Elisabeth Sabbaditsch-Wolff sent this information on a speech cancelled in Leeds, for which we owe her a debt of gratitude.
Brooke Goldstein had the rug unceremoniously pulled out from under her forty-eight hours before she was due to appear as an invited speaker at Leeds University. She explains what happened – and why Gates of Vienna was one of the black sheep counted among her flock of questionable associations. [The emphases in her remarks are mine -D]:
I’m obligated to argue in defence of free speech. Members of the Jewish community, namely Leeds University JSoc, the Union of Jewish Students and Jeremy Newmark (the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council), would rather cancel a speech they’ve never heard and publish false accusations against a person they’ve never met, than provide a forum where students may learn about free speech and debate it on its merits.
Yes, knee-jerk fear kills intellectual curiosity. There is nothing so closed as a Leftist mind. It’s a phenomenon we encounter all the time.
Ms. Goldstein continues:
The world is rife with controversy over the Middle East and intimidation of anyone brave enough to speak truth about it. In civil society, controversies can be openly discussed. In repressive societies they cannot. In the extreme, controversies can spark civil uprisings and wars. But should the fear of negative student reaction result in the gagging of free speech on campus? I think not. If the threat of hostility is the new test before airing legal arguments, what freedoms and rights will we protect? Exploring the law shouldn’t get in the way of working towards a deeper understanding in a university environment. Especially in higher academia, one expects to learn from how others think even though they may disagree with their conclusions.
Indeed, “one expects” that, but it doesn’t happen in the rare air of the upper rooms in academe’s Ivory Towers. Ms. Goldstein describes how the parties she mentioned above, “banded together” to make certain she wouldn’t be permitted to speak as scheduled on March 12th. Ironically (what else is new?) the topic was to have been the stifling of free speech in the Middle East. She noted the irony of this situation in passing, but it’s deeper than that. Leftists live lives brimful of unintended and unexamined ironies. This is just one of them.
Yes, there is a singular lack of courtesy exposed here, but it’s simply another commonplace in academia. Ms. Goldstein will say more about the invitation-followed-by-cancellation-without-notification, but first some background on her accomplishments:
I am a New York City-based human rights lawyer, director of two charitable nonprofit organisations and grandchild of Holocaust survivors. I have been invited to brief the White House, State Department, Pentagon, U.S. Central Command and the UK Parliament (thrice) on issues of asymmetric warfare, libel law, and human rights. I’m a regular commentator on television and have published articles in a variety of sources. I’ve worked with Christians and Muslims to defend civil liberties and expose those who violate them.
She describes her experience as a second year law student, risking her life to visit the West Bank to document the indoctrination of little children into violence and death. Her film, “The Making of a Martyr”, won awards and was shown globally. She followed that up with the founding of The Children’s Rights Institute. She says its raison d’être is raising awareness and legally combating the use of children in armed combat.
And, of course, she directs The Lawfare Project, which monitors and responds to the abuse of law as a weapon against liberal democracies. We’re all too sadly familiar with that gambit, especially by Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi provocateurs, who use their considerable wealth to sue folks into silence., a fearful; silence for which the defendants pay dearly in lost time and legal costs.
She explains the experience:
I’ve never been excluded from speaking at any venue or accused of harbouring dangerous views until Leeds JSoc decided to call off my talk. Prior to the event’s cancellation, they never contacted me to discuss the content of my speech. I only heard about the cancellation from a third party 48 hours before I was scheduled to appear. In their published defence, Leeds JSoc did not quote anything I have said or written to justify their cancellation.
The three reasons given for the revocation were that I provided legal services to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, linked to an article about Wilders on a website called “Gates of Vienna”, and that a member of my staff blogged about the controversy surrounding a film entitled “The Third Jihad.”
In the U.S. guilt by association is not permitted by the First Amendment. But obviously, such niceties don’t hold sway in bastions of unfreedom like the University of Leeds. But, you say, why Gates of Vienna? Or rather, that’s what I asked myself. She explains each of her sins:
Governments should not enforce modern-day blasphemy laws that punish offensive speech; this is something for the marketplace of ideas to sort out. Moreover, legal representation does not mean a lawyer assumes the views of her client, no matter how offensive.
Wilders has since been acquitted of all “hate speech” charges by the Dutch government. I’m disappointed Leeds JSoc did not exhibit the intellectual curiosity to contact me and challenge my contentions on one of the most pertinent issues of our time. Namely, what limits can be placed on free speech and what is acceptable criticism of religion in free societies?
Could one infer that Ms. Goldstein does not find the views of Dutch Parliamentarian Wilders congenial to her own ideas? It’s a reasonable question, but I have no clue to her thinking there.
“Gates of Vienna” is a blogging website that, allows “a variety of opinions. Comments made on [the] blog do not necessarily represent the views of the blog’s owners.”
Indeed, that is the legend which appears on our home page, though our sentiments are given in the first person plural, to wit: We allow a variety of opinions here at Gates of Vienna. Comments made on this blog do not necessarily represent the views of the blog’s owners. See that word “allow”? It’s one these students would do well to practice.
Ms. Goldstein responds to this charge:
I think it is ridiculous to argue that I should be held accountable for the entire content of the website, because The Lawfare Project linked to one article. The news page of The Lawfare Project’s website links to hundreds of articles in similar fashion.
She’s right. Her website is a treasure trove of information likely to appeal to conservatives. And there’s the rub, ladies and gentlemen: in the arena of the free exchange of ideas, these law students and their mentors are blinkered from reality, locked into their fears of any contamination which might occur if they entertained ideas which differ from their own agenda. Their behavior is reminiscent of the childhood game of “Cooties” — as in “don’t get your cooties on me”. As I recall, this game was more likely to be engaged in by girls.
Finally, RE the last indictment against her —
The Third Jihad is a film narrated by a Muslim-American doctor that discusses some of the issues we are facing today with Islamist terrorism and the application of Sharia law within Western democracies. Leeds JSoc thinks the film is “despicable and abhorrent”. The Lawfare Project’s blog, authored by a Muslim woman, analyses this precise controversy and is an example of the exchange of ideas that apparently Leeds JSoc wants to shut down.
That’s the point, isn’t it? Don’t engage in ideas, simply label things you don’t like as “despicable”. Why is the film “abhorrent”? Because they say it is. Being a Leftie means you never have to explain your hatreds. They are self-evident to any righteous Leftist. So to speak.
We thank Brooke Goldstein for her defense of our blog. We are pleased that she ‘gets’ what we’re about and isn’t scared off by our associations.
As for the students who blew off her lecture, it’s truly a case of “their loss”.