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UCT conference opposed to unsubstantiated claims and antisemitism

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As the initiator and organiser of the conference “Jews in South Africa: New Directions in Research”, I was surprised that neither David Kaplan nor the South African Zionist Federation contacted me to express their concerns or to understand the context and aims of the conference.
by Shirli Gilbert, Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College London | Oct 15, 2020

The panel on which Mitchel Hunter will speak aims to explore public representations of South African Jews – for example, in museum exhibitions, outreach work, and history writing – and analyse the dynamics that shape what those representations look like. In this context, Hunter will present his MA research on South African Jews before the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Any inconsistencies, unsubstantiated claims, or indeed politically-driven partialities in Hunter’s paper will be probed and challenged, just as they would with any other academic paper. Serious academic work is premised on rigorous research and open debate, as both my co-organiser, Adam Mendelsohn, and our longstanding colleague, Milton Shain, made clear in your article. It’s unclear how the petition’s demand to curtail the academic freedom exercised at the conference aligns with its stated purpose of defending academic freedom at the University of Cape Town.

Though it shouldn’t need emphasising, University College London and the Institute of Jewish Studies reject antisemitism in any form, whether related to Israel or not. Should that line be crossed at the conference, it will be dealt with robustly.


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