Slezak turned down by Limmud-Oz

May 1, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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Associate Professor Dr Peter Slezak’s application to present at next month’s Limmd-Oz’s Festival of Jewish Ideas in Sydney has been rejected by the organisation’s board.

Slezak continues to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Peter Slezak presenting in 2013  photo: Henry Benjamin

Peter Slezak presenting in 2013 photo: Henry Benjamin

In a statement issued by the Board Ben Berger writes: “With a program of the scale and diversity of Limmud-Oz, some contention arises. Limmud in Sydney is governed by a rotating volunteer Board who, this year, published guidelines online that describe the Core Values which guide our activities, and how we prepare and manage programming at our events.

These guidelines explain that, for various reasons, we do not accept all sessions submitted to us for a Limmud event. However, we make clear the fact that the acceptance of sessions does not mean Limmud-Oz endorses or sympathises with the views expressed by presenters in that session.

The guidelines acknowledge that, in particular, the topic of Israel is one that can be a magnet for passionate opinions and disagreement. We understand that Jews who care about Israel can and will hold different views. We believe it is critical that when people disagree, they engage civilly and assume and respect the good faith of others. In general Limmud seeks to maintain high standards of civility in language and behaviour when we discuss all matters within the Jewish community.

Limmud offers a space where adults can make informed decisions about which topics and presenters they want to listen to and engage with. We seek to encourage healthy, vigorous and broad debate.

However, given that several of our presenters come from Israel, and given the broad consensus within the Limmud community and the broader Jewish community against the Boycotts, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement against Israel, the Board of Limmud in Sydney determined that Limmud-Oz will not provide a space for people to present who promote or actively support boycotts and sanctions against the State of Israel.

Peter Slezak submitted a proposal to present at Limmud-Oz 2015. In discussion, he affirmed that he actively and publicly supports some forms of BDS. We therefore confirmed that, as per our guidelines, Limmud-Oz would not be able to include his session at this year’s event. We understand Professor Slezak feels disappointed or dissatisfied with this outcome. We have let him know that he is welcome to attend the event as a participant, as he has done in previous years.”

Slezak did in fact present at Limmud-Oz in 2013. He told J-Wire: “I explicitly indicated that, as before in 2013, I undertook in good faith not to speak about BDS. I even quoted the paragraph of the Limmud-Oz guidelines to presenters to indicate that I understood (as I thought) the requirement. Ben Berger phoned afterwards to explain that the concern wasn’t what I would speak about but the fact that I have publicly supported BDS (in some form).”

Berger told J-Wire when asked about the 2013 Slezak presentation: “We had a lot of discussions about the guidelines but they were focused on principles and not individuals.”

The subject matter Slezak proposed speaking about was as below:

Hannah Arendt’s lack of ahavat Israel – love for the Jewish people.
Hannah Arendt was accused of not having sufficient ahavat Israel – love for the Jewish people. Why? Arendt complained that the prosecution in the Eichmann trial refused to identify Eichmann’s crimes as against humanity but only as against the Jewish people. I address questions asked recently by Israeli journalist Eva Illouz: How does ahavat Israel square with the need for intellectuals to remain detached from their national or religious group to retain their moral integrity? 
Slezak submitted this to the organisers with his fee which was returned.


36 Responses to “Slezak turned down by Limmud-Oz”
  1. john sussman says:

    In pre war Germany ,goebells spread his vitriol and anti semitism to an unsuspecting population.Slezak should not be allowed to spread his propaganda

  2. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    Like every thing else in life, the opportunity to speak your mind has limits.
    A person does not have the right to demand the opportunity to vent hatefuluness and blatant lies at a particular forum.
    Would we allow a Jewish neo-nazi to talk at the NSWJBD.
    The professor could be assessed for a spot at Limud Oz if he would repudiate his banal and odious anti Israel diatribes , until then he can continue to frequent venues hostile to our Jews and Israel.

  3. Paul Winter says:

    Some of the commentators seem to be confused about what censoring means. It is the suppression of the views of a person or a group. Slezak has countless platforms from which to spew his bile. None would criticise a church that would ban me from calling out Shema Yisrael in the middle of a mass. Nobody would be surprised if I received rough treatment at a Hizb-ut-Tahrir meeting if I started to sing Hatikvah. Slezak is hostile to the nation state of the Jewish people and he had a damned chutzpah attempting to speak at a Jewish function just to better spit in our faces.

