May 23, 2011
Presenters pull out of Limmud-Oz over boycott ban
Organizers of Limmud-Oz, the Australian arm of the global festival of Jewish learning, are facing a backlash over their decision to ban presenters who support a boycott of Israel.
Two presenters wrote to the Limmud-Oz executive Sunday to withdraw from the festival in protest of the ban on presenters who support the global Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel, which the executive used to disinvite two left-wing Jewish speakers: Vivienne Porzsolt, a spokesperson for Jews Against the Occupation, and Dr. Peter Slezak, a founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices.
“We abhor the idea of being associated with an organization/event that bans ideas,” wrote the withdrawing presenters Jenny Green and Joel Nothman, adding that they “by no means” support BDS though they “sympathize with some of the motivations for BDS.”
The pair argued that the ban “clearly breached” Limmud’s core value that it “does not participate in legitimizing or de-legitimizing any religious or political position found in the worldwide Jewish community.”
Other left-wing presenters also have threatened to withdraw from the pluralist festival in protest.
The Limmud-Oz executive issued a statement last week saying it “believes that the BDS campaign is an attack on Israel’s basic legitimacy and harms the Jewish people as a whole … BDS therefore undermines this crucial aspect of Limmud-Oz.”
The statement added that Limmud-Oz “does not deny that proponents of BDS have the right to express their views to whomever they like. But that right does not impose an obligation on us to provide them with a space to do so.”
A third presenter, Vickie Janson, a member of the Q Society, which “opposes the Islamization of Australia,” has also been disinvited.
Limmud-Oz began in Sydney in 1999 and this year boasts more than 200 presenters and an expected audience of more than 1,000.