By Michelle Huberman, A Middle East commentator
Another week of infighting and smearing within the community. This time the forces are trying to silence Israeli academic Dr Mordechai Kedar.
He is an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and a lecturer at Bar-ilan university. He speaks fluent Arabic and is a pleasure to watch on Arab TV channels (subtitled on YouTube) making mincemeat of his opponents with his expert knowledge of Islam and Middle Eastern culture.
With our community always short on good advocates, the Zionist Federation brought him back to the UK on a lecture tour of Jewish schools and synagogues, as well as having him as their star guests at their training day last weekend.
But before he had even touched down on British soil, the BOD whiffed that he had previously spoken at an event organised by Pamela Geller, an American Jewess who speaks out against Islamists, and who was banned from Britain last year in a move supported by the Board of Deputies.
Since the new government regulations on British values and tolerance introduced in the wake of the Trojan horse affair in Birmingham, the BOD were worried that Dr Kedar might be too political for the schools and persuaded the ZF to cancel these talks.
However, in a surprising move, and allegedly under pressure from the Board, both HGS United synagogue and the Spanish and Portuguese in Maida Vale cancelled his talk too.
But there was no stopping Brighton and Hove Reform synagogue, and Rabbi Andrea Zanardo said afterwards “His lecture was fascinating. I learnt important things e.g. why the Israeli Arab parties don’t merge easily. I feel sorry for all the British Jews who have been denied the chance to learn from a scholar of such a deep insight, only because of what looks like a smearing campaign. You should know that lashon hara kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told”. And in a surprising move, Kinloss United (the former home of current chief Rabbi Mirvis) decided to cancel too.
A disappointed local resident decided to take immediate action and converted her Temple Fortune home into a mini lecture hall.
Out was the dining room table and in were 50 chairs crammed into her ‘L’ shaped lounge.
The guests had come by word of mouth, and many were teenagers (who would never normally be at these events) bustling to hear the guy who was banned from talking to them.
All this publicity about cancelling him had a reverse effect and had increased their interest in him. I can well imagine that had he turned up at their school they would have been yawning and fidgeting throughout.
Dr Kedar’s talk was entitled: Peace in the Middle East. Is there really a chance that we can achieve it? He discussed his Israeli peace plan referred to as the “Palestinian Emirates” or “Eight State Solution” According to Dr Kedar, “The eight-state solution is based on the sociology of the Middle East, which has the tribe as the major corner stone of society. We should follow this characteristic of Middle Eastern culture as the basis for the Israeli-Palestinian solution.”
He notes that the Western-style nation-state structures imposed on regions inhabited by multiple tribes such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya are failed or failing, whereas states based on homogenous tribes such as the UAE can succeed. Each Emirate would govern its city and surrounding land. He’d discussed it with the Arab leader of Hebron (he showed the audience photos of his visit) and this is where it would pilot and prove that it works.
His vision is a patchwork quilt of Arab and Jewish towns throughout the region, trading and interacting peacefully to promote regional stability and wealth creation, and protected from the Islamic State and other external threats by Israel.
This proposal also satisfies Israeli security concerns, retaining strategic depth and minimising the threat of rockets or terror tunnels. And economy minister Naftali Bennet is taking many of his components into his own plan.
On my way home I encountered someone from one of the big Jewish organisations who told me “Dr Kedar is a racist and it was right he should have been banned.” I strongly disagree and his opponents should have been there to challenge him.
Anyone who had taken the time to listen to him could accuse him of many things, possibly too much optimism. But racism?
Not in our lecture.