    There is also a liberal call for fearless debate. Debate is fine, provided that the debaters are open minded and base their points on truth rather than its perversion. In the two links to Slezak’s address to the anti-Israel rally during the last war against Hamas, he accused Israel of genocide , murdering children in Judea and Samaria and described Israel as a terror state. He presented as truth electronic intifada lies that Moshe Feiglin called for the genocide of Arabs in Gaza; Feiglin called for the killing of Hamas fighters and the deportation of hostile families. He claimed that Ayalet Shaked called for the rape and murder of Palestinian mothers which was a complete perversion by a hostile journalist of what she had said a decade ago. He claimed that the Times of Israel had an editorial calling for the genocide of Palestinians when in fact the editorial was an apology for a blog it stated should never have been written.

    Debate with a hostile propagandist is a waste of time. Letting a person demanding the anti-Semitic imposition of BDS on Israel legitimises his posture and grants him the respectability in Jewish circles that he has no right to claim. Slezak and his ilk should be denounced by our secular leaders and the religious leadership should place a herem on him.

    Slezak had no place at Limmud Oz because he wanted to address a mainly Jewish audience on the views of Eva Illouz. Morrocan born Illouz describes Israeli society as catastrophic, blames the right for everything, including the Gaza campaign, blames Israeli society of fearing everything and of dehumanising the Arabs. Illouz’ views coincide with Slezak’s and show the same lack of love for the people of Israel that was shown by Arendt. Illouz’ views are not a fit topic for intellectual debate because they are distorted and shallow. And who really cares what the far left intellectual view is of Israel, when the important matter is Jewish lives.

    And lastly, Slezak’s claim that he knows what anti-Semitism and his claim that BDS is not anti-Semitic just because his 89 year old mother is a survivor of Auschwitz is false, irrelevant and a complete non-sequitur, the marks of a polemicist, not of an intellectual. Anti-Semitism is any act against Jews for no reason other than that they are Jews and when BDS endangers Jews exercising their right of self-determination in Israel, it is anti-Jewish. And as a Child Survivor of the Shoah my view of anti-Semitism trumps Slezak’s any day.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Paul, your analysis and retort are impeccable and cogent.
      Good on you.
      People who parade and exploit their parents in public as a fig leaf for their monstrous actions condemn themselves.
      That kind of conduct is definitely not honouring one’s parents.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Another point:

      A more urgent imperative for the Jewish People than trying to reason with unreasonable antisemites is to ensure that our youth is taught the truth about Zionism.
      Just as we read the Pesach Haggada, we need to create a “Zionist Haggadah” and we need diligently to read it to our children.
      Erev Yom Ha’Atzmaut would be an appropriate time.

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        reading the Hagadah is just the beginning internalizing and implementing its G-dly lessons each and every day is vital.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Paul, Slezak’s lies are so egregious that his credibility with respect to anything he says should be called into question.
      What sort of a university retains the services of someone who has such a credibility deficit?

      It’s not a matter of free speech; it’s a matter of credibility.

      If a university philosophy teacher kept saying that the Earth is flat, would he keep his job on the grounds of free speech?
      Slezak’s lies are in the same league.
      How can any student believe that Slezak’s “tuition” can equip him to deal with even a semblance of the real world?
      It’s bizarre, grotesque, surrealistic.
      It’s Orwellian.

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    Hannah Arendt’s boyfriend was a Nazi sympathiser.
    He was an intellectual, a philosopher, no less!
    I reckon if he were alive today, he’d be given a job at The University of Sydney Peace and Conflict Centre, and the law faculty at the University of NSW would argue for his right to free speech.

  5. Elaine Black says:

    I suggest you watch thE video below of Peter Slezak standing on the steps of Sydney Town Hall in 21014, in front of pictures of dead babies, presenting his twisted views and lies to massive crowds of Israel and Jew Haters at the Anti-Israel rallies which took place weekly, during Operation Protective Edge (August 2014).

    Hear what he has to say, read the text, listen to his blatant LIES and hate filled rhetoric and then decide if you think he has a right to speak at Limmud. How he loves to tell his audience that his parents were in the Holocaust, because that validates him to them, to prove how much he knows on the topic.

    Slezak needs to stay with his friends who love and support the Palestinians…that is the best company he can keep. If you think he has a right to express these views, then join up to The Students For Justice and Peace In Palestine & support BDS – you will feel far more comfortable amongst them. Shame on Slezak and his ilk, they have no place amongst their decent fellow Jews.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Elaine, fancy Slezak’s parading his parents in front of the public as a fig leaf for his abominable activities.
      It says everything about him.

