Monday, May 21, 2012

Silences that Speak to the Skies

 AJDS, The Australian Jewish Democratic Society, is an old and respected grassroots organization here in Melbourne that over the years has brought together Jews of all backgrounds concerned with social justice issues. I thank Max, our community service worker, for sharing this with me, with us. Where ever you live, you will experience this assault on free speech if you are a dissenter to the holy script, the exceptionalism of Israel. Yes, these are dangerous times to be Jewish as it if for many--Romany, Gay people and always, poor women--but it is in dangerous times that the light of complex thought must be kept most bright.

Dear AJDS members and supporters,

*please forward on to your networks*

The following is self explanatory, and it follows a similar event at
Limmud Oz last year. Some people never seem to realize that free speech
is healthy and not dangerous. This is not an AJDS issue, but one that
effects those interested in free and rigorous debate not just in the
Jewish community in Australia, but free speech in general.
It is rather ironic that banning a group of speakers from a Jewish event
is precisely the same tactic as that used by people who apply blanket
BDS techniques against Israeli academics, artists or others.

The online text is at

"We view the decision by the Committee of Limmud Oz 2012 to prevent a
panel "Beyond Tribal Loyalties - personal stories of Jewish peace
activists" at this year's Melbourne conference as a blatant act of
political censorship.
Even though there are other panels featuring discussion on the
Israel/Palestine conflict, this censorship follows a similar attempt at
Limmud Oz in Sydney last year concerning a panel with a number of the
same speakers. In this case, however, there are other speakers,
including one strong Zionist. This is a farcical situation.
The censorship goes against all the principles of the conference which
are to engage in an exchange of ideas, which according to its website,
have the following principles:
-Respects diverse Jewish expression
-Connects and engages -Communal and democratic
-Explores Australian Jewish identities
-Creating space for ideas and reflection
-Igniting activism
-Forum for Jewish dialogue
The act undertaken by the Committee--the names of which are not
public--betrays these principles entirely and sends out a message that
dissent is not acceptable, particularly when many of the views being
expressed are precisely those being voiced in Israel itself. Serious
questions have to be asked about the governance of Limmud Oz and its
decision-making processes.
Furthermore, to censor the authors of a book, particularly in a
university setting is a serious matter, and it is also a fiction to
argue that Limmud Oz as a private community event or that it not in
direct association with Monash university. Limmud Oz markets itself as a
major community event. In addition, the association between Limmud Oz
and the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization means that the
Centre's own academic independence is now severely compromised. Monash
University has traditionally supported the principle of free speech and
we cannot see how a conference held at Monash can pretend that it is
supporting free speech when it is censoring dissenting ideas.
If you agree with this statement, please sign the petition by going to
the link at
This culture of censorship within the Australian Jewish community is
dangerous and only conveys the message that dissent will not be
tolerated. This is a major freedom of speech issue for the Jewish
community and the wider community concerned with a resolution of the
Israel/Palestine conflict."
Please also contact Limmud Oz directly at / arts-limmudoz AT
/You should also contact the Vice Chancellor of Monash, Prof Ed Byrne /
ed.byrne AT /, and respectfully express your concerns about
the limitations on free speech in a conference at which Monash, other
Australian, and international academics are participating.
Other activities will be made known by those affected by the ban.

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