Hawkish forum opposes left-winger speaking at presidential conference

Organizers say panel on world Jewry must represent everyone

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Peter Beinart (photo credit: CC BY-ND Center for American Progress Action Fund, Flickr)
Peter Beinart (photo credit: CC BY-ND Center for American Progress Action Fund, Flickr)

A right-wing political group called The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel questioned on Monday the participation in Israel’s upcoming presidential conference of a writer who called for a boycott of Israeli products made in the settlements.

Peter Beinart, a professor at City University of New York and editor of the Open Zion blog, created a storm among Jews around the world with the release of his book “The Crisis of Zionism” in which he voiced harsh criticism regarding some of Israel’s policies and called the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.”

Speaking to Army Radio, the Forum said Beinart’s “radical and extreme” opinions should not be aired in such a setting, arguing that inviting Beinart to speak was a statement that his views were legitimate in the eyes of the conference’s organizers — Israel’s president and his staff.

His views are those of “the most radical left,” the forum’s spokesman said, noting that it “welcomes open discussion and criticism, but believes those who doubt Israel’s democracy are beyond the spectrum.”

In response the conference’s director of programming, Tzahi Gavrieli, said a panel titled “What does World Jewry Expect from Israel?” could not ignore the opinions expressed by Beinart, even if they are foreign to most Israelis.

The panel will include a variety of opinions, and Beinart will be joined by Pierre Besnainou who is president of the Foundation of French Judaism and former president of the European Jewish Congress; Abraham Foxman, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League; Alana Newhouse who edits the online Tablet Magazine; and Leon Wieseltier from the New Republic. The session will be mediated by Shmuel Rosner.

The Israeli Presidential Conference is an annual gathering for the discussion of political and social topics. This year’s conference, scheduled to start on Tuesday, will feature topics such as tomorrow’s medicine, Israel’s future borders, Israeli art and also the challenges facing the Jewish Diaspora.

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