Richard Stallman cancels university talks

A few months ago there was a rumor of Richard Stallman coming to Palestine, and I contacted him to suggest giving a few talks in Israel as well. He inclined and there were 4 lectures/speeches booked:

  • One at Shenkar College in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv (which is where meets)
  • One at Tel Aviv University
  • One at a DIY venue for political activists
  • One at Haifa University

I booked the Shenkar College one (for the Tel Aviv Perl Mongers and anyone who wanted to attend) and the one for political activists. I've slowly been collecting a group of people to help me organize the first meetup (which should have been in front of 300 people) since I did not want any organization or company (except for to be behind it. I wanted complete freedom, excuse the pun. :)

Yesterday Dr. Richard Stallman has written an email to the person organizing the Haifa speech, the TAU speech and myself, stating that he is going to cancel the university speeches. I'm assuming he phrased it as such since not all speeches are scheduled for universities.

This has so far been a source of inner debates, since Eddie Aharonovich has posted both the email Richard sent us (which I would personally classify as "private") and his response (which, to be honest, I really didn't care for) online. I wanted to both notify that Richard will not be giving the speeches, and to respond to some claims about the reasons Richard canceled the events.

Richard has stated in his email that his accommodation is paid for by Palestinians, and they have a problem with him giving a talk at a university. The reason, to those unfamiliar with the Israeli boycott, is because the university is a government institution which is not (and cannot really claim to be) dissident and approval of the boycott. Although it was claimed as "anti-Israeli", it's important to understand that it's not a matter of objecting people, but the policy of a country, and I believe it's completely valid. This in no way conflicts with his ideals. If he is critical of the government, he should have the decision to not appear at any of its supportive institutions, especially if he's currently being funded by definitive objectors.

Furthermore, although this might contribute to arguments, ostracizing and meaningless heated "discussions", I wish to state that not only do I understand Richard's decision but I support it. Although I wanted to see him giving a talk at, it is nothing like standing behind your ideals, which is what I admire about the person. Say what you will (argumentative, zealous, difficult to work with), he will always stand by his ideals.

If you still wish to see Stallman speaking, you can do what I'm going to do and go visit Palestine, learn a bit about the crisis going on there, catch a good speech and meet new people.

Have a great day,
Sawyer. :)


Unfortunately based on what happened I don't think the decision of RMS not giving a speech at Israeli universities was NOT because of his ideals. It was simply because the Palestinians - (and we don't know who exactly there) - objected his talks.

I am sure if this was his ideal he would have not accepted your invitation. Or, if he changed his mind about his ideals he would have said so.

To me it seem he was just bullied into this.

It is very unfortunate as this could have been a good opportunity to promote understanding instead of hatred.

IMHO that's a new definition of FUD.

If the Israeli community took offense and shouted "they hate us, they hate us" then I think it means the events have increased they hatred towards the Palestinians.

Of course I don't really know what others feel but I certainly have now less motivation to cooperate with the Palestinians than I had before this.

Was this the objective of the boycott?

Moreover who is actually running that boycott? The hackers who organized the speech for the Palestinians or the Palestinian government? I don't know and I am not sure what is the meaning of either of those cases.

Lastly "considering the feelings of the Palestinians" is not really related to "standing by his ideals".

In any case I think this is only you and me reading this so we could as well continue this at our next Topposter meeting.

I am reading it but...yeah...maybe take it offline. :)

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