Jewish students cancel 'controversial' lawyer's invite

By Jessica Elgot, March 15, 2012
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An invitation to an American lawyer who specialises in fighting Western lawsuits by Islamic extremists has been withdrawn at 48 hours' notice by Leeds University Jewish Society over fears that she is "too controversial".

New York-based Brooke Goldstein, director of the Lawfare Project, has been touring Britain this week with UK Lawyers for Israel, speaking about the ways Arab dictatorships and Islamist leaders use "lawfare" to sue those who publish articles against radical Islam.

Students were said to be concerned about her association with right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whom she gave legal advice after he was sued for anti-Muslim remarks.

Ms Goldstein said the students were "trying to prevent me from speaking about how we defend their rights, as someone who advocates on their behalf. I think it's disgraceful, it's Orwellian."

JSoc president Ilana Manuel said: "We researched some of Ms Goldstein's past projects, her associates and views that she has expressed in various media outlets and have decided that this is not appropriate for our campus. Our priority is the welfare of our students and we did not want to put anyone in a situation where this could be jeopardised."

Ms Goldstein argued that her defence of Mr Wilders was purely about protecting freedom of speech. "Whether you agree with him or not, and there are a lot of points we disagree on, surely he deserves to be allowed to express his opinions in the 21st century?

"It's disappointing that they would shy away from debating the most pertinent issues of our time, for example what limits should be put on free speech and what is acceptable dialogue, critical of religion, in free societies."

UKLFI's Jonathan Turner said it was "absurd to deny a platform to a speaker on the grounds that she has supported freedom of speech for Wilders and others, especially when she was not even intending to talk about Wilders. On the same basis, one would deny a platform to Alan Dershowitz, who has supported freedom of speech for the Ku Klux Klan."

Zionist Federation co-vice-chair Jonathan Hoffman said: "Just as Benny Morris was cancelled by Cambridge Israel Society in Feb 2010, we witness spineless Jewish students crumbling in the face of false charges of Islamophobia. Meanwhile, in the Alice In Wonderland topsy-turvy world of British academia, Palestinian societies are free to host the most outrageous antisemitic extremists. Thus Brooke Goldstein gets labelled as an extremist while Ken O'Keefe is given legitimacy."

Ms Goldstein has spoken to students at King's College London, University College London and Manchester, as well as at a Commons reception hosted by the Henry Jackson Society.

Last updated: 3:31pm, March 15 2012