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York University Promotes the End of Israel


[UPDATE AT END OF ARTICLE]

When I first saw this press release below from B’nai Brith in Canada, “‘York University conference questioning Israel’s right to exist an exercise in anti-Zionist propaganda,'” I was sure they were exaggerating.

Well I checked out the speakers list and the website and it clearly is one of the most absurd, sham, reprehensible anti-Israel conferences of the last few years. Check out the website and see for yourself. This line on the website is telling: The conference seeks to systematically measure the two state model against the promise of alternatives; very specifically the potential in the model of a single bi-national state.

Bi-national, my friends is a sanitized way of saying – no more Israel. As even Uri Averny wrote (a far-left wing Israeli writer and activist):

A bi-national state means the abandonment of this aim, and, in practice, the dismantling of Israel itself. The Jews would return to the traumatic experience of a people without a state throughout the world, with all that that implies. And not as a result of a crushing military defeat, but as a free choice. Not very likely

So what does York hope to achieve? To further and further isolate Israel as a pariah and illegitimate state. No Bi-National state exists in the world that has succeeded.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
‘York University conference questioning Israel’s right to exist an exercise in anti-Zionist propaganda,’ says B’nai Brith Canada

TORONTO, May 22, 2009 – B’nai Brith Canada has characterized as a “blatant exercise in anti-Zionist propaganda” the upcoming June conference at York University titled, Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace. The Jewish human rights organization also expressed particular concern over a recent statement by York University President Mamdouh Shoukri who insisted that the conference will continue to form part of the University’s publicly advertised 50th anniversary celebrations.

“This sham of a conference, which questions the Jewish State’s very right to exist, promises to be a veritable ‘who’s who’ of anti-Israel propagandists,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s Executive Vice President. “This is not an issue of academic freedom, despite the great lengths the University
is going to try to paint it in that light. It is purely and simply about delegitimizing the Jewish State and its supporters here at home – an exercise that runs far afield of so-called legitimate academic discourse.

“We question why an event that promotes hatred and encourages the destruction of the Jewish State would connect in any way to York University’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

“We call on York University professors, students, benefactors, alumni and members of the public at large to demand that York cease becoming a breeding ground for encouraging anti-Jewish hatred. Instead, it ought to use the opportunity of its 50th anniversary to return to its roots and celebrate the
diversity and multiculturalism of its student body, and ensure the tolerance and respect for all that should accompany it.”

[update] York U President had issued this statement defending academic freedom and against academic boycotts.

The freedom of independent scholars to organize events such as conferences on matters of legitimate academic inquiry goes to the very heart of academic freedom. It would be entirely inappropriate for the university administration to intervene in or to take responsibility for the academic content of such events, provided that they do not offend Canadian law, are consistent with the obligations cited above and deal with issues that are appropriate for academic debate.

You know legitimate things can be discussed like: Do the Jews control the media? Did the Jews cause the recent economic collapse? Are African Americans better at sports because of nature or nurture? Or like we have here in Long Beach – Can Kevin McDonald host a conference on his subject matter?

Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy to enhance the ability of Jews to out-compete non-Jews for resources. Using the term Jewish ethnocentrism, he argues that Judaism fosters in Jews a series of marked genetic traits, including above-average verbal intelligence and a strong tendency toward collectivist behavior.

57 Comments

  1. Neal

    5/24/2009 at 10:03 pm

    With all due respect to Bnai Brith Canada, if you actually read the website of the conference you’ll see that the one-state solution is part of the discussion but so are lots of other issues, including the “self-determination” of Israelis. There are some rather middle-of-the-road people participating in that conference- they are by no means all radical leftists. The president of York is a moderate, thoughtful man- he is by no means an anti-israel or anti-Jewish guy.

  2. Neal

    5/24/2009 at 10:08 pm

    Oh- and one more thing- it’s pretty funny to say, “no bi-national state exists in the world that has succeeded” when writing about a conference at a CANADIAN university.

    Canada has been binational for a very long time- and yes, they’ve had political troubles and tense elections, but other than a few obnoxious comments from leaders of the PQ, I’d have to say in the end it’s worked pretty well.

    Please note- by no means is this an endorsement of turning Israel into a binational state, I’m just pointing out that the model has worked elsewhere.

  3. themiddle

    5/24/2009 at 10:35 pm

    Neal, did you read the bios of the organizers and the advisory committee? After you do, please come back and tell us whether you stand by your first comment. Thanks.

  4. LB

    5/24/2009 at 11:54 pm

    Is Canada really bi-national? Considering the origins and how young it is, it seems to me it’s more bi-lingual. Unless you count native tribes… multinational?

  5. Rabbi Yonah

    5/24/2009 at 11:56 pm

    The conference only mentions that it is looking at various solutions because that is an attempt to look impartial.

    But the intro clearly states that the two-state option is not viable.

  6. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 12:31 am

    Here is part of the abstract for the Keynote Address:

    This paper is inspired by long engagement with one such situation – the problem of how to respond to the dispossession of indigenous peoples in settler societies – although I hope that my reflections are relevant to other situations where the claims of justice simply don’t fit together. I examine possible responses to this predicament, criticizing suggestions that we should simply bracket questions of justice and arguing, on the contrary, that any viable response has to keep the existence of injustice clearly in view, even if it proves impossible to remedy all injustice. I then sketch the contours of such an approach. I should make clear that there is a measure of hyperbole in my title. I do not think that we have “nothing in common.” But I do think that we often minimize the challenges, and I seek, in this paper, to resist that temptation strenuously. I will speak to the encounter between indigenous and non-indigenous people, not directly to the Israeli-Palestinian context. But I hope that my reflections stimulate useful reflections for those familiar with the intractable challenges of Israel/Palestine.

    Allow me to translate:

    Colonialist Jews have dispossessed the native Arabs and created an injustice common to other colonialist societies with respect to indigenous people. This is a challenging situation that requires a remedy which corrects the injustice.

    There are a number of facts this view of history ignores even as it sets the stage for this conference. The first is the historical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. This isn’t just a connection which existed in the Diaspora but rather a connection of continuous residence in the Land of Israel going back about 3000 years. Even as the majority of Jews lived in the Diaspora, communities in Hebron, Safed, Tiberias and Jerusalem continued to exist and survive. In other words, this isn’t the British landing in the New World or in India. This is a homecoming for people with an intrinsic connection to this land.

    Second, the people who are depicted as the colonialists in this abstract and thereby inflicting the supposed injustice on the supposedly indigenous people were actually arriving and NOT using the local Arabs for labor. This was one of the key elements of concern to the local Arab population in the early part of the 20th Century. The local Arabs were typically felaheen who worked the land for others and when Jews purchased land – PURCHASED land – they would seek to work it themselves. Nobody was milking the Arabs for their assets or labor as colonialists typically did across the world. The opposite is true. In fact, Jews paid exorbitant prices for land.

