Should Mordechai Kedar speak in the UK?

Two views on whether the controversial academic should address synagogues and schools


YES, says Paul Charney

What’s worse than a call for a boycott of an Israeli academic?

A call for a boycott of an Israeli academic from within our community.

At the Zionist Federation, we are committed to bringing over expert speakers to educate and enthuse our audiences. We don’t necessarily agree with all their views; we can’t, since our speakers cover the political and religious spectrums, reflecting the diverse backgrounds they come from. But we do think they should all be heard.

Apparently not everyone thinks this way. There has been a concerted effort to smear the reputation of renowned Professor Mordechai (Moti) Kedar prior to his arrival in the UK.

Dr Kedar’s 25 years in military intelligence and academia makes him an expert in the Islamic and Arabic worlds, and his “crime” is to talk about the disaster that these twin spheres have wreaked in the Middle East.

But a few days after Israel commemorated the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the region, and now when Christians commiserate with their co-religionists facing the same fate, we’re not supposed to talk about this.

For all his forthright views, Moti is in high demand as a commentator across global media – including such lion dens as Al Jazeera Arabic. The Arab world, therefore, is apparently more tolerant of dissenting views than some sections of our community. These self-appointed guardians believe Jewish students must be protected from his views – views that Moti’s own Arab students queue up to hear.

In a country where people will happily condemn Israel in the most disgusting terms, but won’t speak out against Isis because it’s “Islamophobic,” we’re suddenly being asked to fight with one hand tied behind our backs - in case we cause offence.

But if there’s one thing we can learn from Moti, it’s that when it comes to the Middle East, you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand.

NO, says Michael Pinto-Duschinsky

It is a mystery why Dr Kedar of Bar Ilan University, who has appeared on a platform with the two leaders of the English Defence League, should be considered suitable to be sponsored by the Zionist Federation to give training in Israel advocacy, to lecture to Jewish schoolchildren in London and to speak to congregations of the United Synagogue.

Following an intervention of members of the Board of Deputies, the ZF has agreed to cancel Dr Kedar's scheduled appearances at Jewish schools and one synagogue, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue at Lauderdale Road, has withdrawn its invitation.

In 2012 Dr Kedar was announced as a director of "Stop Islamisation of Nations" (SION). Speakers at SION's conference that year included Tommy Robinson, then a leader of the English Defence League. In 2013, SION's founder Pamela Geller was banned from entering Britain. SION advocated the "immediate halt of immigration by Muslims" into Europe as well as legislation to ban foreign funding of mosques and of departments of Islamic Studies departments in our universities along with a range of further legal restrictions.

From a Manhattan platform of "Stop Islamisation of Nations" beside the EDL, Dr Kedar mocked multiculturalism:"… [Muslim immigrants into Europe] are multiplying - - somebody said "rats" … and there is [sic.] 18 wives and all that …"

This is typical of Dr Kedar's language. On Aljazeera, he taunted his Arab interviewer saying his ancestors had buried theirs daughters alive. This summer, he said during an Israeli Broadcasting Authority interview "the only thing that deters a suicide bomber. If he knows that when he pulls the trigger, or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s it. "

Under attack, he later explained he had been analysing and not advocating. This is not evident from the transcript.

That he puts forward what many would see as extreme views on the issues of Israel-Palestine, especially on Jerusalem and the settlements, is not the main problem. The problem is his tendency to speak in terms that sometimes seem to mirror those of the European far right. This is hardly the best way to promote Jewish and Zionist interests let alone to train would-be Zionist advocates.

On past performance, his presence in the UK will be toxic for interfaith relations and is bound to offend Islamic moderates whose help is essential for the Prevent programme to combat jihadism. Above all, it undermines Jewish morality. As a Holocaust survivor, I am saddened to read language by the Israeli hard right about Arabs and Muslims that has become indistinct from that used about Jews by anti-Semites.

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