October 28, 2007

To conclude, was it the ex-Orangeman or the Jaffa Orangeman?

There is some weirdness on the Harry's Place blog now. Just to recap. You know the Finkelstein not at Oxford Union saga? Yes? Of course you do. You know that Harry's Place, in a post and on Gharda Karmi's Comment is free piece, are "arguing" that it was Lord (David) Trimble who had Finkelstein cancelled. David t even offered that non-explanation as a no-brainer. You know how Finkelstein's detractors were saying that a mistake had been made in that Finkelstein, they said, supported a one-state solution in Palestine and that "Fred" helpfully provided a quote that then passed on to the Guardian in the letter they published yesterday. David t still hasn't come back to the thread on all this but the thread is none the less continuing.

Well now Jerry Haber of the Magnes Zionist has joined the fray with posts to his own blog and to the Harry's Place comments. Here's the letter from the President of the Oxford Union to Norman Finkelstein explaining his decision to uninvite Finkelstein:

Dear Dr Finkelstein,

...Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale.

I hope that you understand my position, this is not ideal and I would be happy to welcome you as an individual speaker to the Union in a forthcoming term. I know that the President-Elect Emily Partington would be keen to host you in Hilary. I just did not want to see the debate compromised and given the Irving Griffin Controversy I couldn't fight a battle on all fronts.

Best wishes

Luke.

So according to the President of the Oxford Union, whilst he, as the Magnes Zionist says, is responsible for his own decision, is saying that Dershowitz's intervention was decisive. Now here's where it gets really weird.

Jerry Haber (the Magnes Zionist) also posted this to the Harry's Place comments and this is how an Engage founder, Jonathan Hoffman, responds to it:
Thanks. It's what I've been saying. Luke Tryl said that someone had made a mistake in inviting Finkelstein. He also came under pressure to drop him, yes - but so what - since when is writing an op-ed reprehensible? What he does NOT say is that the catalyst for dropping Finkelstein was an ultimatum from Lord Trimble who refused to be on the same 2-state team as Finkelstein. Luke feels more comfortable in blaming Dershowitz than Trimble.
This Jonathan Hoffman had been saying that it was Trimble not Dershowitz who had Finkelstein cancelled. Tryl was saying it was Dershowitz and didn't even mention Trimble and this amounts to "what I've (Hoffman has) been saying." It's actually the opposite of what he was saying. But here's Fred:
Shame on Tryl, trying to blame the Jews when it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it's all Trimble's doing. That's always the easy way out, isn't it. It's not like Dershowitz threatens to "bankrupt and devastate" anyone, or campaigns against the tenure of critics, or threatens to sue to keep books from being published. Why would Tryl fear such a shrinking violet? In fact, by not blaming the true agent provocateur, Trimble, and instead trying to blame Dersh, Tryl is feeding into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, I'm yet to see a quote from David Trimble on this. Of all the withdrawals from this debate, Trimble is the only one to cite "diary pressure" rather than any political consideration.

UPDATE: Well it's not an update really, just an addition. I'm thinking that Trimble might be got at by zionists to say that he had raised strenuous objections to Finkelstein's presence and that therefore he did act as some kind of catalyst. I think the HP brigade are now falling back on the idea that Trimble tipped off Dershowitz who then acted, as it were, on his behalf. This still doesn't amount to a Protestant lobby job but they will have their jolly japes. I've already, via Fred, alluded to the Jewish Chronicle piece on it but here it is in full:
Speakers snub Oxford debate in panel row
26/10/2007
By Nathan Jeffay
A debate on Israel at the Oxford Union took place on Tuesday without any of the scheduled speakers, after a row over the make-up of the panel.

Three of the academic community’s most vocal critics of Israel — Israelis Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe, and Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi — were due to propose the motion: “This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

But members of the Jewish community, including Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and Peace Now UK co-chair Paul Usiskin, complained to the Union that it had given the anti-Israel side a “fourth voice” by having US political scientist Norman Finkelstein in the pro-Israel team, which also comprised Peter Tatchell and Northern Irish politician Lord Trimble.

Dr Finkelstein, who recently lost tenure at Chicago’s De Paul University in a row over his views on the Holocaust, is “an extreme left-wing opponent of Israel” and provided a “covert ally” for the anti-Israel side, claimed Mr Usiskin.

Union president Luke Tryll withdrew the invitation to Dr Finkelstein, conceding that, with his presence “the debate would not be fair”. He asked Mr Usiskin to stand in.

Dr Finkelstein said that the union had “shamefully capitulated” to the “bullying tactics” of Prof Dershowitz who, he claimed, is “determined to hound me out of public life”. Mr Tatchell then pulled out over the Finkelstein issue, saying: “I don’t agree with Norman on some things but I know of nothing he has said to justify his invitation being withdrawn.

“The attempt to ban him goes against the principles of free speech that the Oxford Union claims to defend.”

Lord Trimble also withdrew, due to “diary pressure”.

Dr Shlaim, who was due to speak against Dr Finkelstein, wrote to Mr Tryll saying: “Disinviting a speaker raises questions about the Oxford Union’s commitment to free speech. Unless the invitation to Norman Finkelstein is renewed, I will not take part.”

He and the others then pulled out, leaving just Mr Usiskin to debate with five union members. Mr Usiskin, who won the debate 191 votes to 60, said he believed they acted because their chances of winning were weakened.
The JC quotes Trimble as citing "diary pressure." Was he lying? Are they lying? If Trimble comes to the rescue of this miserable bunch with their thinly veiled allegations of antisemitism and their gleeful harassment of Finkelstein then either he was lying to the JC or the JC was lying, yet again, to its readers. I said "To conclude, " maybe I was lying too. There's more to come.

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