Israeli withdraws from two-state solution Cambridge Union debate after no Palestinian on panel

By Jennifer Lipman, June 13, 2013
Dimi Reider

Dimi Reider

An Israeli commentator has pulled out of a Cambridge Union debate scheduled for this evening because of the absence of a Palestinian speaker on the panel.

Dimi Reider, a left-wing writer and the translator of a book called "Beyond the Two-State solution" was due to oppose the motion "This House Believes a Two State Solution is the Only Solution".

He was to be joined on his side of the panel by former Liberal Democrat and prominent anti-Israel activist Baroness Jenny Tonge, along with University of Kent professor Caroline Rooney.

Set to argue for the motion is Bicom's Alan Johnson, Alan Mendoza of the Henry Jackson Society and Cambridge Union president and Noam member Joel Fenster.

Mr Reider said he had not been told who would join him at the debate when he accepted the invitation, but that he had now decided to withdraw "due to the complete absence of Palestinian speakers".

Although he acknowledged that opposing views on the subject would be represented in the current make-up, he said that there were Israelis and Palestinians who would both support and reject the motion, and he felt the panel should reflect this.

"The sheer breadth of the topic at hand demands representation from both communities," he said. "If Palestinians cannot be represented, the least I can do is to refrain from presenting the Israel angle all on its own."

While he said topics such as internal Israeli politics could be debated without both communities represented, he said "when the question is, essentially, 'what should the future of the country look like?'" it was wrong not to include both Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Reider added: "I would no sooner take part in a panel about the future of Israel-Palestine that has no Palestinians on it than I would participate in an all-male panel on women's rights. I think that's pretty basic."

A spokesman for Bicom said Mr Johnson would still be taking part, and that Bicom was "happy to promote the case of a two-state solution whenever we can".

The Cambridge Union confirmed that Mr Reider would be replaced on the panel by a student, but said that up to a dozen Palestinian speakers, including the Palestinian Authority’s UK envoy Manuel Hassassian, had been invited, but had not been able to attend.

"We were determined to have Israelis and Palestinians arguing for and against the motion," said Mr Fenster. "Sadly we are subject to who is available. There was never any intent for any group not to be included."

He said he could appreciate why Mr Reider had felt the need to withdraw, but pointed out that in the past term both the Israeli and Palestinian envoys had discussed the two-state solution at Cambridge Union events.

"We are not resolving the conflict, just having a discussion," he said. "Most of the people from the UK who are engaged on this issue are not from the region."

Last updated: 1:04pm, June 13 2013