edwards/

    The other side, which she partly obscures, has the other or related part of the message. I think it says: They don’t let Jews like Jesus into the Knesset. Admittedly that is only a guess. But it is the kind of crude Republican depiction of Zionism versus Palestinians you find in Belfast.”

  9. Or

    They only let Jews like Judas into the Knesset.

    It’s got to have

    They….let Jews like J…. (in)to the Knesset.

    Something like that. You can see the tip of an L above her head. ..ike has got to be like. You can see the bottom tip of an N in from of ‘to the Knesset’.

    The name beginning with J has got to be Anglo-biblical. Most likely Jesus, Judas, John (as in Matthew Mark Lu(ke J)ohn), John being least likely.

  10. Flora Selwyn, why “loopy Irish thinking?” This insult to Prof Alderman is the latest in a string of attempts by universities and institutions all over the world to silence debate and the anti-Islamist voices in the I/P issue by disinviting pro-Israel/Jewish speakers. It is not unique to Ireland! These people lie to themselves and to everyone else when they call what ensues “debate.”

    Prof Alderman has great knowledge and is a formidable debater. Little wonder then that he has been disinvited – he would run rings around all the others and I am not sure that the audience could cope with the truth of what he would say.

  11. Silvertrees – there seems to be something specially virulent in Irish attitudes to Israel.

    I’ve seen sophisticated arguments that somehow they invert the situation so that they compare tiny Israel vs. the huge Arab countries with Great Britain vs. little Ireland or some such.

  12. AKUS, I know that the IRA were/(are?) anti-Israel and the Irish attitude might both feed and be as a result of that.

    And we have seen evidence of the lunacy of the Irish contingent of the ISM..

  13. oops! posted before I finished…

    How do others account for the vehemence of Irish hatred of Jews and Israel?

  14. Disgusting! What a shameful, shoddy, unprofessional way to conduct anyone. The other panellists must be scared of the truth and being run circles round. What a stomach wretching way to treat such a dear person. The cowards. Queens UF should distance itself from them. He has my support any time. Keep standing your ground Geoffrey, you must; and always remember you have supporters too.

  15. Prof Alderman was not originally scheduled to speak. N.Ireland Friends of Israel tried to pressure the organisers to shoehorn in Alderman for ‘balance’. As the title was ‘conflict in the middle east’ -why should Prof Alderman, whose area of expertise is the history of British Jewry, be present. The organiser caved into NIFI pressure and accepted Alderman when he shouldn’t have. Realising his mistake he rescinded the invitation which should never have been extended in the first place.

  16. The commenter who calls himself PorkChopXpress (I wonder why he chose that moniker just for this site) has posted the same comment at HP as Repstones. Another commenter from N.I. over there says of him:

    zkharya
    19 October 2010, 2:40 pm
    Republican Stones is an Irish cultural Roman Catholic Christian fascist who opines at length about Jews and Jewish history,and the non-existence of a Jewish nation throughout.
    And who sports an icon of a very butch muscular naked male torso, touting an M 16 rifle, on CIF.
    He is a prime example of the kind of Irish republican fascist that misrepresents Jewish nationalism for its own twisted reasons, and precisely why an antidote was required in Belfast.
    Naturally he would rather someone sympathetic to Israel and Jewish nationalism didn’t speak at a discussion between two panellists almost wholly in agreement.

  17. Queens University Belfast is hardly an institution noted for its connection with “Irishness” or republicanism or anything associated therewith. There is RATHER a large clue in its name, if you hadn’t spotted it.

  18. I emailed the Vice Chancellor and received this statement in response.

    **********
    Statement issued by Festival Press Office
    —————————————————–

    An event entitled Conflict in the Middle East with Avi Shlaim and Beverley Milton Edwards, one of a series of Talks run as part of this year’s Festival, took place yesterday evening. The event was advertised within the Festival brochure – and published in August.

    The event, included a question and answer session in an open forum with members of the audience given an opportunity to ask questions.

