Why does the Oxford Union think that freedom of speech only applies to fascists?

One thing I didn’t realise regarding the latest Oxford Union debacle is that this comes just a month after those heroic defenders of free speech denied Norman Finklestein a platform to criticise Israel:

Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians surely cannot be described as balanced by any stretch of the imagination. The Biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” is grisly enough, but Israel goes even farther by its habitual practice of exacting an eye for an eyelash! As Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians becomes more heavy-handed and violent, the very notion of balance needs to be re-examined. Luke Tryl displayed neither wisdom nor courage in dealing with these broader issues and he eventually caved in to the pressure. On 19 October, four days before the debate, he curtly informed Finkelstein that his invitation was rescinded.

Perhaps Jonny or someone could explain to me why they appear to be supporting one rule for Jewish anti-Zionists but another rule for people who would happily march them into the gas chambers?

UPDATE: Mea culpa – I goofed. In the original version of this article I portrayed Norman Finkelstein as a Zionist, which was completely, 180 degree arse-over-backwards, something which I knew at the back of my mind but at the time had my mind on another article (ahem). With that said, far from weakening my argument, this actually makes it stronger as it shows how the Oxford Union is only a fair weather friend of freedom of speech. Thanks to Barry Stocker for pointing this out and letting me minimise the degree by which I managed to make a tit out of myself.


  1. Dear James. You have got this completely wrong. Finkelstein is a militantly anti-Zionist Jew who has published many texts strongly condemning Israel and pro-Israeli groups. Quite famously he was recently denied tenure at De Paul university in Chicago, under fierce pressure from the Anti Defamation League (very Israeli orientated group) and Alan Dershowitz, a pro-Israeli law professor at Harvard and well known polemicist/media intellectual. This case raised very serious free speech issues about the right of academics to criticise Israel. You really should consider modifying/deleting this post.

    best wishes


  2. Actually you’re still wrong. But then so was the Oxford Union character (probably that Tryl guy again) who had invited him to speak on the Israeli side in a debate until it was pointed out that er well he’s anti zionist actually.
    You obviously don’t have to be politically clued up to be a President of the Oxford Union just a self publicist.

  3. I doubt anyone is still reading this, but I just happened upon it and would like to point out that Norman Finkelstein is not an anti-zionist by almost any definition. He has always stated that he is committed to a two-state solution. Given that one of these states would be a Jewish one, that would make him a Zionist by most understandings of the word. Criticising Israel’s actions is not the same as anti-Zionism, which is the belief that Jewish people should have their own state. “Militantly anti-Zionist” is a poor description of Finkelstein’s postion – he is neither. The initial post was fine.

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