In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column â€œAccording to Reports,â€ Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, looks at opinion pieces about theÂ controversial York University “one state” conference.
Efforts to delegitimize Israel continue to run amok: UN anti-racism conferences being used as forums to single out and vilify Israelis in racist terms; Israel Apartheid Week as an annual Israel hate-fest on various campuses; Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) and other Canadian unions and organizations working feverishly to isolate Israel through boycott and sanctions campaigns; and more.
Into this inimical atmosphere stepped the organizers of a “one-state solution” conference recently heldÂ at York University under the more academic title Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace.
In “What’s discussed openly in Israel is toxic in Toronto” (Toronto Star, June 23), Haroon Siddiqui strung togther a number of quotes from conference organizers and participants, making it appear that the conference was a balanced academic exercise carried out in a climate of open, tolerant discussion and debate.Â Siddiqui wrote: “The dialogue was civil, [Professor Sharryn] Aiken [one of the organizers] reported from the meeting, which was closed to the media.”
That assessment came as surprising news to a number of those in attendance including one of the Israeli academic participants, Na’ama Carmi from Haifa University.
In “Middle East conference anything but academic” (TheStar.com, June 30), Carmi presented a very different picture, explaining that the dialogue was anything but “civil.”
Carmi, who belongs to the left in Israel, opposed banning the conference even though she feared it might be hijacked to become yet another anti-Israel event.Â Still, she wanted to participate in order to bring “another voice.”Â What she discovered, however, only confirmed her initial fear.
As she put it: Not in my worst dreams did I imagine an atmosphere that was totally incompatible with academic discourse… A hostile atmosphere toward people with different views generally, and Jewish-Zionist Israelis in particular, was created. Anyone who challenged the Palestinian perspective was intimidated or even labelled a racist. The audience vocally applauded those whose views it approved. At times, those presenting a different view were subject to abuse and ridicule [her own â€˜psychological stateâ€™ was questioned]…And all of this without any apparent attempt by the organizers to stop it.”
Carmi concluded, â€œThis was not an academic conference, but an â€˜academicâ€™ version of Durban.â€
This, of course, could readily have been anticipated by a glance at the program.Â By inviting a number of prominent anti-Israel political polemicists as participants, the conference organizers could not conceal the fact that they were apparently less interested in real scholarly debate than in promoting a political agenda.
As the conference began, Stephen Scheinberg and Neil Caplan, two Canadian academics affiliated with Canadian Friends of Peace Now, wrote an op-ed in the National Post titled “One state is no solution” (June 23).Â With historical perspective about why a two-state solution is the only viable option for conflict resolution, they argued: “Current calls for a one-state solution mask a desire for the disappearance of Israel as a Jewish state. They not only reinforce the demands of fundamentalist groups like Hamas, but also cater to demagogic seekers of â€˜justiceâ€™ and anti-Israel campus groups.”
Today, these “demagogic seekers” pass themselves off in some media circles as “progressives,” whereas they represent the height of intolerance.Â Their position amounts to the following: “A state for the Palestinian people?Â But of course.Â A state for the Jewish people?Â How dare you!”
They well know that a “bi-national” state for Jews and Palestinians from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River would, because of demographics, quickly become another Arab-majority state in which the Jewish minority would be at risk.Â But this is the very idea: to eliminate Israel as a “progressive” step.