January 30, 2012
THE Henley College is being asked to reconsider inviting a controversial Jewish American academic speaker to address students. Norman Finkelstein, who is banned from Israel because of his views on the Palestinian conflict, is due to give the talk next month during a five-day lecture tour of Britain. Dr Finkelstein, the son of a Holocaust survivor, has accused Israel of using the Nazi campaign against Jews to justify its actions against the Palestinians. He has also expressed his support of militant group Hezbollah, which waged war against Israel in 2006. Harvey Rose, chairman of Zionist Federation, which supports Israel, has written to college principal Tom Espley asking him to reconsider the choice of speaker or to add a second more “moderate” speaker. He said: “The federation supports freedom of speech and accepts the right of people to criticise Israel based on an objective review of all the facts. “We also believe that a college should give its students the capacity to think for themselves and the tolerance to listen to all sides of an argument before rationally making up their minds. Furthermore, academic freedom must be exercised responsibly and never suppressed.
“On the basis of these tenets, we would ask you to reconsider the appropriateness of entertaining Norman Finkelstein on your campus.”
Mr Rose also asks Mr Espley to make it clear to the students that Dr Finkelstein will be giving his opinion rather presenting the results of research.
Mr Espley has also received protest letters from teachers.
Dr Finkelstein is due to give his lecture, entitled The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict — Reallity, Human Rights and International Law at Rotherfield Hall on Thursday, February 9.
It is part of a series of lectures at the college, which also include one on the same subject on March 21 to be given by a representative from the Israeli embassy.
Mr Espley said: “The students have organised a series of talks on the Middle East and they came up with the name of Norman Finkelstein.
“In March we have someone from the Israeli embassy coming in to talk so they are having a look at both sides.
“We have had lots of talks on subjects such as global warming and the rights and wrongs of abortion so I don’t know why this has blown up.
“I think our students of 16, 17 and 18 are able to take up these issues and hear different views. It doesn’t mean they will accept them.”
Dr Finkelstein is also due to speak at universities in Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Exeter and at Imperial College, London.