One of the more striking lunacies of our day is the way that the Left has adopted the totalistic discourse of the Palestinians and decided that even allowing Israelis to defend themselves is a violation of their principles. As a result we get the ludicrous monopoly of “debates” about the Arab-Israeli conflict by anti-Zionist Arabs and anti-Zionists Jews.
In principle, the post-modern approach is to open oneself up to many (all?) narratives. Unfortunately, when one opens oneself to pre-modern totalistic narratives (what, again in principle, the pomos reject as “grand narratives”) one ends up shutting down the very openness and tolerance that supposedly animates the whole enterprise.
Three recent examples illustrate the phenomenon:
1) Charles Enderlin publishes a book on the Al Durah affair, full of misinformation and bad faith. He gets plenty of air time in France with no one who can contradict him invited to participate. (This is almost certainly at Enderlin’s insistence, given that he cannot and will not stand up to contradiction in these matters.) Nidra Poller has written about the curiously quiet nature of the book launch (a kind of bird-whistle to his side that he hopes others won’t notice); while Luc Rosenzweig has written about how anyone who can contradict is excluded from the “plateau.”
2) Gershon Baskin has organized a conference on the “From Camp David 2000 Until Today” in which no one is there to present the formidable case that making concessions to Palestinians under current conditions is a recipe for violence.
3) Professor Geoffrey Alderman, one of the few English academics still willing to defend Israel’s interests was invited and then disinvited to a panel discussion on “The Conflict in the Middle East” that has the likes of Avi “Arabs are always sincere in their peace offers, Israelis never” Shlaim and Beverly Milton “let’s talk with Hamas” Edwards. Below is a blogpost with the details from Jonathan Hoffman.
Professor Geoffrey Alderman has sent out the following Press Notice: “On 20 September 2010 I received an email from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Mr. Graeme Farrow, inviting me to join a panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East” as part of the 2010 Belfast Festival, held under the auspices of Queen’s University Belfast. Mr. Farrow’s exact words were: “I would be delighted if you would join our panel.” I was naturally pleased to accept this invitation. The panel discussion is due to take place on Monday evening, 18 October 2010, in Belfast. On Friday afternoon, 15 October 2010 I was shocked to receive an email from Mr. Farrow informing me that “a mistake” had been made in extending the invitation to me and that although I could join the audience the event was to go ahead without my panel participation. In effect, I was being “disinvited.”
In a series of email exchanges with Mr. Farrow I refused to accept this situation, and I have made it clear to him that I intend to travel to Belfast tomorrow and shall expect to participate fully as a member of the panel. I am frankly appalled at the way I have been treated, for which I hold Queen’s University, Belfast, responsible.”
On the Panel with Alderman were Avi Shlaim and Beverley Milton Edwards. The latter was a founder of Conflicts Forum and believes in a dialogue with Hamas.
I gather that Alderman is going to Belfast tomorrow anyway and will insist on being on the Panel.
Here is Farrow’s email, if you want to protest:
What are they afraid of? That people might, upon hearing the other side, not share their totalistic view. That the anti-Zionist side might get violent? Nothing bodes ill for the West more than this intellectual cowardice.
UPDATE: See Melanie Phillips’ take on the Alderman case; and Daphne Anson’s.