    Third, unless the conference discusses at length the displacement of about 800,000-900,000 from Arab and Muslim countries in the 1940s to 1950s, and the planned talks indicate this isn’t on the agenda at all, then the conference is purposely ignoring a critical component of Israel’s population and the issue of justice and injustice becomes largely irrelevant since it ignores the injustice committed to one side.

    Fourth, the war which took place on a low ebb for many years prior to the bursting out of full-blown war in 1948 was one where the local Arabs had many advantages, not least of which was population size and the desire to destroy Jews. That this approach blew up in their faces as the Jewish community fought back is an indicator that referring to this situation as justice and injustice is simplistic at best. In fact, it is outright misleading.

    Fifth, the local Arabs were given a number of opportunities to compromise and find peace with the Jews. They never agreed to do so. Never.

    Sixth, the number of Jewish Israelis who are born inside Israel is 65% of the Jewish population of Israel. The number of Palestinians who were born inside Israel is probably less than 5% at this time. Aside from the difference with typical colonialist societies regarding these figures, how does one find justice and injustice in claiming that the side with far more natives is the one that needs to be dispossessed by the side which has many fewer natives?

    Seventh, why doesn’t this abstract ask the question as to what would be fair treatment of refugees in other countries? Why haven’t countries other than Jordan accepted Palestinians as citizens? Why do Palestinians born in Lebanon not have civic rights? Isn’t this a key problem which, if properly dealt with, would provide a serious response to the needs of the Palestinians? Of course it would. Is it dealt with in the conference? Or does the conference ignore this alternative solution in favor of one that will likely destroy the right of the Jewish people to self-determination?

  7. Neal

    5/25/2009 at 12:43 am

    Howdy again.

    Not only did I read the bios of some of the speakers and presenters but I’ve met a few of them. Please note: I’m not saying this conference is going to have the same perspective as AIPAC- it’s clearly got some folks involved in it who you’d be hard pressed to call “Zionist.” But it’s also got some middle of the road Jewish and Israeli academics involved in it, and contrary to the claims of the “the middle” and Rabbi Jonah, above, in my reading of the conference materials I see no explicit claim that the two-state solution won’t work- only that it’s not the only possible solution (I disagree, but hey, that’s academia, they talk about all kinds of stuff.)

    I went to York, and I have family on the faculty there, and yes, I am nogeah b’davar- I don’t like to see a large, diverse university which has a great Jewish studies faculty and thousands of Jewish students slandered as “promoting the end of Israel.”

  8. Neal

    5/25/2009 at 12:52 am

    Oh- right- one more thing- regarding Canada. Quebec’s status as a distinct nation is a matter of Canadian law. Look it up- I think it was called the Quebecois nation motion or something like that, and you might Google “distinct society” as well.

  9. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 12:59 am

    Quebec seeks to separate from Canada every few years, Neal.

    Besides, Canada has more space in almost any one of its provinces than all of Israel. This makes the type of distinct society and division of provinces much easier to conceive and execute than a country which requires less time than it takes to travel from Toronto to Montreal to traverse in its entirety.

  10. Barry

    5/25/2009 at 3:10 am

    [i]With all due respect to Bnai Brith Canada, if you actually read the website of the conference you’ll see that the one-state solution is part of the discussion but so are lots of other issues, including the “self-determination” of Israelis. [/i]

    Hilarious rebuttal … for example, this is exactly the sort of reasoning that creationists use to promote “alternatives” to the theory of evolution. They don’t believe in evolution, but they never come right out and say that, so instead they dupe people into believing that they’re questioning, reasonable people who want to consider evolution alongside other possible theories.

    It’s not hard to read between the lines here. A group of people want to discredit X, but rather than argue their dislike or disbelief in X (of course they don’t want to do this because that’s a debate they don’t want to have because know they can’t win) they say “we want to consider X as well as alternatives to X”. Then people like you come along to defend them by saying “see, they never said they wouldn’t agree to X.”

  11. ck

    5/25/2009 at 3:32 am

    Neal – I graduated from Osgoode (York Law) and our own Grandmuffti began his academic career at this august institution. We have no interest in slandering York. However, this conference is just the tip of the iceberg, the latest result of a process that has seen Israel supporters and Jews on campus subjected to intimidation and abuse. I don’t mind a healthy debate on any aspect of Israel’s being. But that’s not what we have here. It’s a hatchet job that has nothing to do with seeking a lasting peace and everything to do with demonization.

  12. Tom Morrissey

    5/25/2009 at 4:00 am

    Is your point that this discourse is inappropriate in an academic environment, or that the university is somehow chargeable with what the keynote and other speakers say? If so, it’s a dispiriting example of being all for free speech, unless, of course, it’s speech you happen not to like.

  13. LB

    5/25/2009 at 8:47 am

    Tom – free speech is not one-sided. York is legally allowed to promote, host, and say anything. No one is calling against that. However, free speech also means that others have the right to express their opinion against the conference – and that includes speaking against it.

    By the way, not every topic is appropriate for academic discourse. If the conference were titled “The Jews – Responsible for the Economic Downturn?” would that be ok? (I am not comparing the content of York’s conference, to this fictional one – only making a point that academia is not a magic word for everything.)

  14. rejewvenator

    5/25/2009 at 8:51 am

    There are two issues here. The first is whether a binational state is itself an anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist, anti-Israel approach. I’d say the answer to that is no, and the devil is in the details.

    The second question is whether York is approaching the issue responsibly and fairly. I think we’d all agree that it is not.

  15. LB

    5/25/2009 at 9:03 am

    A bi-national state is, by definition, anti-Israel – since there is no way that state would be Israel.

    It would be anti-Zionist, since Zionism (regardless of other opinions that called “Zionist,” but rejected by Zionism) is about Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish state, in the ancient Jewish homeland. So a bi-national state would defeat that purpose, as well.

    Anti-Jewish? To paraphrase a former Harvard president – “in effect, if not in intent.” Jews have never fared well under Arab rule (which is what a bi-national state would turn into). Furthermore, one of Israel’s goals – a shelter for Jews everywhere – could not be realized. Would/could the Law of Return stay on the books?

  16. Neal

    5/25/2009 at 10:37 am

    Hello again. I hope everybody is enjoying weather as nice as we have in New York today.

    First- regarding Canada- yes, there have been various political tensions around Quebec’s status. But one could, i believe, accurately define the situation as “every few years the residents of Quebec choose to stay in Canada,” and as I wrote, Quebec is now defined as a nation within Canada.

    So there is, at least on paper, a model of binationalism out there in the world, so it’s not surprising that a Canadian University might explore such a model.

    Now, as far as York’s conference is concerned, had R Yonah written the headline “York University co-sponsors controversial conference,” I wouldn’t have replied at all. What I find problematic is the statement that the university wants to “end Israel” when it’s co-sponsoring a conference which includes actual Israelis, as well as other Jews (not all of who are leftists, as far as I know.)

