THE Limmud-Oz board was this week considering pulling a planned session with outspoken Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Dr Peter Slezak from the three-day education festival in Sydney next month.
A spokesperson for the board said that the co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, who wasn’t permitted to address Limmud-Oz in 2011 or its Melbourne counterpart in 2012, was this year accepted for a session, “The Wicked Son – Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew”, on the condition that he would not discuss Israel.
“The Limmud board decided that, where possible, it would ‘play the ball, not the person’ and assess sessions primarily based on their proposed content rather than the presenter,” the spokesperson said.
“Limmud-Oz acknowledges that many people in the community virulently disagree with Slezak’s views and feel antagonistic towards him.”
However, Slezak told The AJN this week that Israel would be a part of his presentation.
“I never agreed not to discuss Israel,” Slezak said.
“I’m talking about self-hating Jews and the source of my problems are problems with Israel.
“They want to make sure I don’t say something scandalous. It’s no secret I want to talk about Israel.”
In the wake of Slezak’s comments, The AJN contacted the Limmud-Oz board. The spokesperson said that if the conditions reached between the two parties were breached, then they would have to discuss how to proceed.
At the time of going to press, it was unclear how the Limmud-Oz board would handle the situation. But senior members of the community confirmed the board would be meeting to consider cancelling the session.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said Slezak should not be provided a platform.
“While everyone has the right to freely express their views, that does not impose an obligation on others to provide them with an opportunity to do so.
“If Dr Slezak has given a commitment to not speak about Israel, but now insists on doing so, it would be highly offensive to the mainstream Jewish community if his session were to take place.
“It is our view that this would not be an educational session and would therefore fall outside the guidelines of Limmud, and communal policy.”
Zionist Council of NSW honorary life president Ron Weiser said that in 2011 the Limmud-Oz organisers decided not to give Slezak a platform and they should have stuck by that policy.
“I’m extremely puzzled by this development after the issue arose in 2011,” Weiser said.
“The decisive action that the Shalom Institute took in 2011, I had assumed, ended the matter then, and into the future.”
Limmud-Oz will be held from June 8-10.
JOSHUA LEVI AND SOPHIE WEISZ
Dr Peter Slezak.