Benny Morris talk cut by Cambridge Israel society

Invitation revoked: Israeli historian Professor Benny Morris

Invitation revoked: Israeli historian Professor Benny Morris

Cambridge University’s Israel Society has been slammed for bowing to pressure from Muslim students to cancel a speech by a top Israeli historian.

Prof Benny Morris had been due to speak on Thursday, but the event was cancelled after complaints from, among others, the university’s Islamic and Pakistan societies who claimed he was an “Islamophobic hate speaker”.

Israel Society president Jake Witzenfeld called the cancellation “unfortunate but noble”, adding: “There was no intention to “give racism a platform”.

But the JC understands the cancellation may have been part of a pre-emptive strategy ahead of a planned visit by Daud Abdullah, Muslim Council of Britain deputy secretary.

He is due to speak on February 18 as part of Islam Week. Last year he signed the Istanbul Declaration which threatened violence against supporters of Israel and British troops. Cambridge’s Jewish students now plan to ask for his invitation to also be withdrawn.

But the plan has apparently backfired after outraged Israel supporters attacked the society’s cancellation.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, said: “Benny Morris has made some robust remarks about Palestinians, but the idea that he is ‘Islamophobic’ is absurd. He has taught Jewish and Muslim students.”

Mr Witzenfeld said: “While Prof Morris’ contribution to history is highly respectable, his personal views are, regrettably, offensive to many.

“Ultimately, we place respect for those who have been offended above the importance of hosting this speaker.”

In a letter to the student union on Monday, some students wrote: “His visit is insulting, threatening to Arab and Muslim students in particular and also goes against the spirit of CUSU’s stated anti-Islamophobia policy. We ask CUSU to make clear these kinds of views are abhorrent and offensive.”

Prof Morris said: “Basically, it is foolishness. But the cancellation has generated an invitation for me to speak at Cambridge’s Department of Political and International Studies, which will have a bigger audience.”

Last updated: 3:22pm, February 5 2010