Peter Beinart and Dahlia Scheindlin, both known for their liberal Zionist views and support for a two state solution (though the latter has expressed some doubt lately), were invited by the Australian Jewish community to participate in the annual Limmud Oz Jewish learning celebration. At a separate event hosted by the government-sponsored Wheeler Centre, they were to debate the proposition, A Two-State Solution Will Best Serve the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, along with representatives of the local pro-Israel community, the Palestine Authority’s Australian representative, and Palestinian BDS activist, Samah Sabawi.
A funny thing happened on the way to the debate: the Wheeler Centre pulled its invitation to Sabawi and told her if she participated it would ruin the event because some of the speakers would withdraw and force its cancellation. Wheeler told her at first that all the speakers objected to her. Though the PA representative indicated he did not. It seems now that some of the local Jewish speakers were likely the ones doing the most objecting.
I’ve tweeted Beinart and Scheindlin to ask them to explain what role, if any, they played in this. Since their airfare and expenses have been paid by Limmud Oz, they may not have felt capable of speaking up forcefully on behalf of free speech, though we’ll have to wait to see what they have to say.
The latest development is that the Wheeler Centre thought better of their original position of disinviting Sabawi. Imagine an Australian state-sponsored cultural center engaging in censorship and suppression of free speech! So they reinvited her. But the format of the event would no longer be a debate, but rather a “discussion.” I’m not sure how or why that made it easier for Wheeler to change its mind. But it appears Sabawi is back in their good graces.
I’ve noticed by comparing the Age list of participants to the current Wheeler listing for the event that the two pro-Israel speakers are not the original ones listed. Before they were Geoffrey Bloch and Dvir Abramovich. Now they are Mark Baker and “others yet to be announced.” I’m guessing that Bloch and Abramovich were the loudest objectors to Sabawi’s participation; and that they’ve either withdrawn or are reconsidering their role in the event.
The pro-Israel community has made BDS the litmus test, the red line they will not cross in discussing Israel. BDS has become the equivalent of Nazis and anti-Semites in the minds of many of the most ardent pro-Israel advocates. Jews have done this for ages. I can remember in the 1980s, when I was active in New Jewish Agenda, that a two state solution and gay rights were anathema to most Jews. Now they are de rigeur. But those who raised the biggest stink about these issues were the ones who made it that much harder for the community eventually to come to its senses and realize they would not destroy Jewish life as we know it. Today, the Likudist government and Israel Lobby are the leading lights for this Know-Nothing approach.