Foreign Ministry cooking another one-sided ‘open forum’, this time in — Kaunas




O P I N I O N

by Dovid Katz

Yet again, Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is misinvesting assets in cooking up one-sided events that are designed to pose as open and honest forums for a variety of opinions, treating audiences as if they were idiots who will not notice something is amiss.

It happened most recently in London, where large sums were lavished on a February event that was exposed for what it was in the Jewish Chronicle, the Jerusalem Post, and on DefendingHistory.com, notwithstanding the naive partners found in London’s Jewish circles, and the ambitious academics naturally susceptible to grants and stipends. On that occasion, an international statement of protest was signed by twenty-one parties.

But London is London. It is especially sad when Lithuania’s own students, teachers, readers and interested public are treated as gullible to the extent of thinking that they have been exposed to two sides of an argument when every care has been taken to invite an international speaker who happens to agree with close to one hundred percent of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s positions.

The event, scheduled in Kaunas for April 13th 2011, is titled “Lithuanian-Jewish Relations”.

The introductory paragraph on top of the web page gives the background:

    • “Currently Lithuania has come under fire for promoting the recognition of ‘double genocide’ in Europe which seeks to equate the crimes of Stalinism with those of the Nazis, thus challenging the singularity of the Holocaust.”

That is a correct and fair description of a debate topic, every bit as fair as if it were a debate held in a western university. But at this event, held in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung) Lithuania office and the Adolfas Klimas Free Speech Forum, the implied representative of the”foreign” (or “Jewish”) views is the Foreign Ministry’s own close Israeli associate, the eminent scholar of Middle East affairs, Barry Rubin, whose views on the Holocaust and Lithuanian-Jewish issues could not be further from those of most Holocaust survivors, western historians and Jewish figures internationally. His views could not be closer to those of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.

Do the students, readers and public of Kaunas not deserve access to the same two sides of a debate to which they are invited, as the students, readers and public of any other city on the planet?

Dr. Rubin’s debates with others on Lithuanian-Jewish affairs are linked on the top section DefendingHistory.com’s Israel page.  Specific replies to his (and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s) views can be found, inter alia, here, here, here, and here.

There is still time for the organizers to ensure that another invited speaker, whose name and topic would be listed with equal prominence on the announcements for the event, and who can adequately argue a second opinion, will be added to the eminent Middle East expert invited to address Lithuanian-Jewish relations.

Indeed, the Jewish Community of Lithuania, usually systematically excluded from the Foreign Ministry’s misguided attempts at mind-control events, could itself provide a second speaker.  Would it be so terrible for students and residents of Kaunas to be able to hear the views of a designated representative of the country’s own Jewish community?

This solution would have the added advantage as serving as an antidote to the Foreign Ministry’s implied delegitimization of today’s living Jewish Community of Lithuania, as part of a strategy of anointing the tiny handful of nationalist, right-wing politicians and elites who happen to be Jewish and would prefer to regard themselves as the only true Lithuanian Jews of the twenty-first century, invariably for personal political gain. In fact, the one Jewish member of parliament, who was never a leader of the country’s Jewish community, actually resigned from the community publicly back in 1997.

Let us hope the folks at the Adolfas Klimas Free Speech Forum and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation will rise to the occasion and ensure that a speaker who disagrees with Dr. Rubin will be invited to participate with equal status on the program and at the event.

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