  6. Sam Tallobsky says:

    Gil – Personal attacks are ugly and not needed to make your point.

    Gabrielle – Censorship is not the preferred way and I doubt anyone at Limmud-Oz would be saying it is. Most people would agree that people who advocate violence or fascist viewpoints should not be welcome so there is a line to be drawn somewhere. Across 200 plus sessions Limmud-Oz has a few presenters from Israel that BDS proponents would like to exclude just because they are from Israel. So to me it would just seem odd to put on a programme that includes presenters campaigning against the ability of other presenters to debate and engage with Sydney audiences.

    Indeed G-d did not set these guidelines, just folk trying to do walk a difficult balance. In fact when you read the guidelines (and they are worth a read) the volunteers who put them together seem to be quite aware of their potential for fallibility: “We know what makes sense today may not make sense with different people and different circumstances tomorrow.” (

    I also lived in Israel for a chunk of years and you are also right about the diversity of political opinion but there are not many in Israel who actively supports Boycotts. Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel which is the issue here. You are also right that diaspora communities do not generally represent that diversity and Sydney is not that different – Limmud-Oz does do a pretty good job of reflecting the breadth of political opinion and has a long history of getting criticized from all sides for doing so as far a recollect.

    The Shalom Institute is not Limmud-Oz but I’d be interested to hear in a bit more detail what it has done to alienate members of the Jewish community.


    PS Here is Peter Slezak in Sydney last year:

    • gabrielle gouch says:

      Thanks for your response. And many thanks for the links.

      I strongly disagree with some of Peter Slezak’s opinions and I do not support limitless freedom of speech.

      The talk about Hannah Arendt would not have ruined Israel. And I don’t think it would have frightened the other presenters.

      In 2013, I attended a Limmud Oz presentation by Peter Slezak on Spinoza. Many people came thinking that it would result in a major stoush. It did not. In fact it was very low key and it was only about Spinoza.

      We need to hear a far greater diversity of topics and opinions in Sydney then we have for a number of years. At least cover the diversity of opinions in Israel.

      • Leon Poddebsky says:

        There is a war in progress against the Jewish People in many parts of the world.
        Slezak and his kind are on the wrong side, and you want him invited to a Jewish function?
        If his parents are, indeed, Holocaust survivors, that does not automatically make him a model of virtue. (Mind you, I don’t accept at face value any claim made by him.)
        Many children of Holocaust survivors abhor Slezak’s views and activities.
        So what does his “status” prove?
        Those who exploit the Holocaust in pursuit of the kinds of aims which Slezak has dishonours the victims and the survivors.
        It is disgraceful.

      • Sam Tallobsky says:

        Yes a talk by Peter Slezak clearly will neither impact Israel or frighten anyone. In fact pretty much anything that happens in Australia will not have any impact – we are just not that important. But you are missing the point in terms of how people would go about organising an event in the community.

        That is not the reason his session proposal was rejected. From the report above he fell foul of the guidelines because of his public support for BDS against the State of Israel – a political movement that seeks to exclude voices from Israel being heard here (and by extension at Limmud-Oz).

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        Spinoza is a long dead philosopher, of marginal interest outside academic circles for most Jews, as a consequence a discussion about the Dutchman would hardly raise a sweat.
        The welfare of Israel is a core issue for the vast majority of Jews worldwide, we cannot afford the luxury of allowing a misguided Jew to spew forth his anti Zionist invective at a Jewish forum.
        Parading his parents was a pathetic attempt at self kosherization
        Shame on you Peter!.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Sam, BDS is a weapon in the war for Israel’s destruction.
      You seem to think that its objectives are more limited.

      • Sam Tallobsky says:

        Nope – not sure how you got to that conclusion. Quite aware that some key proponents and drivers of BDS would love to see Israel disappear. But I also understand that other people think that after ~48 years Israelis and Palestinians have shown themselves to be incapable of coming to a substantial agreement and that pressure is needed externally – some of those people believe that pressure on Israel is legitimate just as others think that pressure on the Palestinians is legitimate.

        • Leon Poddebsky says:

          I’ll tell you how I got to that conclusion, Sam: by reading what the leadership and rank and file of BDS proclaim.
          Incidentally, do you know for how long the territorial dispute between India and the Islamic State of Pakistan has been in existence regarding the disputed territories of Kashmir?
          Why no pressure there?
          Why no trash talk about mythical “occupied territories” and garbage gabble about “illegal settlements’?
          Can you work it out, Sam?

