Dr Jonathan Speyer is a well known political advisor, journalist, researcher and commontator. His address at the University of Western Australia today showed us that in person, he is as articulate as he is on paper.
In a well balanced and academically challenging address, Dr Speyer directly addressed his topic (Strategic Dilemmas in a Changing Middle East) , at all times putting fact ahead of emotion and reason ahead of speculation.
What made this forum so important, and in a certain sense groundbreaking for Perth, was that it was hosted by the Centre for Muslim States and Societies and the School of Social and Cultural Studies. To their great credit, the organisers responded to the challenge of presenting an alternative view.
A full lecture theatre, and a mixed crowd were both respected by the presenter and returned that respect through civil and mostly balanced questions and comments. Whilst not everybody would have agreed with the analysis presented, the fact that the forum proceeded and the speaker was extended the opportunity to put forward his analysis without being interrupted is in itself a major breakthrough in dialogue between those who advocate for Israeli and Palestinian causes.
The quality of Dr Speyers address was outstanding. There was one question where his response did not resonate well with me, when he was asked about the “carnage in Gaza”. Instead of addressing the causes, actions and context surrounding the Israeli military operation, he compared the context of it to other conflicts such as Falluja, in relative terms. I thought this deflected attention from the question as opposed to directly addressing the extent to which Israel moved to avoid civilian casualty.
On the matter of nuclear proliferation, Dr Speyer was confronted with a question suggesting Israel advocates engaged in moral double standards and hypocracy because it denied Iranian nuclear aspirations while promoting those of Israel. Dr Speyer noted that there might be operational equivalence in the development of programs, but the intention of the programs was far apart. Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Israel has not threatned any regime with destruction.
Congratulations to AIJAC and those involved in bringing Dr Speyer to Australia, and a big accolade to the University group for hosting this address.