Israel partisans work to block South Dakota lectures – World Affairs Council caves, others go forward

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Israel partisans are attempting to censor talks on the Israeli-Palestinian issue scheduled to take place around South Dakota next week. The South Dakota World Affairs Council has given into the pressure and pulled its sponsorship of one of the talks, but other lectures are going forward as scheduled, at least so far.

The talk is by former journalist Alison Weir, who is president of the Council for the National Interest (CNI), which is now sponsoring the talk. CNI is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization founded 20 years ago by former Congressmen and ambassadors to work for Middle East policies not dominated by special interests. Former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk is on the board of directors.

Weir is also executive director of If Americans Knew, a nonprofit think tank that specializes in media analysis and providing facts and statistics on Israel-Palestine.

Both organizations emphasize that it is particularly essential that Americans be well informed on Israel-Palestine since U.S. taxpayers have given more money to Israel than to any other country, currently over $8 million per day. Over the years, American taxpayers have outright given Israel well over $100 billion. Some analysts place additional costs at over a trillion dollars.

While some World Affairs Council leaders say that Weir’s talk would be valuable and that her work is excellent, the Council decided that it could not afford to antagonize those members of the Israel Lobby who wished the talk to be canceled.

Abourezk, who at one time was a member of the National Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council, says, “The World Affairs Council has never before required such ‘balance.’” Never the less, Weir and Abourezk suggested possible pro-Israel speakers that the Council could invite to debate Weir, but were told the cancellation was a “done deal.” One of the critics of the talk had already been invited to speak but had declined to do so.

“This is outrageous. “The National World Affairs Council would never have countenanced a censorship effort such as this.”

In an email to Weir and Abourezk canceling the event, the Council said concerns had been raised about the need for “nonpartisan balance” in the event, but that there was insufficient time or resources to select an additional speaker.  Weir offered to provide people with opposite views, but that offer was rejected by the Council in Brookings.

Among those who complained to the Council was retired South Dakota State University Professor Harry Greenbaum. Weir says Augustana Professor Murray Haar has also pressured campuses not to allow Weir to speak. She says some Israel partisans have also pressured the media not to cover it.

Weir will also be speaking at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion on Sept. 25th, the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum on Sept. 27th, and at some other venues.