Oxford Union - Tatchell withdraws from Palestine debate
Free speech threatened by ban on Norman Finkelstein.
Censorship allegations stir university controversy.
Oxford - 23 October 2007
The Oxford Union is accused of censorship over its decision to dis-invite as a guest speaker, a US Jewish academic, Norman Finkelstein, who is critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
He was due to participate in the following debate on 23 October 2007:
"This House believes that one state is the only solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict."
Explaining his decision to withdraw from Tuesday night's Israel-Palestine debate at the Oxford Union, human rights campaigner and Oxford East Green Party parliamentary candidate, Peter Tatchell, said:
"I decided to not participate in the Israel-Palestine debate because US academic Norman Finkelstein was unjustly removed from the speaker list. All the three main speakers in support of the motion also withdrew from the debate in protest at Norman's exclusion. One of the pro-proposition speakers who withdrew was the Palestinian writer and academic, Ghada Karmi.
"Without Norman and the three distinguished proponents of the motion, the debate could not proceed with any credibility or legitimacy.
"Following representations from Ghada Karmi and I, the Oxford Union has agreed to host a further debate on Palestine early next year, where Norman Finkelstein and pro-Israel hawk, Alan Dershowitz, will be invited to speak.
"I am astonished that the Oxford Union is prepared to host Nick Griffin and David Irving in the name of free speech but not Norman Finkelstein. I don't agree with Norman on some things. But I know of nothing that he has said to justify his invitation being withdrawn. The attempt to ban Norman Finkelstein goes against the principles of free speech that the Oxford Union claims to defend.
"It is good that the Oxford Union has now agreed to accept Norman as a speaker in a second Palestine debate early in 2008.
Regarding the Oxford Union's upcoming free speech debate:
"The decision to invite Nick Griffin and David Irving is a big mistake. Those who peddle hatred and historical distortions should not be rewarded. I don't believe the defence of free speech requires the Oxford Union to proactively offer these hate-mongers a prestigious platform to secure respectability for their odious views," said Mr Tatchell.
Peter Tatchell has campaigned against Israel's illegal post-1967 occupation, and in support of an independent Palestinian state, for nearly 40 years. He was a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in 1982 and a keynote speaker at its founding conference.
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East www.greenoxford.com/peterand a human rights campaigner www.petertatchell.net
Click here to return to the Free Speech Index