Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Blackballed by the Belfast Festival: pro-Israel scholar Professor Geoffrey Alderman

“He’s a Zionist – get him out of here!” A hiss of that sort, presumably, was the reason that a distinguished British historian had his invitation to speak at this year’s Belfast Festival removed – and at the eleventh hour! A case, no less, of belated blackballing and suppression of free speech  (hat tip: Jonathan Hoffman, over at blogs) that can best be described as shameful and squalid.

The Queen’s University of Belfast hosts the Belfast Festival, which last year, if I'm not mistaken,  featured Noam Chomsky as a speaker. In the lead-up to this year’s event, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor noted with pleasure that “The content and subjects [to be] portrayed address topics such as the feminism, teenage life and the war on terror. There is hard hitting drama, invigorating music, spectacular dance and a series of exquisite talks and tours. The Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s truly has something for everybody.”

One of the speakers who were lined up to participate at the event is Professor Geoffrey Alderman, who has had an illustrious academic career.  The author of a number of pioneering works on the evolution of the Anglo-Jewish community, he is a regular columnist – pungent and pugnacious – in Britain’s leading Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle.

On 20 September this year Professor Alderman received an email from Graeme Farrow, Director of the Belfast Festival, inviting him to join a panel convened to discuss “Conflict in the Middle East”, and due to take place on the evening of Monday, 18 October – last evening, in fact. “I would be delighted if you would join our panel”, wrote Mr Farrow, and Professor Alderman was pleased to accept the invitation.

Imagine the professor’s bewilderment when, on the afternoon of Friday, 15 October 2010, he received a message rescinding the invitation. In his own words, as quoted by Jonathan Hoffman: ‘I was shocked to receive an email from Mr. Farrow informing me that “a mistake” had been made in extending the invitation to me and that although I could join the audience the event was to go ahead without my panel participation. In effect, I was being “disinvited.” In a series of email exchanges with Mr. Farrow I refused to accept this situation, and I have made it clear to him that I intend to travel to Belfast ... and shall expect to participate fully as a member of the panel. I am frankly appalled at the way I have been treated, for which I hold Queen’s University, Belfast, responsible.’

As good as his word, Professor Alderman travelled to Belfast yesterday. According to the Jewish Chronicle (18 October), Farrow explained that he had made “a mistake in agreeing to extend an invitation to you Geoffrey without consulting the academics in question”. The paper reported that 'following a meeting with Mr Farrow early this afternoon, Professor Alderman said he had given the organisers three options: to allow him to join the panel and if his fellow-panellists were to object, "they could stay away": to let him to take part while sitting on a separate table: or simply to call off the event.'

But his attempts to reach a modus vivendi were unavailing. The discussion proceeded without him. Significantly, the two panellists who took part – having not been subject to blackballing like Professor Alderman – are two academics not known for their glowing tenderness towards Israel. Baghdad-born Professor Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford, who lived in Israel during his childhood and adolescence, ranks with Ilan Pappe as one of the most active serial defamers of Israel in British academic circles today.  An insight into his attitude may be read here:

The other panellist, Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, of the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast, has authored such works as The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: a People's War and, very recently, Hamas: The Islamic Resistance Movement. She helped to found Conflicts Forum, advocates dialogue with Hamas, and on 2 September this year gave an interview on that theme to BBC Radio with not a hint of Hamas’s antisemitic Charter. In fact, Hamas almost came across as “Mother Theresa”, to invoke the words of that wonderful Latma song, “We Con the World”! For more about Professor Milton-Edwards see

Blogged Jonathan Hoffman last evening: "Professor Alderman is now sitting in the hotel in Belfast while the meeting proceeds at the University. He was unable to negotiate his presence on the Panel and unable to get the meeting cancelled in view of the disgusting violation of free speech. Please protest now about this outrage to the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Peter Gregson: Executive PA: Mrs Fionnuala Newton - (0)28 9097 5134; Secretary Mrs Monica Salomeia (0)28 9097 3131
E-mail: "


  1. the socialist workers/pro-palestinians have too much clout at QUB

  2. Were Shlaim and Edwards party to silencing him -looks that way, what can they be afraid of.

  3. The implication is indeed that the two other panellists objected to his presence, and it's certainly troubling that their apparent wish was granted. If extreme left anti-Israel elements were also at work, then how despicable of the Festival to kowtow to them.

  4. Anonymous, thanks for the link to the Belfast Telegraph. I've just had a look at it, and was struck by this comment from someone on there (which refers to the photo of Professor Milton-Edwards that I include in my post; it's from her university profile):

    "In her Queens University website picture, Beverley Milton Edwards stands before some pro-Palestinian Belfast graffit. Wholly in view is Make Love not War, with a Palestinian flag:

    The other side, which she partly obscures, has the other or related part of the message. I think it says: They don’t let Jews like Jesus into the Knesset. Admittedly that is only a guess. But it is the kind of crude Republican depiction of Zionism versus Palestinians you find in Belfast."

  5. Is there some other way to contact you?

    This you have to watch to believe. Islamic superheroes with the powers of Allah - really.

  6. Ian, daphne dot anson at gmaildotcom

  7. Great stuff again. The Fascist Left is indeed
    alive and well in Belfast. Herbert S.

  8. It looks that way, Herbert. The far left and their strange bedfellows are the most menacing totalitarians of today!

  9. Not directly related, but I recommend this post:

  10. Update, courtesy of CiFWatch:
    The following further statement is issued by Professor Geoffrey Alderman:
    On 28 October I received from the Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Peter Gregson, an email endorsing, on behalf of the University, the “full and unreserved apology” I had received orally from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Mr Graeme Farrow.
    I have accepted this apology.
    I can confirm that the events that resulted in my being “disinvited” from participation in a panel discussion ["Conflict in the Middle East"] that took place as part of the Belfast Festival on 18 October are being investigated by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in accordance with their procedures, and I await the outcome of this investigation.
    I am grateful for the tremendous support I have received over this matter, especially from the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, from Professor Lord Bew (of Queen’s University) and from Mr. Nelson McCausland, Northern Ireland’s Minister of Culture.
    London 1 November 2010


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