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Australian Limmud Scraps Controversial Panel

Limmud Oz, an offshoot of the international festival of Jewish learning, cancelled a panel featuring several controversial Jewish speakers for its upcoming conference in Melbourne.

The Jewish panelists no longer speaking, though they initially appeared on the Limmud Oz website, include Vivienne Porzsolt, a spokeswoman for Jews Against the Occupation who was detained in Israel last year en route to the flotilla to Gaza, and who recently marched in Sydney alongside Hezbollah supporters; Avigail Abarbanel, who renounced her Israeli citizenship in 2001; and Dr. Peter Slezak, a co-founder of the far-left Independent Australian Jewish Voices.

Although Limmud Oz officials have declined to comment on the controversy, they appear to have decided that the panel about “Beyond Tribal Loyalties” – a new book of essays by dissenting Jewish peace activists from America, Israel, Australia and elsewhere – was beyond the pale because many of its speakers support boycotting Israel.

The program, which includes some 200 presentations from about 150 speakers, still includes sessions featuring the president of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network, a representative of the Islamic Council of Victoria, as well as a Palestinian academic.

The decision sparked mass debate in the blogosphere, with one blogger describing it as the latest example of a “culture of censorship within the Australian Jewish community,” while another defended Limmud Oz, saying it “includes sessions on the Holocaust, but need not include sessions that promote Holocaust denial.”

Limmud in Australia began in 1999 and now rotates annually between Sydney and Melbourne, drawing about 1,000 participants each year.

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