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Limmud entitled to shun unacceptable BDS

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It is unfortunate that both the op-ed by Professors Bilchitz and Davis (“In shunning speakers, community mimics worst behaviour of BDS” – SA Jewish Report 30 August 2018) and the lead editorial in the same edition have mischaracterised the action taken by Limmud Cape Town in disinviting the proponents of Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) from Limmud in Cape Town in 2018.
by Marc Furman, Johannesburg | Sep 06, 2018

Bilchitz and Davis make much of the democratic ethos of the new South Africa, in particular the values of inclusivity and diversity, and make a strong call for these values to be reflected within Limmud, bemoaning the exclusion of several BDS supporters from Limmud as a violation of this ethos.

Lost in the politically correct noise around democracy, inclusivity, and diversity, however, is the unassailable fact that organisations and communities the world over maintain boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable within those organisations. Quite legitimately, they enforce those boundaries, excluding those that they deem improper.

Here, we are not within the political realm, the proper place for “democratic” discourse, we are dealing with private associations of (relatively) like-minded people, who are fully entitled to exercise their right of association and dissociation.

There is a certain perversity in applying the argument in favour of civil discourse and inclusivity to the BDS movement. To illustrate with a slightly different scenario: imagine that a small group of individuals with a depraved interest in historical revisionism saw fit to invite David Irving (the pro-Nazi “historian”) to a joint panel at Limmud discussing alternative views on Holocaust historiography.

There would surely not be a single individual within the Jewish world willing to make the case here for diversity and inclusivity. So, with the right and propriety of firm boundaries thus established, all that is left to be done is to recognise BDS and its proponents as the Israel-hating and anti-Semitic group they are.

No movement today so brazenly encapsulates Natan Sharansky’s 3-D definition of anti-Semitic discourse. BDS seeks to demonise and delegitimise the Jewish state, and apply double standards in judging it alongside other nations of the world. As such, it and its proponents belong far outside the Limmud tent, so to speak. Efforts to deny it legitimacy should be supported passionately by all those who favour the perpetuation of a vibrant, pro-Jewish ethos at Limmud. 

1 Comment

  1. 1 Shalom Bayit 17 Sep
    Mr Marc Furman you conveniently miss the point of the Bilchitz/Davis argument.
    That point being that the banned presenters were pre-judged by individuals outside of the selection committee who deemed them inappropriate.

    Simply because they did not like them.
    Their standards instantly became Community Standards. They sprung to our defence. Then, because of their influence, (money, position) these individuals threatened to collapse Limmud.
    And you support this intolerance and bullying?

    You imagine David Irving being invited to present at Limmud.
    Where – Mr Marc Furman – did David Irving appear in this megillah?

    The banned presenters are members of our community.
    Our close community. Our SA JEWISH community.
    Their activism is rooted in deep involvement with Israel.
    They reside within our tent.

    So perhaps they are a little misguided?
    There is absolutely no need to panic and collapse the entire tent.
    Nor do you have the right to do so simply because you have the ability.
    This is what Bilchitz/Davis where explaining.
    We are too easily misled by authority. We forget about justification.

    I say widen the tent – Limmud is about learning not simply an echo chamber for what you already know.   
    I want as wide as possible selection of presenters, topics and discussion. To challenge and to learn.

    And please let me decide what to attend.
    I really do not want a Presenters Control Board to pre-select for me.
    And I certainy do not want the intimidation we have witnessed this year to be repeated.


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