It Depends On What Your Meaning of Debate Is

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  • 01/23/2008
Jan 22, 2008 20:58 | Updated Jan 23, 2008 9:48
Oxford Union stages 'farcical' debate

From the Jerusalem Post

Oxford University's debating society is being accused of childishness and sensationalism by Jewish groups after inviting participants with alleged anti-Israel backgrounds to support a motion questioning Israel's right to exist in a debate on Thursday....

Proposing the motion are Norman Finkelstein, formally of De Paul University in Chicago, and Ted Honderich, professor of philosophy at University College London.

Finkelstein's books include The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. On his Web site, he hosts Brazilian cartoonist Latuff, whose work won second prize in Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial art competition in December 2006....

Opposing the motion in the Oxford debate is Palestinian scholar and activist Ghada Karmi, who believes that Jews do not constitute a nation and they lack "biological, racial or national characteristics."

Joining Karmi is Israeli academic Ilan Pappe, currently at Exeter University in the UK.

Last February, Pappe declared his warm friendship with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and suggested that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah "should be put on the committee to decide the future of Israel."

Emily Partington, president of Oxford University Union told The Jerusalem Post: "The motion was decided upon as it is a current topic of discussion, and people who might not have extensive knowledge about the State of Israel may well question the existence of a state which appears to differ so greatly from others. Much of the interest in the motion derives from the debate about what constitutes Israel, and what Israel does. All of the participants in the debate will be arguing from their own independent perspectives, rather than representing anything or anyone else."

Translation: we excluded people who support Israel from the debate who are "paid" to represent Israel and who therefore are obviously biased in their view of a what a state is and should be is so different (and by our standards, racist.) So our debate is really the fair and balanced one because our participants independently concluded Israel should be wiped off the map.

Excluding scholars because they associate with Israel or disqualifying them because they represent Israel is just plain wrong. The same goes from barring them from engaging in important research, holding faculty positions, sitting on panels, etc? Where does the the game of connect the dots turn into outright persecution?

Isn't it wrong in other areas of intellectual and political life as well?
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