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Championing pro-BDS speakers’ rights reeks of hypocrisy

  • Letter3
For Judge Dennis Davis and Professor David Bilchitz, the withdrawal of the invitation to allow the three advocates of Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) to address Limmud is a matter of free speech and all other noble precepts of democracy.
by Victor Gordon, Pretoria | Sep 06, 2018

Seemingly, we as a community – whether religious or political – are mired in a narrowness that prevents us from being able to listen to (never mind accept) a contrary view. According to the judge and the prof, it is this smallmindedness that resulted in the cancellation.

In September 2012, American radio personality Glenn Beck visited Cape Town. At the time, Beck’s daily three-hour talk show on Fox News was the most listened to show throughout the United States.

Prior to this, Beck had flown a party of about 200 Christian supporters of Israel to Jerusalem in his private plane, having arranged a four-day rally of support. Subsequently, he was invited to address the Cape Town community at the Gardens synagogue, and journeyed from the US at his own expense.

Having watched many of his pro-Israel/Jewish broadcasts whilst also being a regular listener to his radio show via the internet, I had some idea of where he stood vis-à-vis Jews, Israel, and anti-Semitism. Thus, I flew down to Cape Town to hear Beck speak.

For some inexplicable reason, a call was issued by email urging the community to boycott Beck’s address on the spurious grounds that he was an anti-Semite. The call to silence Beck was endorsed by, amongst others, Judge Davis.

Prior to that, in March 2011, Judge Davis once again made a public appeal to the South African Zionist Federation to withdraw an invitation to legal luminary Alan Dershowitz to address a series of communal meetings. To support his case, Davis provided a detailed list of quotations and writings attributed to Dershowitz in which he labelled Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu an anti-Semite. Indeed, the issues addressed by Davis were simply matters of opinion and debate. Therefore, as a matter of principle, Dershowitz should have been left to speak.

However, Davis achieved his purpose, and stated, “We are pleased to hear that neither the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town, nor the law faculty [as was earlier mooted] will now be associating itself with Dershowitz by hosting him”. Hypocrisy won the day.

Perhaps our moral guardians should strive harder to practise what they preach. 


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