        • Leon Poddebsky says:

          Sam, to be specific, why not research the pronouncements of Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS; you know, the one who was funded by Israeli taxpayers to obtain a PhD degree from Tel Aviv University?

          Take his word for it if you don’t take mine.

          • Sam Tallobsky says:

            My comment was not clear enough to be unambiguously understood. My comment “Nope – not sure how you got to that conclusion.” was related to “You seem to think that its objectives are more limited.” and not to “BDS is a weapon in the war for Israel’s destruction.”

        • Paul Winter says:

          Sam, many thanks for showing your true colours.

          You write that some BDS supporters do want to see Israel destroyed, others simply want to pressure Israel to make peace after 48 years.

          Pressure Israel and not put any pressure on the Fakestinians??? Your anti-Zionist prejudice pokes out like Pinnochio’s nose!

          Your prejudice is compounded by (i) ignoring the BDS’s originator’s (Omar BArgouti) statement that it was designed to bring Israel down (ii) ignoring that Israel is not – repeat NOT – guilty of the racist behaviours which brought about the BDS action against South Africa (iii) the repeated offers of land for peace by Israel and the repeated rejection of the Arabs of peace, the recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and their breaking every agreement that they signed, the latest of the joining the ICC with the express purpose of waging lawfare on Israel.

          Your pseudo-intellectualisation reveals you to be nothing but an apologist for Israel bashers and anti-Semites.

          • Sam Tallobsky says:

            Dude you seem a little angry. Given I made aliyah having worked in the Jewish community where I grew up, served in the army (including in the territories), and made a reasonable contribution to Israel, and send my kids to a Jewish school and Zionist youth movements your comments are kind of a bit amusing. You might want to reflect on how you communicate with other folk online.

  7. Gil Solomon says:

    Gabrielle Gouch,

    Spare us your blathering freedom of speech lecture.
    And by the way, it is totally irrelevant if you lived and studied in Israel or have friends and relatives there.

    The facts are that the wider Jewish community in Australia is sick and tired of the likes of the Peter Slezak’s in the community ever being given a platform to air their views on anything ever again, period.

    Being a BDS campaigner, Slezak has aligned himself with those who give support to aiding the economic downfall of Israel and as such has wiped himself off the list of potential presenters at Limmud Oz or any other Jewish organisation.

    It is time that all Jewish organisations declared a permanent ban on Slezak and declared him persona non grata.

    He should just be confined to giving his lectures to those of his academic friends who share his political persuasion.

    • gabrielle gouch says:

      I do not support unlimited freedom of speech and I do not think that a talk about Hannah Arendt will lead to the economic demise of Israel. And therefore I thought that Peter Slezak’s presentation should have been allowed to go forward. Let’s debate him if he has anything controversial to say.

      • Gil Solomon says:


        Some people have selective hearing others wilful selective reading and because we are not speaking face to face, I can only conclude that you, at a minimum, fall into the latter category.

        You totally miss my point.
        The wider Jewish community does not want to see or hear from Peter Slezak ever again let alone debate with him ON ANY TOPIC, controversial or not, or see him up on stage talking about anything.

        I can’t make it any clearer than that.

        So there is no point in you repeating your mantra that “Slezak’s presentation should have been allowed to go forward”.

        Finally, if this is not your real name, kindly have the courage to identify who you are like all the rest of us on this site who do have the courage to say what we say and identify ourselves.

      • Rachel Lustig says:

        Gabrielle, a talk about Hannah Arendt would indeed have been interesting, I myself even thought so at first glance. However the subject of the talk is not the issue – even if he hadn’t mentioned his anti-Israel views at all during the talk. What’s at issue is not legitimising the man who has done so much harm to Israel and influenced so many uninformed Australians to do the same, by giving him a platform at a Jewish event. It’s that simple.

  8. gabrielle gouch says:

    Since when has censorship been preferred to debate in the Jewish community?
    He was not proposing to talk about the BDS, he was proposing to talk about a serious topic (not the BDS) and he should not have been muzzled.

    I acknowledge that you have guidelines, but who has set those guidelines? Not G-d.

    Since Peta Pellach left, Shalom College has encouraged mostly right wing and religious clichés, alienating many Jews.

