Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cambridge Debating Society Hoisted by its Own Petard

I realize Gabriel Latner's brilliant speech delivered at the Cambridge University Debating Society has made the rounds of many blogs and news sites but the reason I too am posting it is twofold: the readership I am trying to build -- mostly left-of-center who get their Middle East news from American mainstream media -- may have not seen it yet. And my longed-for readership needs to see what happens when the delegitimization of Israel reaches scary proportions, as it has in the UK.
Gabriel Latner hamming it up for the toffs
As described in the Jerusalem Post, "Cambridge University’s prestigious student debating society hosted a debate last month on the motion “Israel is a rogue state.” Israel’s supporters bleakly anticipated another hostile, demonizing and divisive event, and braced, too, for acceptance of the motion in the final vote. But the motion was surprisingly and firmly defeated, with 74 percent of the votes opposing it.

"At the root of that thoroughly unexpected result was the extraordinary content of the speech delivered by one of the proposers of the motion – content that subsequently prompted students unsympathetic to Israel to protest the result and demand an apology from the Cambridge Union Society. For Gabriel Latner, a 19-year-old, second-year law student from Toronto, advanced an argument in support of the motion that “Israel is a rogue state” that would have made any Israeli diplomat proud.

"Proposing the motion was Lauren Booth, an arch anti-Israel activist and sister-in-law of the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, former prime minister Tony Blair. Booth recently converted to Islam after a religious experience on a visit to Iran. Alongside her were Mark McDonald, founder of the group Labor Friends of Palestine, and Latner. Opposing the motion were Ran Gidor, the Israeli Embassy’s counsellor for political affairs, Shiraz Maher, a former Islamic extremist, and and Paul Livingston, a third-year law student from Glasgow."

Click here and read his whole speech. It is beautiful in its subversion of Cambridge's nasty proposition in the first place. And that gets me to the point of this post: Demonizing Israel is now commonplace within the political establishment and the highest reaches of society in Britain.

For the likes of Oxbridge's posh students this is all just fun and games. Three years ago, Holocaust denier, David Irving, was invited -- invited -- to speak at the Oxford Union. So was Nick Griffith of the fascist British National Party. It goes without saying that so was Norman Finkelstein on behalf of the proposition that, "This house believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.” More recently, Hamas activist, Azim Tamimi gave a highly inflammable speech at Cambridge. In a 2004 BBC interview he declared he would carry out a suicide mission if that were possible: “If that is extremism, then I am an extremist. If that is terrorism, then I am a terrorist…I don’t give a damn about the future of Israel, and yes – I want to see Israel come to an end.” The list goes on and on.

Just this weekend, the British Law Society -- equivalent to the American Bar Association -- is hosting the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a kangaroo court with participation from the usual suspects stacked against Israel with no one speaking on its behalf.

New readers may not have heard of Baroness Jenny Tonge, a peer in the House of Lords, who has equated Israel's policies with the Nazis and helped spread vicious rumors about supposed harvesting of organs by Israeli medics who were providing emergency services in Haiti after the earthquake. She was sent down from the front benches but was never expelled from the Liberal-Democrat Party, the Conservatives' partner in government.

These examples and others like them would make American anti-Zionists green with envy and we haven't even discussed the other side of British society, the union movement, where Israel is anathema and calls for boycotts are never ending. While the US has its share of Israel deniers, particularly those protected by academic freedom, the situation hasn't yet deteriorated to the point where any defense of Israel is highly suspect and Zionism is commonly equated with the worst isms of the 20th century.

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