Cambridge debate on Israel is undermined by wily neocon (is that redundant?)

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An interesting PR battle over Israel in England is related by a friend:

Cambridge University’s Union Society held a debate last week with the motion “This House Believes that Israel is a Rogue State.” Because of the public relations stakes, the Israeli embassy actually dispatched two men to argue Israel’s side in the debate.

But bizarrely, the team of 3 arguing for the motion included, alongside Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, a neoconservative student who used his time to argue in defense of Israel. The student in question, Gabriel Latner, said that he had volunteered in the Israeli army, and he had lately interned with the hardcore neo-con think tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The debate worked out for Latner: the motion was defeated, 57 to 43 percent.

Some days later, the debate was reported on Ynet as “an important PR achievement in what could be considered one of Europe’s main anti-Israeli strongholds.” Ynet continued: 

Due to the preeminence of the hosting institution, the Israeli embassy in London decided to send representatives Ran Gidor, the embassy’s political advisor and a Cambridge graduate, and Shiraz Maher, a former radical Islamist that has become an enthusiastic Israel supporter.

The opposing side was represented by journalist and publicist Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair….

The event took a sharp turn when a few students from the pro-Palestinian camp raised pro-Israeli arguments during the discussion. One of them told the audience that Israel gives political asylum to Darfuri refugees, while Egypt shoots them as they try to infiltrate the border, and that the Jewish State initiates internal probes over international violation, also noting Israel’s liberal policies vis-à-vis gay and lesbian rights. The student then pointed at Gidor and said, “Could you imagine China, Iran or even Britain sending a top diplomat to a discussion that defines Israel as a rogue state?”…

Israel’s Ambassador to London Ron Prosor said … that Israel will continue to dispatch representatives to any event that attempts to tarnish Israel’s reputation.

The PR victory claim is echoed by the Cambridge University Israel Society: “Unsurprisingly, much of the debate focused on Israel being an exceptional state. Israel’s commitment to political democracy and judicial accountability were frequently highlighted.”

Questions: Who arranged for Latner to speak for those proposing the motion? Did the Cambridge Union debating society compromise its impartiality by allowing itself to be used?

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