BROOKINGS | A critic of Israel who speaks widely on the subject will give a presentation at the Brookings Public Library without the backing of the South Dakota World Affairs Council.
The council initially scheduled Alison Weir's appearance on Wednesday night but then canceled the event. Council officials were worried the move could be construed as censorship but that isn't the case — the council simply could not find someone credible to give an opposing view to Weir, Board Chairman Nels Granholm told the Argus Leader newspaper (http://argusne.ws/19sZ7CO ).
"The primary thing we keep going back to is we thought it was extremely important, essential, that we be able to present all the views, all the sides," he said. "We simply didn't have the time or the resources to do it."
Weir is president of The Council for the National Interest, a group that bills itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit that promotes "Middle East policies that serve the American national interest" and is now sponsoring her talk in Brookings. Former U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk of South Dakota is a member of the council board. He also has helped Weir line up presentations at the University of South Dakota and in Sioux Falls.
Weir said she often hears about attempts to block her talks.
"This is one of the only times ... an organization has backed out of an event it has already announced," she said. "That was really pretty shocking."
Weir said the South Dakota World Affairs Council could have called upon the Jewish Community Relations Council to present an opposing view.
"They're a strong opponent of what I am doing. They can supply speakers at a moment's notice, and they are well funded," she said.
Granholm said he was not sure why Weir's suggestion was unacceptable, but he maintains the World Affairs Council still would like to hear Weir speak if a countering voice can be found.
"I don't know if it can happen yet this fall, but it can happen later," he said. "I think it would make a great forum."