An interesting lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people which doesn’t relate to my colleague Toby Young. And also an interesting lesson about the nature of appeasement.
Last month the Union of Jewish Students asked if I would speak last night in Gateshead on a panel at the National Union of Students (NUS) conference. As readers can imagine, other than pulling out your teeth in Weymouth this is just about the last thing anybody would want to do. But these are bad times on campuses. As we were reminded on Christmas Day, British universities have become one of the central international hubs for spreading the grievance ideology of radical Islam. Every week radical preachers are invited onto campuses by Islamic societies (under the umbrella of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies). Among the speakers they invite are people who indulge in the most flagrant anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
In recent years FOSIS has hosted at their annual conference speakers who have said of Jews: “They’re all the same. They’ve monopolised everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions… they monopolised tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice. A Jew is generally allowed to kill a non-Jew without fear of punishment.”
Some years back FOSIS had as their ‘distinguished guest speaker’ …. Anwar al-Awlaki, inspiration to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber from University College London. FOSIS’s then-”distinguised guest” is currently on the run in the Yemen with a “kill-or-capture” order on him courtesy of President Obama.
Well anyway, I was perfectly happy to travel up to sunny Gateshead to do a panel alongside Wes Streeting, the head of the NUS and anyone else the UJS wanted along with me to have this matter out. Until I got a call last week…
The girl from the UJS on the other end of the phone explained that there had been a change of plan. The UJS had decided that it would be nice if the panel was done in association with FOSIS. Er, OK, I said. Though FOSIS are the problem, as you know… Whilst claiming to speak for Muslim students as a whole they have in fact repeatedly been shown to at best represent a highly conservative and marginal portion of their faith.
“Yes, we know all this” she said, but anyway, they wanted to go ahead. And there was still better news. FOSIS had agreed to do the event with them. But on one condition.
“Oh yes,” I said. Why could I guess what was coming.
“They’ll only do it as long as you don’t speak.”
Naturally. Welcome to the world of FOSIS “debate”.
Anyhow – as a result, and I’ve got to admit, this does have its upside – I did not have to spend the evening with a bunch of students in Gateshead.
But it has left me wondering. Of course FOSIS don’t want to debate with me. They have such a terrible track-record that if I were them I wouldn’t want to appear against a critic who knew what my organisation had been up to in recent years either.
But what of the UJS? If the Union of Jewish students wants to take dictation for their events from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, one wonders what they think FOSIS will ever do in return. Does the favour get reciprocated do we think? Are they going to vet any speaker that Jewish students don’t like? Or are these students just going to have to learn the hard way that in this matter, as in so many others, “tolerance”, “openness” and a respect for free speech are currently very much a one-way street.