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Jewish British Historian Uninvited from Debate

Professor Geoffrey Alderman invited, then uninvited from panel discussion at Irish festival.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/20/2010, 3:29 AM / Last Update: 10/20/2010, 5:35 AM

A British historian was uninvited this week from a panel debate on the Middle East that took place as part of a festival in Ireland.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman had been invited a year ago to join Monday’s discussion at the Belfast Festival (an annual event run by Queen's University at Belfast) by its director Graeme Farrow. Also scheduled to take part in the panel were Professor Avi Shlaim of St. Anthony’s College (a harsh critic of Israeli policy and one of a group of Israeli scholars who put forward critical revisionist interpretations of the history of Zionism and Israel) and Professor Beverley Milton Edwards of Queens University (the author of a recent study on the Hamas terrorist group).

However, Professor Alderman (who is a noted British historian of the Jewish community in England in the 19th and 20th centuries, and also an academic and political adviser) said that he received an email from Farrow on Friday, in which Farrow withdrew the invitation to be on the panel. Alderman said that Farrow told him that he had made “a mistake in agreeing to extend an invitation to you Geoffrey without consulting the academics in question.”

Alderman and Farrow met on Monday prior to the discussion, following which Alderman told the Jewish Chronicle that he had given Farrow three options: to allow him to join the panel, to let him to take part while sitting at a separate table, or call off the event. However, an hour before the scheduled start, the debate appeared set to go ahead without Alderman.

Although he was invited to participate in the panel as an audience member, Alderman told the Belfast Telegraph: “I decided not to go because I feel personally insulted. I’m outraged and saddened. I have never been treated like this by a university before. I would like the university to explain formally to me why I was invited and then disinvited.”

Alderman added that he is "appalled at the way I have been treated, for which I hold Queen’s University, Belfast, responsible."

This is not the first time that anti-Israel acts take place in Ireland. Recently, a group of more than 150 Irish artists pledged to boycott Israel until “it respects international law.”

In 2007, members of the Irish state-sponsored academy of creative artists, Aosdana, attempted to launch a similar boycott of Israeli cultural events and institutions.

The academy proposed a resolution to “back the call from Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers to end all cooperation with Israeli state-sponsored cultural events and institutions,” evoking memories of pre-WWII Germany's anti-Semitic resolutions.