Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem criticizes UK academic boycott of Israel

April 27, 2005

* Statement by Al-Quds University in Eastern Jerusalem: "We believe it is in our interest to build bridges, not walls; to reach out to the Israeli academic institutions, not to impose another restriction or dialogue-block on ourselves."

* UK academic leaders applauding the boycott: "Israel" is "a colonial apartheid state, more insidious than South Africa."

 

CONTENTS

1. Boycott of Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities passed
2. "Dangerous and Misguided" (Guardian, Letter by Melvyn Bragg, April 25, 2005)
3. "Lecturers to boycott two Israeli universities" (Independent, April 23, 2005)
4. "Haifa, Bar Ilan slam academic boycott" (Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2005)
5. "Anger as union bars Israeli academic" (Sunday Telegraph, April 24, 2005)
6. "Blinkered and ill-timed" (Times of London, April 25, 2005)
7. "Why Israel will always be vilified" (Guardian, April 24, 2005)
8. "Europe blinded by anti-Semitic bigotry" (By Arab-American commentator Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily, April 20, 2005)

 



[RACHEL CORRIE PLAY UPDATE]

Thank you to all those who have written concerning the "Forgotten Rachels" article sent out on this list yesterday. I regret I don't have time to reply to most of you individually.

The article continues to gain widespread coverage on websites and elsewhere. Andrew Sullivan yesterday recommended it to readers. David Frum called it "A brilliant piece of work." (For those who don't know, David Frum was a leading speechwriter for Pres. Bush and wrote "the axis of evil" speech, among others.) Julie Burchill praised the piece. And so on.

For those wishing to see photos of six Rachels murdered in terror attacks, please see www.take-a-pen.org/english/Articles/Art25041005.htm

The play "My name is Rachel Corrie" continues to receive glowing reviews. Here is an example of a review published since my article was written:

John Peter in the (London) Sunday Times "Culture" section, April 24, 2005: "Rachel Corrie ... who died in Palestine, crushed by an Israeli bulldozer, apparently in cold blood … a cry of indignation by a brave, sensitive, thoughtful woman who wanted to help and bear witness. She wasn't some airhead, a saintly, self-admiring maniac: she had faith and purpose."

 

BOYCOTT OF HAIFA AND BAR ILAN UNIVERSITIES PASSED

[Note by Tom Gross]

Last Friday, Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted to boycott Israel's Bar Ilan and Haifa Universities. The Council of the AUT, a trade union and professional association representing over 48,700 UK higher education professionals, unanimously passed the two motions to boycott the institutions of higher learning.

The AUT claimed Haifa and Bar Ilan universities had undermined Palestinian rights and academic freedom. The union also asked its executive committee to consider a boycott against the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The boycott by Britain's main university teachers' union has angered Jewish students and administrators who said it could fan anti-Semitism.

Many non-Jews have also spoken out vociferously against the boycott and some have said they will refuse to comply with it. Here, for example, is the statement by Adam Logan, a lecturer in pure mathematics, at the University of Liverpool, who says he will resign from the University of Liverpool if they attempt to enforce the boycott: www.liv.ac.uk/~adaml/math/statement.html.

The Times of London (owned by Rupert Murdoch – one of the few news proprietors to be sympathetic to Jewish concerns) editorialized that the AUT "actions are an echo of the Nazi ban on Jewish academics, and the general discrimination so common three generations ago."

A JOVIAL MEETING... WITH RAPTUROUS APPLAUSE

Last Friday, a jovial AUT executive union meeting heard unanswered orations by Sue Blackwell and Shereen Benjamin, both lecturers at Birmingham University. The academics labeled Israel as a "colonial apartheid state, more insidious than South Africa," called for the "removal of this regime" (which Blackwell clarified as meaning the state of Israel) and depicted Israeli universities as "repressing" academic freedom. The speeches were met with rapturous applause from the audience, before AUT executive president Angela Roger cut short the session and moved to deny a right of reply to opponents of the motions.

"LACK OF TIME" TO CHALLENGE THE MOTION

The session was then directed towards a vote, and a "lack of time" was cited as the reason preventing challenges to the motions from being heard. The executive passed by sizeable majorities two separate motions adopting boycotts against Haifa University for its allegedly restricting academic freedom and against Bar Ilan University for its college located in the town of Ariel, which lies just beyond Israel's 1967 borders. Israeli Professor Mina Telcher was barred from putting her view across to the Union.

EXTREME LEFTIST JEWISH SUPPORT FOR ATTACKING ISRAEL

Shereen Benjamin, the second speaker to advocate a boycott of Israeli universities, was unable to answer questions about the Palestinian union which signed a letter calling for the conference to boycott Israel and could not identify its membership. In her speech to the conference, Ms. Benjamin used a number of photographs, and later conceded that the images were obtained from "Electronic Intifada" (a pro-Palestinian propaganda website). Shereen Benjamin, like several of the vocal members of the AUT urging the boycott, is Jewish. She was joined in this campaign by Steven and Hillary Rose (both also Jewish) who had first led a campaign to boycott Israeli Universities in April 2002.

