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Oxford Union Is Dead

Alan M. Dershowitz, FrontPageMagazine, Oct. 19, 2007

This is an obituary for the Oxford Union, which claims to be, one of the most famous and distinguished debating societies in the world. The reality is that it is no longer a debating society at all; it has become a propaganda platform for extremist views, primarily of the hard-left. It is now stopped even pretending to present both sides of controversial issues. To be sure it puts forward a façade of balance, by presenting speakers who purport to represent both sides of an issue. But the Oxford Union has become a Potemkin village where a façade of fairness serves as a cover for the reality of bias. Consider for example a debate that is scheduled to take place at the Oxford Union on October, 23 2007 at 8:30pm. The proposition before the house is as follows: "This house believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict"

Every rational person knows that the so-called one-state solution is simply a way of achieving by demography what the Arab world has failed to achieve by military attacks: namely the destruction of Israel as a democratic, secular, Jewish state. A one-state solution would produce yet another Islamic fundamentalist state in place of the secular democracy that is now Israel. The resolution is simply another way of presenting an anti-Israel side (the one-state solution) and a pro-Israel side (the two-state solution). Not surprisingly the three debaters on the anti-Israel side are three well known anti Israel extremists. No problem there, because the one state side is the anti-Israel side. As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the new republic put it: "A bi-national state is not the alternative for Israel. It is an alternative to Israel."

Now let's turn to the pro-Israel side. One of three speakers on the pro-Israel side is Peter Tatchell who is a member of the gay rights group called Out Rage! and of the extreme left wing of the green party. He too is virulently anti-Israel and favors boycotts of the "the oppressive Israel state." Yet the Oxford Union picked him to represent the pro Israel side, probably because he once opposed boycotting a gay rights march in Israel. I couldn't find any record of Tatchell proposing boycotts of "oppressive" Muslim states, even those that execute gays. And he's the pro-Israel advocate!

Yet compared to the next debater for the pro Israel side, Tatchell sounds like David Ben Gurion. Readers of this article will probably not believe it when I tell them who else was picked to represent the pro Israel side by the benighted Oxford Union (after I turned down an invitation because of the "when did you stop beating your wife" terms of the debate and my proposed teammates). The pro Israel debater is none other than the notorious Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Semitic bigot who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany, saying "[I] can't imagine why Israel's apologists would be offended by a comparison with the Gestapo." This failed academic, who was fired from several universities for substandard scholarship, emotional instability and abusing students who disagreed with his extreme anti-Israel views, was recently denied tenure and fired by DePaul University. Finkelstein is beloved by Neo-Nazis such as Ernst Zundel, who credits Finkelstein for helping to promote Holocaust denial. Finkelstein is also an open supporter of Hezbollah, which advocates the destruction of Israel. He has called Israeli supporters, including me, "war criminals"

Yet by the standards of the Oxford Union, Norman Finkelstein is regarded as a pro Israel "scholar" - at least in this debate. Just last May, the same Finkelstein was selected to debate the anti-Israel side of the proposition: "This House believes the pro-Israeli lobby has successfully stifled Western debate about Israel's action." Considering the locus of the debate - and its sponsor (the Arab nation of Qatar) - it is not surprising that the proposition won overwhelmingly, despite its demonstrable falsehood. Truth plays little role in Oxford Union debates.

Will Oxford's next debate be on whether the Holocaust occurred? And will they select as their debater in favor of the occurrence of the Holocaust the notorious Holocaust denier, David Irving? That would not be surprising since Norman Finkelstein and David Irving are cut from the same cloth and Finkelstein admires the Hitler-loving Irving. Wait! The Oxford Union just announced that David Irving has been invited to participate in a future debate. Recently Irving said that Jews were responsible for what happened to them during WWII (though he has denied that anything really bad happened to them) and that the "Jewish problem" was at the root of most of the wars of the last 100 years. That - plus his total discreditation as a scholar - would seem to qualify him, by Oxford standards, for defending the Holocaust. Perhaps his debate partner will be David Duke.

The Oxford Union: may it rest in peace, along side Pravda and other departed purveyors of "truths," Stalin-style.

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