Friday, October 28, 2011

Controversy may distract from peace message

One of the leaders of the peace journalism movement is getting into some hot water over comments he’s made about a research forum his Australian university is having with Israeli academics.

The research forum, “Shared Challenges, Future Solutions”, will be held next week, and will “bring together academics from the University of Sydney and leading Israeli institutions to discuss research innovations in key thematic areas including medicine; water, food and agriculture; pedagogy of teaching second languages and Dead Sea Scrolls; energy and information technology.”

Peace Journalist and Associate Professor Jake Lynch has urged his colleagues to withdraw from the research gathering, and the university administration to cancel it.” Why? Because he says that the event may offend Muslims, since the forum involves Israel.

In The Australian newspaper, Lynch said, “"The university risks sustaining reputational damage if the forum goes ahead." Dr. Lynch believes that the university “risks being seen as condoning the complicity by Israeli universities in Israel's breaches of international law and indirectly raises problems with the university's social inclusion policy."

I greatly admire and respect all the work that Lynch (among others) has done to legitimize peace journalism, and am concerned about the controversy that has been generated by these comments. I disagree with his stance, incidentally, but that’s not the point.

For me, the lesson that I take away from this controversy is to pick your battles. I won’t shy away from controversy if it is generated while I spread the word about peace journalism. However, I’d hate to generate any dispute over anything that isn’t peace journalism. For example, when I lived/worked in Uganda, I could have publically railed against that country’s proposed (and reprehensible) anti-homosexual law. I bit my tongue, however, because I knew that my tirade about the law would have only distracted from my peace message.

Given this, I wonder if Professor Lynch regrets disturbing this hornet’s nest.

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