    Personally, I absolutely agree that a single state between the Jordan and the sea is unrealistic and unworkable, but there are smart people, who actually live in that part of the world, and whose Zionist credentials are greater than my own (given that they actually live in Israel) who think it’s an idea worth talking about. Some of those folks are going to attend and organize this conference.

    I might not like it, but that doesn’t have to be defined as advocating the end of Israel. E.g., suppose somebody advocated something along the lines of how aboriginal populations in Canada have certain rights to self-government but can also participate in the greater political system? I might think- in fact, I do- that this wouldn’t work at all in Israel but it’s not, prima facie, advocating the end of Jewish sovereignty and self-determination in the land of Israel.

    Or- to put it another way- if talking about political ideas we don’t think will work is equivalent to advocating the end of Israel, then everybody to the left of. . . Likud? Kadima? Labor? Meretz? is, essentially, a traitor to Israel and no longer a Zionist, by definition.

    I am absolutely sure that many things will get said at the upcoming conference to which I strongly object; that’s not the point. The point is that associating the entire university with some stupid things which may or may not be said at one conference (which hasn’t actually happened yet) is, to me, not a fair characterization of a big and diverse institution, nor effective hasbarah, IMO.

    Enough said. I thank you all for your time and and efforts maintaining a great website. I’m signing off and thank each of you for a civil and productive discourse.

  17. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 10:48 am

    Neal, thank you for your contribution. Permit me to say simply that they could have invited many scholars who are respected and mainstream who would have opposed the premise of a binational Israel. Instead, the slate is loaded in the opposite direction. It doesn’t matter that there are scholars who agree with a binational state from Israel, because they are a tiny minority of the Jewish population there and not representative of the discourse that goes on at all. If that’s the case, why not invite one or two such scholars and allow the rest to be typical of Israeli Jewish views?

    Because the organizers want binationalism to win out.

    And please don’t condescend to me. Canada has almost been broken up twice because of Quebec’s secession votes and there is every reason to suppose that if the numbers are aligned again in the future, that the Parti Quebecois will attempt secession yet again. Otherwise, what is their raison d’etre and why is their base of support so strong?

  18. Rabbi Yonah

    5/25/2009 at 12:04 pm

    Neil, first if I had titled it “York University co-sponsors controversial conference, no one would read the article.

    Secondly, the conference REALLY SEEKS TO PROMOTE DISMANTLING ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE.

    That sure sounds like the “End of Israel” to me.

  19. The Wise Bard (Madison, WI)

    5/25/2009 at 12:05 pm

    I am not a regular on this site–I got here following some links.
    I teach law, bioethics and Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin. I am very involved in Jewish life and identify myself with the historic ideals of the Zionist movement. I have spent a good deal of time in Israel and support its security and flourishing. I am not a supporter of a single state–the distance between the current cultures, histories, and objectives of Jews and Arabs in historic Palestine are simply too distant, and the security challenges too formidable, for this to be practicable approach in anything like the current circumstances.

    All that said, having reviewed the web site for speakers and program, I cannot agree with the characterization of this conference in the principal posting to which I am responding. This gives every appearance of being a sober and responsible academic conference, well thought out and approaching an important set of questions from a range of perspectives. There are a number of responsible, non-extremist speakers from Israeli academia (both Jewish and Arab), such as Meron Benvenisti and Sammy Smoocha (and others), and other responsible and respected academics certainly not known as hostile to Israel, such as Ian Lustick.

    I do not know many of the Arab speakers scheduled to participate, and I am certain my own views would differ substantially from theirs. I am aware of some difficult history at York, and am not in a position to pontificate on how this conference fits in with other events or attitudes there. But based on the program and speakers, I think it is a serious mistake to slime the conference and the University for engaging in what seems to me a potentially useful engagement on difficult and controversial issues. There are all too few occasions and venues for engagement at this level to take place, and it is not apparent to me that the only consequence will be anti-Israel propaganda.

    Indeed, if one believes, as I do, that a two state approach is urgently necessary, and that its window of possibility is rapidly closing, then examination of the one state alternative (whether democratic or apartheid-like) may concentrate the mind on the down side of pursuing peace on the two state model. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder if what is fueling opposition to this conference is an unstated opposition to pursuing any realistic path toward peace in the near future.

  20. The Wise Bard (Madison, WI)

    5/25/2009 at 1:01 pm

    Oops. That last paragraph left out a crucial “not”:

    Indeed, if one believes, as I do, that a two state approach is urgently necessary, and that its window of possibility is rapidly closing, then examination of the one state alternative (whether democratic or apartheid-like) may concentrate the mind on the down side of NOT pursuing peace on the two state model. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder if what is fueling opposition to this conference is an unstated opposition to pursuing any realistic path toward peace in the near future.

  21. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 1:04 pm

    The Wise Bard,

    You were doing fine until your conclusion. Why is binationalism a realistic path toward peace? Why do you suppose that opposition to the destruction of the idea of self-determination for the Jewish people in their historic homeland is “unstated opposition to pursuing…peace?”

    Please, by all means, disagree with the post. But don’t impugn us with seeking no end to war just because we view the inherent biases in this conference with a jaded and disappointed view.

  22. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 1:05 pm

    York University Prez responds to criticism of this conference:

    TORONTO, May 21, 2009 — Freedom of inquiry by faculty and students is central to the mission of the academy. Academic freedom implies the freedom to teach, conduct research, disseminate knowledge and help shape public opinion and policy.

    However, with academic freedom come certain obligations. Scholars’ academic activities must be based on evidence, rigorous thought and extensive research and universities must be dedicated to rigour, reasoned discourse and a willingness to accept dissent and deal with complex issues.

    As such, academic freedom cannot be a shield for racism or bigotry.

    Recently, two particular issues here at York have raised basic questions about academic freedom.

    Conferences
    The first arose in relation to an upcoming conference organized by York faculty members, as well as academics from other institutions, entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace”.

    The freedom of independent scholars to organize events such as conferences on matters of legitimate academic inquiry goes to the very heart of academic freedom. It would be entirely inappropriate for the university administration to intervene in or to take responsibility for the academic content of such events, provided that they do not offend Canadian law, are consistent with the obligations cited above and deal with issues that are appropriate for academic debate.

    Within those general parameters, the choice of topic, of who is to speak, and of what is said at the event lies squarely with the individual academics who organize and/or participate in it and no one else. The university provides a forum for the robust exchange, but does not align itself with a particular set of views or positions.

    Some have complained that the conference should not form part of the University’s 50th anniversary calendar of almost 100 events. However, this would have involved excluding a conference because of its subject matter, which would in itself have been a fundamental violation of academic freedom.

    Boycotts
    The second issue is the concept of academic boycotts, an issue that has been debated at a number of universities, including at a recent academic forum here at York.