EXTREME ISRAELI LEFT: LETS BOYCOTT OURSELVES

The boycott has also received encouragement from some professors belonging to Israeli Universities. A message from Dr. Ilan Pappe, a political science lecturer at Haifa University, was distributed to every executive member at the conference, in which Pappe called on the conference to adopt a boycott of his own university, and alleged he was the victim of "restriction" and "harassment." It should be noted that at the present time Pappe is still a lecturer at Haifa University and is still receiving Israeli taxpayers' money to spread anti-Israel sentiment. Since the verdict, Ron Kuzar, also a lecturer at Haifa University, has called for a total embargo on Israel including a boycott of all Universities similar to the embargo placed upon the apartheid regime in South Africa.

IS IT LEGAL?

The British press is now debating whether the boycott is in fact legal, in light of the fact that the lecturers' trade union is forcing the universities to break contracts and cancel projects and conferences, and is preventing employment of people who have already been promised jobs. Moreover, boycotting individual students and lecturers because of their nationality is discrimination – forbidden by university charters.

Not since 1930s Germany have Jews been the targets of an official boycott in a civilized country. Only recently leaders of Britain's 10,000 Jewish students complained of the presence of the "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" book being distributed on many campuses throughout Britain. Like many of the commentators in the articles attached below – one has to ask where are the boycotts of Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, China and countless other countries who are truly limiting academic freedom.

On Tuesday, April 26, Palestinians fired three Qassam rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot. UK university lecturers will probably not be condemning this latest attempt to murder Israeli civilians in southern Israel. In fact, given the UK media, they probably won't know it happened.

I attach six articles below. There are summaries of five of them first for those who don't have time to read them in full. I recommend in particular reading the last two articles, by David Aaronovitch and Joseph Farah.

-- Tom Gross (with thanks to Ben Green for his help in preparing this dispatch)

 

[Additional note by Tom Gross – Over the last two weeks there have been a large number of letters published in British newspapers regarding the boycott. Below is one by Melvyn Bragg, a leading British broadcaster, writer and novelist, whose views carry some weight among the UK establishment.]

"DANGEROUS AND MISGUIDED"

Letters
Battle of the boycott
The Guardian
April 25, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,,1469436,00.html

I write to express dismay and opposition to the decision taken by the AUT to sever links with Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities.

This boycott fails to recognise the continuous democratic processes and discussions within Israel, where brave voices are constantly raised against the actions in Palestine; it glides over the effects of the barbaric suicide attacks on the streets of Israel and the unremitting threats from Arab states that they will destroy Israel; it is wrong because it denies the hard-won freedom of international academic discourse; and, as far as Britain is concerned, it denies freedom of speech, which is a gift for extremists everywhere.

I have no doubt that the AUT's decision was sincerely taken, but I believe it is dangerous and misguided.

Melvyn Bragg
London

 

SUMMARIES

LECTURERS TO BOYCOTT TWO ISRAELI UNIVERSITIES

"Lecturers to boycott two Israeli universities"(by Sarah Cassidy, Education Correspondent, The Independent, April 23, 2005)

[Note by Tom Gross – This three-paragraph article is the whole item – the use of terms such as "alleged complicity with Israeli persecution" suggests that this Education Correspondent, like many journalists and readers in Britain, has come to believe the misinformation spread by Middle East reporters.]

education.independent.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=632238

University lecturers have voted to boycott two of Israel's eight universities over their alleged complicity with Israeli persecution of Palestinians.

The Association of University Teachers voted to sever links with Haifa University and Bar Ilan University, accusing them of colluding in a system of "apartheid" that victimised Palestinians and anyone who opposed the Israeli state.

There were cheers as the two motions were passed. But the 200-strong audience rejected a call to boycott the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is accused of demolishing Palestinian homes in order to expand its campus. Delegates instead voted for a decision to be postponed to allow for an investigation.

 

AL-QUDS UNIVERSITY SHOWS ITS SUPPORT

"Haifa, Bar Ilan slam academic boycott" (The Jerusalem Post, By The Associated Press and Talya Halkin, April 25, 2005)

Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities targeted in a boycott by Britain's biggest university teachers' union condemned the decision on Monday, calling it shameful and a blow to academic freedom.

... In addition, Al-Quds University in eastern Jerusalem also came out against the academic boycott of Israel. "We are informed by the principle that we should seek to win Israelis over to our side, not to win against them," said the university, which is headed by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh.

"Therefore... we believe it is in our interest to build bridges, not walls; to reach out to the Israeli academic institutions, not to impose another restriction or dialogue-block on ourselves."

... Israel's Foreign Ministry over the weekend accused the British union of hypocrisy - saying Israel is the only Mideast country with complete academic freedom - and urged British academics to distance themselves from the boycott.

 

AUT REFUSES PERMISSION FOR ISRAELI PROFESSOR TO SPEAK AT CONFERENCE

"Anger as union bars Israeli academic" (Sunday Telegraph, By Julie Henry, April 24, 2005)

An Israeli professor has been refused permission to speak at a conference of British academics who were debating a motion to sever all links with her university.

