Paul Goard in Quadrant back in August discussed the way Tosschweigentaktik is used to promote an agenda and stifle opposition.

Goard states  “Although the translation of the verb “totschweigen” is given as “to be silent, to hush up,” and hence to “ignore,” it describes, as in the literary world, the tactics used to prevent the person targeted from expressing his or her opinion and to kill their book and reputation.”  In his article, Goard focuses on how the Global Warming Sceptics were initially prevented from publishing their work, and their views were suppressed.

I was reminded of it when I read on the Daphne Anson blog how Prof Geoffrey Alderson was initially invited to speak on a panel about the Middle East at the annual Belfast Festival at Queens University, but 3 days beforehand, the invitation was summarily withdrawn.  As Anson points out, it is a case of belated blackballing and suppression of free speech for a pro-Israel position.

Graeme Farrow, Director of the Belfast Festival, initially expressed his delight at Alderson joining the panel, but according to Alderson “Farrow explained that he had made “a mistake in agreeing to extend an invitation to you Geoffrey without consulting the academics in question”.  The anti-Israel academics whose sensibilities were offended and were no doubt dismayed at having to contend with a pro-Israel panelist, were Avi Shlaim, Professor at Oxford, who according to Anson “lived in Israel during his childhood and adolescence and “ranks with Ilan Pappe as one of the most active serial defamers of Israel in British academic circles today.”  and another anti-Israel panellist, Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards.

As Professor Alderson writes in the Jewish Chronicle  “Issued on 20 September, the invitation was peremptorily withdrawn on 15 October. And it was withdrawn (let’s be absolutely clear on this point too) after objections from Oxford professor Shlaim and Belfast professor Milton-Edwards.  I know this because Mr Farrow told me so, in the presence of Mr Steven Jaffe (co-chair of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel) in the lounge of the Europa Hotel, Belfast, on the afternoon of Monday 18 October, and because Professor Shlaim also told me so at a meeting he and I had at the same hotel later that afternoon.  I told Professor Shlaim what I told Mr Farrow and what I am now telling you: that I had come to Belfast to be a member of the panel that evening, and that I found the alternative Mr Farrow had offered – of a reserved seat in the audience and the privilege of asking the first question – to be an unmitigated insult.  Either I would attend as per the invitation – to be on the panel – or I would not attend at all.  In the event I did not attend at all.” 

“The blame for this, and for the consequent deluge of negative publicity that has fallen upon the Belfast Festival, lies squarely with Queen’s University.  It does not lie with professors Shlaim and Milton-Edwards. We can berate them (as I am sadly inclined to do) for their small-mindedness, for their lack of collegiality, even for their arrogance. But the fact that they were permitted to veto my participation in the panel was due entirely to the university administration.  The mission statement of Queen’s University celebrates its promotion of “an environment of equality, tolerance and mutual respect.” I was shown none of these courtesies. But – believe me – I do not weep for myself. I weep, instead, for the university and those who work and study within it.”

What a disgrace both for Queen’s University, Belfast .. and Oxford University, England. To think that Oxford would tolerate behaviour like this from one of its academics!

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