    Universities at their core are free institutions that must be open to the widest range of ideas, arguments and debates. Thus the concept of an academic boycott, which would prescribe a form of blacklist, is antithetical to the very purpose of a university. It would undermine the freedom of individual scholars to make their own academic choices, and would suggest that the university ‘owns’ its academics or their opinions. In fact, it would be contrary to the very purpose of the university to dictate those with whom its scholars may or may not associate.

    On this basis, York University has consistently opposed the call to boycott Israeli universities; our position is clearly outlined in the President’s statement on the autonomy of universities.

    Universities exist for the discussion of often difficult and uncomfortable ideas in a civil and respectful academic environment, because this is a critically important way to protect genuine freedom of thought and opinion. As these recent issues illustrate, it is important that, as a community, we clearly and unequivocally reaffirm our commitment to the core values of academic freedom and the right of free inquiry.

    Like democracy, academic freedom is untidy, ungainly and often inconvenient, but it remains our best defence against the intellectual paralysis that is the hallmark of totalitarian societies.

    Mamdouh Shoukri
    President and Vice-Chancellor,
    York University

  23. The Wise Bard (Madison, WI)

    5/25/2009 at 1:35 pm

    To: the middle,
    I am not sure whether you are responding to my first or second (corrected) post; there was an important error leacving out a critical word in the first iteration.

    There was, of course, a small but significant group in 1930s Palestine (including Judah Magnes and Martin Buber) who advocated a binational model in the circumstances of that time. I’m not an expert in contrafactual history: one can argue back and forth that such a model would not have led to a state reflecting Jewish values and identity, or that such a model, if pursued in good faith, might have obviated the wars and insecurities of Israel’s first 61 years as a state. One can also argue about whether such an approach might have opened the doors to Jewish immigration to (then) Palestine during the late 1930s and the Holocaust years, when a place of refuge might have saved many lives. I don’t know the answers, nor does anyone else.

    In the current environment, I do not think binationalism is a promising approach, and I strongly prefer a two state for two peoples approach (given that neither Palestinian Arabs nor Jordanians seem open to a shared state, although perhaps some form of confederation might one day be possible). My worry is that further delay in achieving a two state resolution will result in a de facto binational state, which is highly unlikely to be both Jewish and democratic. That is the context in which invocation of the specter of “apartheid” comes into play, and that is the future of “Israel” that I, and many other lovers of Israel (for all its faults, and with all its achievements) seek to avoid.

    While I thus oppose a binational approach, I do not agree that a serious academic conference examining its propsects from a variety of perspectives (one can fairly debate the “weighting” in the selection of speakers, but I am content that there is significant, non-trivial representation of a range of sympathetic, mainstream Israeli and pro-Israel views included in the lineup) should be slimed as in the lead posting, and in several of the comments above.

    Perhaps my final sentence raising questions about motivations was a bit strong and/or unnecessary. But having been involved in these debates for some four decades now, I see too much evidence that opponents of a more forthcoming Israeli posture (and I have made lots of critical statements elsewhere on the manifest failings of Palestinian political leadership–that is not the issue here) criticize some approaches without facing up to the alternatives, preferring delay to the risks inherent in peace-seeking by any plausible method. The alternative to active engagement in a two state solution is drift into a demographic disaster, in which maintaining a Jewish identity and political control for Israel will require, sooner rather than later, the functional equivalent of apartheid. Do you disagree?

  24. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 1:43 pm

    I think you should read these recent posts by yours truly and the discussions which follow as a response to your comments:

    http://jewlicious.com/2009/05/jerusalem-day/

    http://jewlicious.com/?s=leaving+west+bank%27&x=0&y=0

    Do you consider scholars such as Smooha as the pro-Israel or “sympathetic” voices? To whom do you refer? Why is it sliming a conference to refer to its clear bias?

  25. The Wise Bard (Madison, WI)

    5/25/2009 at 2:13 pm

    Dear Middle, I read some of the postings linked above, and it would appear that we agree on far more than we disagree, and my differences (and comments on intent) are more with “Rabbi Yonah” than with you.

    “York University promotes the end of Israel” and “it clearly is one of the most absurd, sham, reprehensible anti-Israel conferences of the last few years” are “sliming” in a way that “The Conference’s lineup of speakers is unbalanced” is not. If you (that is, Rabbi Yonah” ) want to attract readers and comments with that headline and lede, than you buy into the consequences of that choice.

    Sammy Smooha has spoken here at U Wisconsin (invited by Jewish Studies) and I spent a fair amount of time talking with him. He is a Palestinian Arab, and I doubt that he is a member of Likud. He is an Israeli citizen, who teaches at U Haifa and works with Jews, Christians and Muslims. I thinkhe is a worthy participant in such discourse, trying very hard to figure out how Jews and Arabs can live together in reasonable harmony in a much contested bit of turf. I do not want to suggest that he is the equivalent of a Palestinian “Uncle Tom”–he is not. But we are unlikely to find many conversation partners, in the Arab community of Israel and Palestine, better informed, more knowledgeable, and of more good will than he. In that sense, he may be more open and less doctrinaire than Jeff Halper (whom I have also engaged, and whom I would not list as a mainstream figure). I think Benvenisti and Lustick clearly count; there is at least one other Hebrew U figure whose work I don’t know sufficiently to comment upon with confidence.

  26. themiddle

    5/25/2009 at 5:16 pm

    Benvinisti is a strong critic of Israel and Sammy Smooha is actually Jewish. He’s Iraqi and moved to Israel as a child. His work focuses on ethnic democracies, of which he claims Israel is one. He is critical of Israel but in a way that can be read as positive, especially if you’re on the Left. I don’t put him in the same camp as Halper but I think the typical Israeli or Jewish guest at this conference tends to reflect views that perhaps are far from the mainstream but also reflect a certain hostility towards the status quo in Israel.

    The conversation could be much broader, but it seems the organizers would like their point to prevail.

  27. Rabbi Yonah

    5/25/2009 at 10:40 pm

    Benvinisti is a lone voice of semi-reason amid a sea of academic gibberish – have you read these bios and talk descriptions? OY!

    Wise bard – I am glad you are a Zionist, and we can disagree on the nature of the conference.

    However, I can say with certainty that if you were to attend, you would change your tune re the conference.

  28. Grand Muffti

    5/27/2009 at 12:22 pm

    Muffti did start his academic career at York U – it’s one ugly campus. It started life as an alternative campus that grew into a more serious university.

