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Horn of plenty

February 05, 2010 14:50

According to Ha'aretz, which is unlikely to have got this wrong, the Jerusalem Post editor, David Horovitz, has emailed Professor Naomi Chazan, the president of the New Israel Fund, and told her that her column is no longer required in his paper.
David's actions — which he has not, so far, chosen to explain in public — appear to have been precipitated by the ongoing, noisy and vituperative campaign against Professor Chazan by the student group, Im Tirzu. The charge is that the New Israel Fund financed a slew of human rights groups which supplied information to Judge Richard Goldstone in order for him to compile his now infamous Goldstone Report.
Im Tirzu, which insists it is not a right-wing group but one "working for the renewal of Zionist ideals," has so far published a vicious cartoon of Professor Chazan, characterising her as "Naomi Chazan-Goldstone" and featuring her with a horn on her head. Additionally group members held a noisy demo outside her home, wearing keffiyahs and waving placards: a little bit of research might have informed them that a)they were outside the wrong house and that b)she was not in the country in any case.
All of a sudden, it seems, free speech and democracy are at a premium in Israel. And elsewhere: in a kneejerk reaction — in my opinion, without the knee — Professor Chazan has been seriously uninvited to speak at a synagogue and community centre in Melbourne, Australia, next week.
I have no means of knowing what pressure — if any — was applied to the Jerusalem Post to make David Horovitz drop Naomi Chazan as a columnist. What I do know is that she is one of Israel's finest and most honourable politicians, who has rendered immeasurable service to her country, not least in her work with African nations. She has worked hard to promote the rights of women and minorities; she spent long and arduous hours in the Knesset, not least as deputy speaker, and the tradition of public service is certainly ingrained in the family: she is the daughter of Avraham and Zena Harman, he a one time Israeli ambassador to the US (and UK born), her mother a former MK herself. So Naomi Chazan is not no-one; she has contributed more to Israel and the "Zionist ideal" than any of the wretched opponents of Im Tirzu.
And let us suppose that one were to agree with Im Tirzu and its followers. Is personal invective a useful way for the group to get its point across? Is demonising Professor Chazan an appropriate or acceptable response? But that seems to have become what passes for informed debate these days: name-calling (cf Alan Dershowitz, of whom I thought better), personal abuse, and, lastly, a determination to shut up people with whose opinions you don't agree (cf the Benny Morris farrago in Cambridge this week.) Censorship and boycott have a way of coming back to bite the instigators.

February 05, 2010 14:50

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