    End
    —–

  19. Stones, you don’t change, do you, nor does your blessed absence from these pages make this heart more favourably inclined towards you. You are still the piece of ….. you always were, passive-aggressive and insulting as your moniker shows (thanks amie). And I believe you to be lying, unless I hear a similar account of events from the V-C of Queen’s himself. No doubt he is working on a form email to send to all of us who have excoriated him and the value system of his seat of “learning” for caving in to pressure.

    I honestly cannot imagine Avi Shlaim being capable of standing up to Prof Alderman’s debating skill.

    One more point “..The organiser caved into NIFI pressure and accepted Alderman when he shouldn’t have. Realising his mistake he rescinded the invitation which should never have been extended in the first place. ..”

    And yet it was perfectly OK for him then to cave in to pressure from anti-Israel speakers, including a Theobald Jew? How do you square that circle, Einstein?

    Lastly, and most importantly, don’t you realise what you did in your first apology for a post above? That a pro-Israel Jew of Prof Alderman’s reputation and class should have to be “shoe horned” into a panel “for balance” as you put it, makes the point for the rest of us as well as underscoring your ineptitude. Decent, honest people who were interested in debate would not have had to be encouraged to “shoehorn” anyone into the panel who might disagree with their views, would they?

    All of which shows you to be the fool you are, but thank you for being an honest fool, probably for the first time in your life, and for falling on your sword so ignominiously in front of all of us. You can be the poster pork chop for all your benighted chums. It’s probably the most selfless thing you have ever done.

    Now go crawl back under your (Republican) stone.

  20. aitcheff, that sounds more like the blurb they would put out to the media

    Or perhaps he can’t read.

    Wouldn’t surprise me.

  21. Nasty Stones makes up his own cut-price version of what happened with the invitation of Prof Alderman and tries to sell it to us here.

    Nobody is buying.

    Those of us who have read Shlaim’s bumbling work and know Alderman’s precise and assured way of thinking can well understand the pressure the former placed on the QUB. That they acceded to Shlaim’s panicked pleadings shows the value they place on freedom of speech and scholarship.

  22. Shlaim’s role in this fiasco is not surprising, but more concerning to me, a few weeks ago I came across a children’s textbook in our local library, which I think was called “The Arab Israeli Conflict” (I think it is the one by Debra Miller). Flicking through it was clear that the book provided (exclusively) the Palestinian narrative in which, for example, the only ‘terrorists’ in the history of the conflict were Jews at Deir Yassin etc. When I looked at the back cover I discovered that the “Israeli consultant” on the book was none other than Avi Shlaim. It may well be that the author was a perfectly reasonable person who felt that by getting Shlaim’s input she was getting a ‘balance’ against the “Arab consultant”. The effect was that a standard textbook for 12-15 year-olds is indoctrinating a new generation to believe that Israel – and only Israel – is the root of all evil in the Middle East.

    It would be nice if the likes of Shlaim and Pappe could simply be just laughed at or, even better, ignored. In many ways the publicity about Shlaim’s role in the Belfast panel fiasco makes it more likely for him to be laughed at. But while this enables a handful of Israel supporters who follow the story to take the moral high ground, it is nothing compared to the real damage he continues to reap on thousands of school children (not to mention his students at Oxford and everybody else fed the lie that he somehow represents Israeli opinion).

    More on this here:

    http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/2010/10/israelis-who-seek-to-deligitimize-and.html

  23. The one sided Queens event seems to be the way forward. Here is another event featuring Shlain. The topic refers to a debate. But instead of debating the issue with speakers from both sides, the debate will be the subject of a talk. By Shlain. He and he alone will be talking about the debate. A talk about the debate by one of the active protaganists in the debate.That should be enlightening.
    at LSE:Israel Confronts its Past: the “new historians” and their critics
    Monday 25 October 2010
    Time: 6.30-8pm
    Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
    Speaker: Professor Avi Shlaim
    Chair: Professor Fawaz A Gerges
    This talk is about debate generated about Israel’s past by the “new” or revisionist Israeli historiography that emerged in the late 1980s. It will review the main bones of contention in the debate between the pro-Zionist version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that put forward by the “new historians”. The talk will also explore the relationship between Israeli politics and the historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    Fawaz A Gerges is Professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at LSE.