    Look, here is how universities actually run. They seek (insofar as it is consistent with student safety, funds and in the bounds of lawsuits) to fund and run conferences and bring in speakers based on what faculty and students want. To that end, they are willing to fund speakers and conferences that are often quite ridiculous. The theory being, of course, that these occasions aren’t necessarily things you will learn from but will form the possibility of informed argument on a topic. How are these topics picked? By interest generated and that is left up to the professors and sometimes graduate students and undergrads (since they are often allowed to pick speakers) and student societies on campus. The reason we don’t have intelligent design conferences (maybe they do on Falwell’s university for all Muffti knows?) is because no one gives a crap for intelligent design. The reason you have conferences exploring bi-national solutions? Because professors and students want one and demand it and there are safe guards in place to make sure that unless it is impossible to cater, contrary to university policy or unfeasable (security wise, economically…), the presumption is that you go with it and that you need a VERY powerful argument to stop it. That’s how free speech actually works, like it or lump it.

    here’s what does NOT happen. Univesity administors don’t come to your deparment and say ‘We are seeking to de-legitimize Israel. Could you please invite a bunch of people that hate Israel so that we can propagandize our students? We’ll give you extra money for conferences you really want next year. thaaaaaaaanks….’ That is simply not how it goes- it’s the other way around. Professors come to universities saying that they have a conference they want funding for unless the university can give clear and compelling reason not to fund it. And saying ‘we don’t agree with binational solutions’ doesn’t cut it on a topic of this sort of interest.

    Is this generalization ever abused? certainly. Does it lead to fetishism on certain topics (i.e. Israel and its relation to Palestineans?) To a certain degree, yes, because it is the university memberst hat get to decide what they want to hear speakers talk about and what topics they want to see discussed in colloquia, workshops and conferences. But you don’t get to derail the entire, demonstrably productive manner of intellectual endeavour for some odd conference that you don’t like.

    Universities are SUPPOSED to do this. It’s their raison d’etre and the university does NOT necessarily support the content of every conference it throws or speaker it has. Muffti isn’t sure when we switched from a conception of universities as places where ideas are aired, challenged and often defeated to a place where we are scared of peple coming and arguing (even for positions we find ridiculous) but it’s a real shame that it clearly has happened. If you conception of university students is that they are passive acceptors of whatever they hear, then Muffti can’t help but think that you really have a much deeper issues with the ideals of a university at large as opposed to one particular conference (amongst literally hundreds that are held per year). Or maybe you just don’t like universities that much.

    If you want to object to this sort of thing, then perhaps safety issues are more prescient, given recent events at York. And Muffti isn’t saying that one shouldn’t object to speakers, to the content of their talks, to the way in which a conference is organized – one should. The productive discussions here in this very thread have been quite informative to muffti and they are generated precisely because there are people who say things that we find ridiculous and disagree with. But it’s jsut plain old inane to generally start accusing universities of wrong doing because they do what they are supposed to do unless you think that in general universities are doing something wrong.

    And Middle, Canada has suffered *2* referendums both of which were won by the ‘stay in canada’ side (albeit one was a close call) in the last nearly 30 years and it looks like no new waves are on the horizon. Canada didn’t work for a long time because of sheer racism towards the French which they are in a long term process of reconciliation towards, including the giving of many rights and responsibilities to the french to let them protect their culture (i.e. immigration in particular). Bi-nationalism isn’t easy — but Muffti thinks Canada has struggled to a moderate degree of success to keep things peaceful and two-nationed.

  29. Tom Morrissey

    5/27/2009 at 1:46 pm

    This post is unsatisfactory because it conflates two issues– whether the conference should take place at all, and the merits of a bi-national approach. And sorry, it’s not just a matter of the title, because the text states, “[s]o what does York hope to achieve? To further and further isolate Israel as a pariah and illegitimate state.”

    It’s a pristine example of political correctness: render the subject matter (a bi-national solution) beyond the pale of legitimate discourse by, among other things, imputing anti-semitic animus to the university itself, not just to the conference’s organizers– and by extension, to all those who articulate or support such a solution.

    Do defenders of Israel really want to head down this road? Are conservatives who comment here and oppose it elsewhere, comfortable with this exercise from the PC playbook? Or does it depend on whose ox is being gored?

  30. Grand Muffti

    5/27/2009 at 2:08 pm

    Amen, Morrissey.

  31. Tom Morrissey

    5/27/2009 at 2:15 pm

    That means a lot, coming from an atheist.

  32. themiddle

    5/27/2009 at 3:04 pm

    I believe Canada has done everything in its power to appease the French Quebecois, sometimes going farther than was fair to English Canada. I dispute the idea that the French were victims such that they deserved the rights they received and those rights did not appease them anyway. As you know, both referenda were close, although the second one was insanely close. Even so, the Parti Quebecois is still in business and still going strong. Today they may not be in a position to launch another referendum, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last referendum on separation.

    As for two nations vs. one, I think it is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of Canada that it acquiesced on this point. Still, it was clearly something the French Canadians wanted.

  33. Grand Muffti

    5/27/2009 at 3:22 pm

    The rights have, Muffti thinks, gone along way to appeasing them. French Canada and English Canada have their problems but compared to other groups who have tried to make a life together under a common political structure, Muffti thinks Canadians do EXTREMELY well. There is no terrorism (though there was of course in previous times), political matters including separation are discussed and argued rather than the result of civil unrest, the groups are not mutually hostile on an individual level, there is successful ongoing commerce, there is no sense of threat in visiting eachother’s territory….

    If the jews and palis could get along that well, Muffti would be downright thrilled!

  34. themiddle

    5/27/2009 at 5:01 pm

    The size of Canada helps a lot in this regard, don’t you think?

    Tom, you’re not going to prevent universities from having conferences on binationalism but you might influence their selection of speakers and topics to create a more even-handed approach to the topic.

    And Muffti, students learn quite a bit from faculty and from symposia. Otherwise, why hold classes and conferences? The students who attend this conference will be strongly influenced by a biased view and will remain somewhat uninformed on opposing views. That’s acceptable but it is unfortunate and merits criticism.

    I don’t think anti-Semitism is part of this, but a biased view of Israel and the Middle East certainly is. And before this becomes a mainstream discussion – precisely what Palestinian propagandists would like to see happen – I fail to see anything wrong with making the organizers explain their decisions and choices.

  35. Grand Muffti

    5/27/2009 at 9:15 pm

    Explaining decisions and choices is one thing. Outright claims of what universities promote are something else. Muffti didn’t say that students don’t learn from faculty and symposia, he said they don’t ‘necessarily’ learn – in the sense that the point isn’t always to simply feed information but to challenge students to adopt informed view points and give them the tools to access points of view they can argue, fight and perhaps in the end agree with after intellectual engagement. Of course this doesn’t always happen; maybe it doesn’t even usually happen — but that’s what universities at their best are trying to make happen.

    What irks Muffti is that the university as a whole keeps getting blamed and pushed around. If you wanna talk to people, talk to the organizers of the conferences, the speakers and the like about their choices and the content of their talks.

    that’s the whole damn point, isn’t it?

  36. themiddle

    5/27/2009 at 11:51 pm

    But the organizers know exactly what they’re doing. They have an agenda and are making decisions based on that agenda, aren’t they? What good is it to talk to them when they already have a built it “but we’ve invited Israeli and Jewish scholars” excuse? They will say, “We’re all academics and professionals here. We’re not going to show bias but intend to be objective.” The people in a position to question this are outsiders, not insiders who have to live with their colleagues.

