On 17 May, there was a lecture at the University of Antwerp entitled ‘Decolonization of Palestine: Conversations after the Unity Intifada’. A philosophy student Shifra S. and her friend Jonath Y. decided to attend this lecture and signed up. What they saw and heard was a one-sided story, with no possibility of introducing a critical motword.
Upon arrival, participants received a colored note – Shifra and Jonath received a blue note. It turned out that it placed them in the ‘discriminated group’, where they were assigned the worst seats all evening and were worse at keeping up with the speakers. Not really a successful experiment, because was it really meant that some of those present could not keep up with the content in a proper way?
Rector, Professor Herman Van Goethem, gave a welcome speech. In it, he stated that although he stands up for the rights of the Palestinians, a university is not a place to pursue politics. He also explained that collaboration at the academic level is much more effective than boycott. He made it clear that he was in favor of a two-state solution. And although he also spoke of “colonization,” his speech was generally moderate.
Meyrem Kitir (Vooruit), Minister for Development Cooperation and Urban Policy in Belgium, gave the opening speech in poor English – she always spoke, among other things, of Palestinians instead of Palestinians. She reported on her recent (unilateral) visit to the Palestinian territories. She spoke of the oppression of the Palestinians, the discrimination and the senseless violence. Israel was not mentioned by her, despite the fact that Israelis have recently been ravaged daily by terrorist attacks in recent weeks.
She said she had spoken to the Prime Minister of “Palestine” and that he was ready to resume talks with Israel, which gave her hope. For she, too, made it clear that her government was striving for a two-state solution.
Finally, Mahar Musleh, Palestinians educational researcher and organizer of the event, the floor. She quickly poked the “i” with the bold statement that she was AGAINST a two-state solution. She spoke of injustice and violence against the Palestinians and accused Israel of mass murder. She asked for a minute of silence for the Palestinian victims who had been “murdered” in the last few weeks. She did not mention the nineteen Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorist acts in Israel in recent months.
Even then, it was clear that there was no “conversation” at all, but that the organizers would conduct a one-sided “monologue” and preserve only the facts that suited the anti-Israel narrative.
In another room, there was a conversation with various speakers. A certain Max de Ploeg quoted a quote from Hannah Arendt there. He was talking about Eichmann, whose name he initially did not quite remember. Serious? Are you abusing the Shoah to convince others of your narrative? In waking terms, one would no doubt grant or ‘cultural appropriation’. According to the wake movement, Jews do not seem to belong to the “discriminated” category.
F * university
A certain Philsan Osman, a student at Ghent University, started his speech with a quarrel at the University of Antwerp because the university had made it clear that it did not want to interfere in politics. She repeatedly shouted “f *** university”. Shifra then asked aloud if Principal Van Goethem was still present. It turned out he was not there anymore. Shifra then rightly remarked that these are not ways to offend the university that gave her a forum in such a way. A male voice from the audience shouted in agreement: “she is right”. And then Mrs. Osman became completely hysterical. She screamed repeatedly “no, no, no …” This was HER moment, and how did Shifra dare to disturb this? Then one of the organizers approached both ladies with the announcement that she would be allowed to ask questions at the end of this part. Nothing was further from the truth, for the session ended with the excuse that there was no more time for questions.
Afterwards, the audience was taken to a small cinema room, where “In addition to 19 hours”, An interactive video about the experiences of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli prison in Ashkelon. There was no mention of the background of these Palestinians or the reason for their imprisonment.
After this, some more speakers spoke, but there was never time for questions from the floor. The public was therefore left hungry and never had the opportunity to ask material questions. Relevant questions such as: “The organizers kept talking about 74 years of colonization of Palestine. What was Palestine then in those 74 years? Was it not a colonized area under the British and Ottomans? What did the speakers really mean by the concept of colonization? From what point in history did this colonization begin? Can Jews colonize a land they came from historically? And when the preference for a one-state solution was clear at the event, where should the Jews go in one Palestine from the river to the sea† What exactly did the latter mean?
Lack of dialogue
When the attendees had to move to another room again, Shifra approached the organizer Mahar Musleh. She expressed in a very calm way her reservations about the total lack of dialogue throughout the event. And then Mrs. Musleh hissed with rage! She said she did not want a dialogue. According to her, there was no room for that anymore, certainly not because murder was committed. When Shifra made her aware that there were deaths on both sides, she replied that it was not true. According to her, therefore, there were no deaths on the Israeli side. A good example of denial. People who wanted a dialogue were not welcome, she said. The event was only for those who wanted to take active action against colonization. And then she closed the door to the next room in front of Jonath and Shifra, with the clear signal: you are no longer welcome here.
In response to the invitation from Tom Van Grieken (Vlaams Belang) to a guest lecture at Leuven University, Rector Herman Van Goethem replied in The standards as follows: “At the University of Antwerp, all opinions can be discussed as long as they remain within the limits of criminal law. Our professors can invite politicians from all parties, provided that their arrival fits into the context of the public debate, that there is sufficient opposition and that students are allowed to ask critical questions† A politician is not meant to have a forum to rhetorically overwhelm an auditorium. ”
In the lecture on ‘Decolonizing Palestine: Conversations after the Unity Intifada’ in UAntwerp, the organizers explicitly stated that there was no room for debate and that no criticism could be made. In addition, the organizers ostensibly closed the door to the venue for the next event for those who dared to ask a question. Hopefully, the rector will be consistent, and organizations that do not tolerate contradictions will no longer have a forum for their political activities at his university.
And Minister Kitir will also in the future do her homework better by orienting herself on the nature of the events she has been invited to as a lecturer. Because a Belgian minister representing our country does not belong in an event that demonizes a friendly country and that repels any kind of nuance or objectivity.
And finally this: Shifra and Jonath were originally classified in the group ‘discriminated’, so to speak, to feel for themselves what it means to be discriminated against. Well, in the end, it’s really like that – when the door to the next event was closed in front of them.
Such a thing was common in Antwerp 80 years ago.