From lions to lambs

September 30, 2015 by David Zwartz
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An evening that began with noisy, extremist ranting in the corridor outside a Victoria University lecture room, ended up inside as a (mostly) calm and thoughtful dialogue between pro-Palestinians and two Israelis visiting New Zealand for the High Holy Days.

Victoria University

Victoria University

Israeli students Naftali Gross and Rafael Wein had come to Christchurch to help the Jewish community observe the Yamim Tovim, and the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) took advantage of them being in Wellington to organise a meeting at the university, so that they could speak about their personal experiences and dialogue with Kiwi students.

There was noisy opposition from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to having the meeting at the university, backed up by some of the academic staff who curiously – and reprehensibly – argued that stopping the meeting was upholding freedom of speech.

The evening began with about 50 SJP protesters, armed with megaphones and placards (“Baby killers”, “War criminals”). Some refused to enter the lecture theatre, and their occasional shouting could be heard from inside. The majority came in to listen to Naftali and Rafael, joining an audience of about 200, of whom about a quarter were from the Wellington Jewish community.

A calming approach to the meeting was set by chairperson Sehai Orgad, who said there was no interest in having a shout-fest – the basis of NZ democracy was having a dialogue, exercising the right of free speech and open debate.

There were only a few shouts of “Israel is a terrorist state” and “Free, free Palestine” during the presentations.

The Israeli students spoke openly about their backgrounds and involvement as reservists in last year’s Operation Protective Edge.

Questions, some confrontational, were asked calmly and answered fully. The atmosphere was attentive and constructive.

The majority of SJP protesters came as lions and left like lambs.


3 Responses to “From lions to lambs”
  1. harry rich says:

    Leon Poddebsky has rightly said my Alma Mater’s ( Sydney University)
    Peace and Conflict Department smother truth, rationality and academic freedom.
    Unfortunately nothing has changed in that Department. The ideas and attitudes
    have remained the same.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      And, Harry, the University of Sydney cannot argue credibly that neutralising the intellectually crippling influence of that engine of antisemitism would violate academic freedom since the Peace and Conflict Centre is a serial, gross, blatant violator of the basic principles on which academia in free societies is supposed in theory to operate.
      It’s sheer cowardice and submission to totalitarian lobbyists and pressure groups.
      I hope that any decent person contemplating a donation or bequest to The University of Sydney first learn about the repugnant activities of the Peace Centre.

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    “…attentive and constructive” and so very different from the smog of totalitarianism,intolerance and racism that emanates from The University of Sydney’s “Peace and Conflict Department,” which smothers truth, rationality and academic freedom.

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