Boycott Israel Meeting Bars Jewish Reporter

Philadelphia’s Jewish newspaper is in a flap with organizers of a boycott, divestment and sanctions conference over the disinvitation of one of its reporters from the event.

Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent published an article on its website Friday reporting that organizers of the National BDS Conference had barred the paper from covering the Feb. 3-5 conference at the University of Pennsylvania – a charge that a conference organizer denied.

“It is ironic that a group that purports to be interested in open dialogue, is operating under the cover of free speech and insists it is not anti-Semitic, is barring the only Jewish news outlet in town from covering the conference,” Lisa Hostein, The Jewish Exponent’s executive editor, said in an article published on the paper’s website.

The conference is being sponsored by a student group, Penn BDS, with the stated goal of advancing the BDS movement so as to “bring an end to Israel’s system of oppression, segregation and dispossession.”

Matt Berkman, a conference organizer and University of Pennsylvania graduate student, said one of the paper’s reporters had been denied press credentials because organizers felt that his previous articles were biased against them.

Berkman had emailed the reporter on Wednesday saying that organizers were “disinviting” him, citing an earlier article he had written for The Jewish Exponent titled “BDS Reveals its Real Agenda.”

In correspondence with Hostein, Berkman had written that another Jewish Exponent reporter, whose coverage he felt had been fairer, was welcome to attend.

Hostein told JTA that Berkman’s offer for the other reporter to attend was “totally disingenuous.”

She said that Berkman knew the other reporter was out of town and that “nobody has the right to tell a news outlet who should or should not cover an event.”

Berkman said that conference organizers would be open to possibly allowing a different Jewish Exponent reporter to cover the conference.

“They have not proposed an alternative, and if they do we will discuss it,” he told JTA a few hours before the conference was set to kick off on Friday.

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