  37. Tom Morrissey

    5/28/2009 at 3:33 am

    I don’t think they’d pretend to be “objective”. And such a thing is desirable? Universities are places to explore different, at times unfashionable, at times marginal points of view. You remember college, don’t you, Middle?

    I appreciate you have Yonah’s back here, but you’re ignoring Muffti’s point altogether.

  38. themiddle

    5/28/2009 at 4:14 am

    College? What’s that?

    I attended a recent event at a college where the organizer proudly told the audience that his panel of scholars who definitely had a viewpoint slanted to the far left on Mid-East topics was a panel of professional academics who rise above such things as bias. They would bring true scholarship to the audience of students who were there and the university and student body would be better off for it, he said. It was petulant and ridiculous to assume they would be anything but professional. He was angry about hostile questions from the audience. He deemed these questions beneath his scholars and beneath the spirit of the event.

    The scholars were full of shit. Well, two thirds of them anyway. I do mean that. They either lied knowingly or didn’t know their stuff. There was an entire body of students and faculty there to learn from these folks and you could see them writing notes, nodding their heads and LEARNING WRONG INFORMATION. And there was nothing I or anybody could do about it because they were people of authority, invited to speak from a position of authority and supposed academic integrity. This was at a college, Tom. I not only remember college, I had this fresh experience at a college.

    Since many of those students in the audience vote and will vote in elections, and since one or two may go into politics, it would be nice if they knew the truth instead of some biased bullshit. Point being that in this particular conference, it would be nice if they actually brought in some people who would and could counter the prevailing theme of the event. That way, you could have the two “unobjective” sides having a real dialogue and debate instead of spoonfeeding one viewpoint to the student body of York University.

    Maybe I’m wrong and maybe they will rise above this, but this is a stacked deck and I don’t think it bodes well for…objectivity.

  39. Barry

    5/28/2009 at 4:50 am

    There’s a reason why these sorts of conferences and tend to pop up on specific campuses (York, UC Irvine, etc.) and not others. Schools have reputations for tolerating or permitting certain kinds of student conduct as it relates to activism and various controversial issues. Their school’s reputation is linked to various characteristics of the student body, and that’s something that their administrations are directly involved in via recruiting, admission requirements, and so on. Sure, the president of York isn’t personally promoting the End of Israel, but there definitely are indirect links between decisions made by his administration and the frequency of such activism on his campus.

    There seems to be plenty of evidence for handing out suspensions or expulsions from the fallout from “Drop YFS”. I haven’t read York’s student code of conduct, but I’m pretty sure that a protest that results in a group of students being physically threatened and barricaded in an office is potential grounds for the organizers of the demonstration to be summoned in front of the Dean of students for more than a slap on the wrist. And with each successive instance that York chooses not to punish students according to their own codes of conduct, the more likely it is that anti-Zionist nutjobs will say to themselves “hey, maybe we should organize our next conference at York.”

  40. Barry

    5/28/2009 at 5:01 am

    And Quebec nationalism has subsided because the rise of the West has sapped Quebec’s economic and political capital. They’ve lost the death grip they used to have on national affairs because Canada is no longer just about Ontario and Quebec leading the way while everyone else follows along obediently (and I write this as an Ontarian). Canada didn’t work for a long time because Quebec took advantage of what they saw as weakness from other provinces, while simultaneously weakening themselves via the road to separation. Once Quebec had lost its political clout, then they were forced to switch gears and shift the debate from separation debates to fights over fun stuff like “fiscal imbalances” and “nation within a united Canada”.

    The Palestinians could probably learn something from Quebec, i.e. what to do once you’ve well and truly lost the fight, when it becomes time to serve the best interests of your people by accepting something less than a pipe dream.

  41. themiddle

    5/28/2009 at 6:11 am

    Barry, I suspect you and I would be fast friends if I lived in Ontario.

  42. Grand Muffti

    5/28/2009 at 11:06 am

    Muffti thought the point was this. Of course if you put on speakers there will be students who passively take in what is said, some that vehemently disagree and some that go out afterwards and do further reading on the topic. You can’t tell from hanging out which are which. But the point of a university is to encourage issues to come up and be debated by intelligent, thoughtful people. That’s why usually these lectures have question periods where you are invited and encouraged often to challenge the speaker. (Come to a philosophy colloquia some day and you’ll see this in action).

    Now, of course, the organizers can fail to do a good job of balancing out a discussion. The participants can do a bad job of either challenging speakers or going out and doing research being content to take whatever they hear as fact and move on. Maybe those failures are more frequent than successes. But htat’s how universities work.

  43. Grand Muffti

    5/28/2009 at 11:14 am

    Plus, Muffti doesn’t buy the story about Quebec – they held the second referendum during a TERRIBLE economic time for quebec. Muffti lived there at the time — they were threatening to downgrade canadian bond ratings, Montreal was on the verge of bankruptcy — if anything it seemed like separatism was a way to avoid talking about ‘fiscal imbalances’.

    And what is more striking is that separation is itself what killed Quebec’s stranglehold over canuck politics – by electing a regional party rather than controlling the balance of power via their gigantic population of voters who tended to vote as a block.

  44. Tom Morrissey

    5/28/2009 at 11:41 am

    Heaven help Israel/Palestine if it becomes anything like . . . Canada! Or Belgium. Or the United Kingdom.

    Middle, free speech and academic freedom are messy things. The marketplace of ideas includes some feeble wares. But what you resolutely ignore (perhaps because it lies beyond even your considerable skill at apologetics) is that the post faults York itself and accuses it of something like Nazism c. 1938.

    Muffti asks, why not take it up with the organizers? Nah, you say: “What good is it to talk to them when they already have a built it ‘but we’ve invited Israeli and Jewish scholars’ excuse?”

    To review: don’t bother talking to those with a different point of view. They’re liars or worse. Just take to the web and slime the folks who own the building, and maybe that will keep conferences like this from happening in the future.

    Let’s hope young pro-Israel activists are reading and taking notes.

    And what do you mean by “bias” in this context?

  45. Barry

    5/28/2009 at 11:44 am

    I agree with you Muffti — people should of course be encouraged to challenge and debate the speakers. But there’s a reason why certain campuses are magnets for debates on certain subjects. The organizers want the conference to be a success, so they’ll prefer to hold it on a campus where the students and faculty will be receptive to the subject matter. A university’s administration shouldn’t meddle in the debates being held on its campus, but they *can* control the makeup of its student body, the professors they hire, and their response to violations of the code of conduct.

    Schools earn these reputations over time, for instance, a school that doesn’t want a reputation as a hotbed of anti-Zionist activity might not choose to hire a bunch of anti-Zionist activist professors in their Department of Middle Eastern Studies.

  46. Tom Morrissey

    5/28/2009 at 12:15 pm

    Sure, let’s screen professors for their political views. Be careful, though– these folks get tenured, so try to anticipate the hot-button issues of two or three decades hence.