    I lived and studied in Israel. I have friends and relatives there.
    The opinions of Israelis cover a much wider range than those represented here by the Shalom College hierarchy and their faithful followers.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      Gabrielle, clearly when you use the terms, “right-wing” and “religious”, you simply mean those views with which you do not agree.
      That is not a tolerant attitude.
      You need to respect other people’s views even when you disagree with them.
      To affix labels is not a sign of toleration.
      If you would like to hear anti-Jewish views, I’m sure that Hizb ut Tahrir, hamas, ‘Palestinian Authority’, Fatah, Islamic Jihad et al would welcome you with open arms.
      You see, Gabrielle, there is a whole universe out there, which is able to provide you with an environment devoid of the kind of censorship which you abhor.
      Or you could go the meetings of Socialist Alternative or Palestinian Students for Justice.
      Or better still, enrol in The Peace and Conflict Centre at The University of Sydney. You’d be guaranteed a high distinction there.
      There is a world of uncensored free speech opportunities awaiting you, Gabrielle.

      Peace and justice for all!

      • gabrielle gouch says:

        I respect other people’s opinions, but I have been listening to the Shalom College and Limmud Oz lectures in Sydney for years and I am bored. So are some other people I know. It would be far better to have a greater variety of opinions (at least to mirror those in Israel) and real debate.

        I strongly disagree with some of Peter Slezak’s opinions. I do not support unlimited freedom of speech, but I do not think that censoring a talk about Hannah Arendt is right. Neither would standing up against that censorship qualify me for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Hamas. You might be more at home there, they don’t like debate either.

        • Leon Poddebsky says:

          Dear Gabrielle,

          Limmud Oz is under no obligation to invite any specific, particular person.
          Peter Slezak is not the only applicant whose services Limmud Oz has declined.
          You call it censorship.
          One person’s censorship is another’s judgement. You need to respect that point of view.
          Can you not understand that Slezak’s activities have totally, utterly, irreversibly alienated many people, not just Jews
          You yourself have confessed that you do not believe in “unfettered freedom of speech.” That’s censorship.
          If you are bored by Limmud Oz, I’ve suggested exciting alternatives, lots of them.
          By the way, I couldn’t help laughing at the sense of humour which you demonstrated in your last two sentences about where I would be more at home.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:

      By the way, Gabrielle, if you do insist on using your nomenclature, please note that “the left” supports to the hilt (pun intended) all the organisations which I listed in my previous reply to you, and then some.
      Therefore, entities like Hamas, Hizballah, Hizb ut Tahrir etc etc are left wing organisations. Just ask the Australian Labor Party and some members of the Liberal Party and all the Greens, and, of course, Marrickville Council. They’re all respectable bodies, aren’t they? They’ll give you the unvarnished, uncensored truth, and what’s more, they’ll do it in Newspeak.
      A lot of free speech there and no censorship.

  9. Peter Strasser says:

    This raises the issue of freedom of speech.

    On the other hand,I also have the freedom to avoid the extreme

    agitation of having to listen to or reading about a Jew expressing his
    abhorrent views on Israel

    My thanks to the Board of Limmud Oz for excluding him

  10. Gil Solomon says:

    Ben Berger,

    It’s high time to stop beating about the bush.

    I and many of my friends do not wish to see or hear from Peter Slezak, even if he tries to get on a platform to promote an agenda or topic divorced from BDS.

    The fact that he is a proponent of BDS and a tireless campaigner at that, should be enough for him to be treated as an outcast, certainly never to be invited or allowed to speak at any formal Jewish event.

    Who knows how many people Jew and non-Jew alike he has influenced over the years with his advocacy of this abhorrent movement.

    No doubt some reader will turn around with that tiresome rhetoric preaching to me the value of free speech, diversity etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

  11. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    Professor Slezak, Israel has more moral integrity than that the vast number of nation states.
    If you are worried about moral integrity look within your own academic circles which reek with the odor of duplicitous moral equivalence.

  12. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    Limud Oz made the correct decision.
    We the Jewish people should not give a platform to people who support boycotts of Israel.
    Many or most of these people support the dismantling of the State of Israel.
    The Talmud teaches us that some of our worst enemies come from within.
    Let the good professor self flagellate at university anti Zionist conferences.

  13. Leon Poddebsky says:

    I’m sure that Hizb ut Tahrir would invite him.
    Or Hamas.
    Or the ‘Palestinian Authority.’
    Or the Ku Klux Klan.

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