Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Jewish groups blast ’anti-Zionist’ conference at Toronto university

22 June 2009

By Raphael Ahren, Haaretz – 22 June 2009

A controversial conference on peace in the Middle East is set to start Monday at Toronto’s York University, despite sharp criticism from local and international Jewish groups, who have called the partly government-sponsored event a “blatant exercise in anti-Zionist propaganda.”

Entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” the three-day meet features presentations by dozens of speakers, including Palestinian and Israeli scholars.

“The conference seeks to systematically measure models based on two states or a single binational state, federal and con-federal approaches, and other models in between and beyond,” according to the organizers. “The framework of the conference invites robust academic critique of the deficiencies, promise, and perils of the range of prospective models of statehood.” Neither anti-Semitism nor any other form of racism has any place in this forum, they added.
Yet several Israel advocacy groups have suggested the choice of speakers indicates the general tenor of the conference will be unfair toward Israel.

“This sham of a conference, which questions the Jewish state’s very right to exist, promises to be a veritable ‘who’s who’ of anti-Israel propagandists,” Frank Dimant, the vice president of B’nai Brith Canada, said in statement. “This is not an issue of academic freedom, despite the great lengths the university is going to, to try to paint it in that light. It is purely and simply about delegitimizing the Jewish state and its supporters here at home – an exercise that runs far afield of so-called legitimate academic discourse.”

B’nai Brith also stated that the conference will host speakers who “advocate for the destruction of the Jewish state,” “reject compromise” and “justify terrorism.”

Ed Beck, president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, said yesterday that it was clear that, “the conference premise and configuration represents a clear bias against Israel and allows for a discussion of [its] delegitimization.” While his nonprofit organization has not taken an official stance on this conference, Beck said many its nearly 20,000 members were concerned that “vulnerable institutions such as York University only [give] a seemingly increasing sense of academic and intellectual legitimacy to anti-Israel forces which, in the long run, constitutes a cumulative, serious debilitating attack on Israel in terms of erosion of support.”

“The speakers range from the extreme left – those who say Israel should be wiped off the map – to Israelis who are quite hesitant about going,” Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of the Israeli watchdog NGO Monitor, told Haaretz. “Some of them said they realized that it’ll be a mini Durban,” he added, referring to the controversial UN-sponsored conference on racism.

The Toronto event, organized by four Canadian professors, is partly sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada – a federal agency promoting university-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. The conference is also part of York University’s official 50th anniversary programming, a fact that university president Mamdouh Shoukri defended by citing academic freedom.

IOA Editor: For conference information, see Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace.

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