  47. themiddle

    5/28/2009 at 1:27 pm

    Tom says:

    Heaven help Israel/Palestine if it becomes anything like . . . Canada! Or Belgium. Or the United Kingdom.

    Have I expressed anything but an interest in this sort of outcome? I’m the guy being called a weakling loser idiot because I think the Old City should be shared as an international city.

    Middle, free speech and academic freedom are messy things. The marketplace of ideas includes some feeble wares.

    And occasional transparent and less transparent attempts to color scholarship with personal politics.

    But what you resolutely ignore (perhaps because it lies beyond even your considerable skill at apologetics)

    Thanks for the compliment. Instead of “apologetics,” how about you use “explaining complex situations and issues?” Thanks.

    is that the post faults York itself and accuses it of something like Nazism c. 1938.

    Yes!

    Regarding Nazism c. 1938, did you notice the posts about the incoming York student body president gathering around identifiably Jewish students together with a mob of students? Did you watch the videos, including the key one that has been removed from Youtube but that we posted in February when the incident at York occurred where the mob gathered around a Jewish organization’s office and yelled about “racists” getting off the campus?

    Maybe not Germany c. 1938, but how about 1933 or 1932?

    Notice how the talk about Jews these days revolves around Jews who are connected to Israel and about Israel itself as the new center of evil. “Gosh, if they would just stop the settlements and the ‘occupation,’ peace would reign over the Middle East, but those war crimes they commit and the unspeakable horrors those Palestinians endure are really the worst of the worst. Those racists, those murderers, those haters, those disgusting people who are supported by other disgusting people over here.”

    Add a biased conference with a decidedly anti-Israel-as-a-Jewish-state bent on this very same campus and you begin to see a pattern. Some Jews have recently reported feeling extremely uncomfortable on the campus, especially if they wearing their kippah. Also, did you know that as part of a counter-campaign to prevent the impeachment by the Drop YFS group, posters appeared on campus with the names and information of the key members of Drop YFS, focusing apparently on Jewish ones and including negative information?

    This is all permitted under free speech, Tom. All of it. But it sure is nasty and hateful. You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of Walt & Mearsheimer lumping me in with the 57% of Jews they identify as involved in some way with the Jewish community, and claiming that we all work against the interests of America.

    It makes me feel like I did when some guy who was rejected for a very sensitive intelligence post in the US responded by attacking the “Israel Lobby” and had this picked up by almost every single major news outlet and then some. Or when a former US president went on network tv and asked a reporter whether he felt comfortable reporting about certain things.

    It makes me feel the same as when I go anywhere on the Internet and quite often, even when the topic is something entirely different, somebody brings up some negative information about Israel, Zionists or Jews. Like the other day when I played a game of poker online and one of the people in the room was called something like Jewsmellbad. Nobody said anything to him. Nobody. He engaged in conversation with others as if his name was James.

    So the atmosphere at York, taken together with this conference, does make me feel quite uncomfortable. And it does send some scary signals to my warning system. I realize Muffti isn’t concerned, but Muffti has also kind of removed himself from affiliation with the rest of us so maybe he feels like he doesn’t count in the same way.

    Muffti asks, why not take it up with the organizers? Nah, you say: “What good is it to talk to them when they already have a built it ‘but we’ve invited Israeli and Jewish scholars’ excuse?”

    To review: don’t bother talking to those with a different point of view. They’re liars or worse. Just take to the web and slime the folks who own the building, and maybe that will keep conferences like this from happening in the future.

    Um, there have been attempts to talk to the organizers and to the university about this conference. The response has been silence and the university’s defense of the conference. The organizers know who they’re inviting and the university pays the salary of the organizers. So what exactly do you propose doing at this point?

    I guess we could let it go by silently or perhaps avoid some the stronger language or claims made. But then again, as these things have multiplied across campuses in the US and Canada, with certain campuses being repeated culprits, maybe there’s nothing wrong with calling them on the hate speech and on the unbalanced panels or talks?

    Maybe just as they’re permitted to have free speech, so are we? And maybe, just maybe, these strong accusations of ours and others will make universities think a little more deeply about what they’re doing? It hasn’t helped at UC Irvine, but maybe at the next conference at York, they will do the right thing and make it a balanced slate so that EVERYBODY can benefit from free speech and messy ideas. Especially their students.

    Let’s hope young pro-Israel activists are reading and taking notes.

    You mean when they’re not hiding in their office while a mob outside chants, “Racists off campus?”

    I’m sure the young pro-Israel activists at York are wondering what the hell they’re doing at that school and why has this fate befallen them.

    And what do you mean by “bias” in this context?

    I assume you mean the panel I heard recenty? Let’s put it this way, Xisnotx looks like a centrist compared to some of the things I heard on that panel. He’s also way more knowledgeable or at least presents accurate facts with far less spin than what I heard there.

  48. Tom Morrissey

    5/28/2009 at 2:14 pm

    Middle, I come at this on the basis of a general commitment to free speech, but as is so often the case, the principled stance makes practical sense as well. Does Rabbi Yonah really want York to confiscate the microphones? What better way to hand a victory to Israel’s enemies, on campus and elsewhere.

    There are far, far smarter means of pushback, at York and elsewhere. How about Jewish students and faculty mounting their own conference– perhaps on the very themes you address in your above comment?

    How do you feel about the bill making its way through the Knesset about banning the term ‘nakba’, making denial of Israel’s democracy a criminal offense, etc.? Again, this stuff doesn’t work.

    Jews in the West, it’s fair to say, are associated with Enlightenment values, with favoring religious, personal, and political freedoms. Look no further than, say, Justice Brandeis. Fear is often the greatest enemy of such freedoms. Demands of national security, of protection from enemies, real or (in the case of Nazi Germany) imagined…. Appeals to, and misuse of, authority.

    Let’s not head down that road, Middle, in North America or elsewhere. The answer to bad speech is not repression, but more speech.

  49. themiddle

    5/28/2009 at 3:42 pm

    I don’t know what Yonah wants and I agree that shutting down talks often backfires.

    However, making a pushback is what you’re seeing here. This is pushback. This is not an attempt to shut down a conference, this is a demand to make the conference – and definitely future conferences – balanced, with a truly broad range of points of view. Heck, they can bring out Ilan Pappe, who is a strong proponent of a single state…as long as they bring out an academic who can provide a respectable response to Pappe. Isn’t this conference asking a large and important question, even if it is an offensive one? Why then provide a foregone conclusion?

    In other words, it is we who are asking for more speech and they who are restricting it.

  50. Grand Muffti

    5/28/2009 at 8:55 pm

    Barry said:

    “he organizers want the conference to be a success, so they’ll prefer to hold it on a campus where the students and faculty will be receptive to the subject matter. A university’s administration shouldn’t meddle in the debates being held on its campus, but they *can* control the makeup of its student body, the professors they hire, and their response to violations of the code of conduct.”

    barry, in point of fact, while Dean’s put their stamp of approval on scholars, no one hihger up (if him/her) even looks at file in the typical university. The whole point is to give departments, NOT administrators, the power to hire because they are supposedly the experts, not deans. This leads to all sorts of badness, but, in Muffti’s opinion, less badness than if you let peopel uninvovled in department life, research etc. make these decisions.

    Similarly, student bodies arent’ chosen iin general based on political view and it is certainly ILLEGAL to choose them on teh basis of telling signs (where they are from) etc. Furthermore, typically, though not always, conferene organizers just are people from the department at the home university that is having the conference.

    Muffti is all for criticism of the sort levelled here but he thinks that it starts with some basic false beliefs about how universities and conferences actually work. It also seems to Muffti to target the wrong people — you and Muffti and everyone else wants the university to stay out of dept life and organization. Things go all wrong when admiinistrators have a say.

  51. Barry

    5/29/2009 at 6:48 pm

    OK, it’s my fault for using “administration” to describe decision-makers on the departmental and university-wide level (without always qualifying which one I meant) (I work at a uni too, btw) … departments choose the makeup of their faculty, but several other factors that go into that process are partly handed down from above (e.g. how much $$ that dept gets, certain hiring practices). Of course I’m not advocating that university admissions be influenced by the applicants’ religion, political views or what have you, but I’m saying that if they decide to pour resources into certain disciplines, then departments + administrators higher up the chain are implicitly helping form the personalities of their student body.

    So if a school wants to be strong in the physical sciences, then they know they’ll be attracting a bunch of science students + all the characteristics and stereotypes (good, bad, and unfair) that this entails. Same goes for any other discipline: European history, law, Middle East studies, etc. So while York’s president can’t (and shouldn’t) do much about the types of conferences taking place on the campus right now, the campus climate that has led up to this has been heavily influenced by both him and his predecessors, up and down the administrative chain. Speaking of which:

    Tom: “Be careful, though– these folks get tenured, so try to anticipate the hot-button issues of two or three decades hence.”

    But Tom, this is exactly what faculty/search committees/university administrators are paid to do! As experts in their fields, they’re supposed to hire people with the belief that the new hires will be doing productive research and be contributing positively to departmental/university life decades in the future. This type of fortune telling is one of their job responsibilities. Deans are paid to chair committees that draw up 5/10/20 year plans for the university’s future.

    At the risk of a derail (trying to keep this discussion away from Canadian politics, I swear):

    Muffti: “Plus, Muffti doesn’t buy the story about Quebec – they held the second referendum during a TERRIBLE economic time for quebec. ”

    I definitely agree … I didn’t mean that separation was popular because Quebec was economically strong, I said that the relative *lack* of separation talk more recently is because Quebec is economically weak (or rather, weaker than what they need to make separation more feasible). And at the same time, other provinces became strong enough to take more control over the national agenda. I also agree with your point here: “[a]nd what is more striking is that separation is itself what killed Quebec’s stranglehold over canuck politics – by electing a regional party … ”

    In any case, I don’t think these “binational” comparisons between Canada and Israel have any merit, although I stand by my original comment: the Palestinians (like Quebecers from c. 1980 onwards) are weaker than they think they are, in which case buying time and waiting around for a better deal isn’t a good idea.

  52. Olenka

    6/4/2009 at 10:30 am

    The real reason there are not more advocates of a two state solution speaking at the conference?

    They are too busy accusing York of conniving and plotting against Israel to attend and make their academic case! Believe me, I am certain if more scholars from Hebrew U. or other Israeli universities could attend this conference, the organizers would have welcomed it.

    And as for the absence of actual Likudnik conservatives, well we can see from Bibi’s recent performances, they don’t even support a Palestinian state at all.

  53. Olenka

    6/4/2009 at 10:34 am

    In case you don’t believe me, see
    http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16843&Itemid=101:

    “Meir Weinstein, the JDL’s national director, said that the few people who have agreed to lend a ‘legitimate voice’ to the conference should withdraw so as not to lend credibility to a one-sided event.

    Ed Morgan, a University of Toronto law professor and former Canadian Jewish Congress president, said he considered taking part in the conference, but backed out when he learned that it would mostly promote the view that a one-state solution is the only viable option.”

    Basically, the capacity of the organizers to make this event balanced has been attacked by the JDL, CJC, etc. If these speakers wanted the conference to include more people with their point of view, backing out wasn’t the more reasonable response!

  54. Grand Muffti

    6/4/2009 at 12:18 pm

    Muffti sees what you mean, Barry, but he thinks that these decisions that you speak of by the administration (i.e. what department to pour money into) don’t figure student make up very heavily into their considerations. As far as Muffti can tell, and that’s not much coz at his school the administration is opaque to the extreme in its decision making procedures, its a mix of (a) what professors want to come (b) what departments are going to make money (bring in grants and provide labs and the like) (c) wht departments are going to make the university famous and as a sort of corollary to (c), what areas does the university see an investement resulting in catapulting the uni to a high ranking in that area. Thus, if Muffti’s philosophy dept were one or two faculty away from tops in (say) metaphysics while sociology was 3 or 4 at least from even making anyone notice, the money may well go philosophy’s way. (and perhaps (d), what depts traditionally have served the university well on all these fronts). actually, come to think of it, there is another factor – often departments are started by benefactors fro elsewhere, peopel willing to donate money for chairs etc. No university turns that kind of thing down. These are the things that actually go into the decision making procedures for englarging/dwarfing departments etc.

    Muffti has never seen anyone sit there and say ‘well, we’d like our student body to have the following character’ ever…and if they do, it’s entirely at the graduate level. Having said that, if a university has developed a reputation in an area they tend to like to keep their strenght in that area so on that level muffti guesses student interests matter. a little.

    vis a vis quebec, muffti was saying that there is no tendency to see little separation talk during bad economic times — BOTH referendums were held druing terrible times (1982 and 1995) so he sees no reason to think that weak economy shoudl predict no separation. Muffti truly thinks that quebecers got sick of it, started to see that it was disruptive to their economy and began realizign some of the benefits of the hands off approach canada provides them (not to mention the billions in equalization paymetns canada gives to them as, for all muffti can tell, bribery to stick around and not cause trouble!)

  55. Grand Muffti

    6/4/2009 at 12:19 pm

    Olenka, thats a very interesting take on the matter.

  56. themiddle

    6/4/2009 at 12:57 pm

    Olenka,

    Why would an educated, sophisticated and experienced individual such as Ed Morgan walk away with the impression that “it would mostly promote the view that a one-state solution is the only viable option.”

    I mean, that was also my impression of this conference. I wasn’t manipulated by the JDL or anybody else. I can read for myself, and so can Ed Morgan. So can others who look at this conference. And then the question becomes: “Why should I lend this conference the credibility that comes with my presence?”

    Surely the organizers could have established a more reasonable approach to this issue.

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