... The revelation that Prof Mina Telcher, a leading mathematician, was denied the opportunity to put the Israelis' side of the story before the vote will heighten criticism of the AUT, which was already under fire for cutting short the debate on the controversial motion because of time constraints.

... The request to send a speaker to the conference was made on Tuesday by Prof Yosef Yeshurun, the rector of Bar-Ilan. He also asked if Prof Telcher could address the conference on Thursday, rather than Friday, to allow her to return home for the start of Passover yesterday. Prof Yeshurun was told that no external visitors were allowed to speak for or against motions and that the date could not be changed.

 

LONDON TIMES: AN ECHO OF THE NAZI BAN ON JEWISH ACADEMICS

"Blinkered and ill-timed" (The Times of London, Lead editorial, April 25, 2005)

The decision by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two universities in Israel is a mockery of academic freedom, a biased and blinkered move that is as ill-timed as it is perverse.

... Their actions are an echo of the Nazi ban on Jewish academics, and the general discrimination so common three generations ago.

... The second reason why this boycott — swiftly and rightly condemned by university vice-chancellors and principals — is so dangerous is that it can quickly become an excuse for anti-Semitism. Many people, including the Jewish co-sponsor of the motion, are able to draw a proper distinction between criticism of Israel and racism; an increasing number, however, are not — or, more despicably, choose not to see any difference. Many Jewish students at British universities are already suffering growing hostility, including intolerable abuse from extremists. The Union of Jewish Students argued that any of its members supporting Israel would not be equal in the classroom with an AUT member.

... How much academic freedom exists in Syria? Or Saudi Arabia? Why does the AUT not call for a ban on contacts in dozens of other countries inimical to human rights? If the reply is that building bridges achieves far more, that is all the truer of Israel. AUT members should defeat this pernicious ban by cultivating every contact available as soon as possible with the two Israeli universities.

 

WHY ISRAEL WILL ALWAYS BE VILIFIED

"Why Israel will always be vilified" (The Observer, By David Aaronovitch, April 24, 2005)

... So, according to the disclosed agenda, somehow or other, the boycott will make Israeli academics think again about their support for the system, thus strengthening the forces of progress and justice. It will make Palestinians feel better, it will make Sue Blackwell feel better, it will help.

... Meanwhile, back in Israel, you can easily imagine whose position is strengthened by the AUT boycott. And it isn't that of the academics most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Look at the Europeans! Once again, they have singled Israel out for special treatment! Who can we trust but ourselves? In the United States, far more important to Israel than we will ever be, it will add grist to the arguments of those who want to support Israel at all hazards and under all circumstances.

... After the vote had been won, Blackwell, a former Christian fundamentalist turned revolutionary socialist, told the press how glad she was to be part of a union that was 'prepared to stand up for human rights'. The problem here, as she will have realised, is that if the AUT was to boycott places with bad human rights records, there'd be a whole lot of boycottin' goin' on…

... There is a significant level of academic freedom and debate in Israel, flawed though it may be, compared with much of the rest of the world. Take just one country, Tunisia, which has a run-of-the-mill torturing authoritarian regime and no debate in its universities at all. Yet it wouldn't surprise me if many academics at Birmingham University have holidayed there, completely unhindered by Sue Blackwell. And then, of course, there's China.

... So the object of those wanting peace and justice in the Middle East is to bring about an end to that occupation, and enable the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. It is to persuade both sides that such a settlement is practical and to persuade both sides to make the difficult sacrifices that are necessary. It is to build confidence between Jews and Palestinians, and to strengthen, always, the hand of the peacemakers.

Unless, of course, you don't believe that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state at all within any borders. And this, as it happens, seems to be the view of Sue Blackwell, who describes Israel as 'an illegitimate state'. Unlike the United Nations, she does not believe it should have been set up and she would rather it disappeared. As she pointed out in 2003 to a previous AUT council: 'From its very inception, the state of Israel has attracted international condemnation for violating the human rights of the Palestinian people and making war on its neighbours.' Or, to put it even more bluntly, everything is all the fault of the Israelis…

 

WHY ARE THERE NO BOYCOTTS OF IRANIAN UNIVERSITIES?

"Europe blinded by anti-Semitic bigotry" (WorldNetDaily, By Joseph Farah, April 20, 2005)

... Let me give you my perspective on this action – the perspective of an Arab-American. Israel is not a colonial state. It is not a racist state. The Arabs who live in Israel are among the freest Arabs in the world.

Every so-called "Palestinian" college has been created and funded by Israel. There were no Palestinian colleges or universities before 1967. And that is with good reason. Before 1967, there was no such thing as a Palestinian national identity. That notion was invented by Yasser Arafat and his allies post-1967 so they could pursue their plan to eradicate the Jewish state and the Jewish people of the Middle East by posing as victims rather than persecutors.

... In Israel, Arabs vote in free elections. They hold office. They protest. They freely publish newspapers attacking the government.

Arabs don't do this in any other state – with the possible exception of newly liberated Iraq.

In Israel, Arabs are even permitted to teach their revisionist history lessons. They are free to teach the most vile kinds of hatred against Jews and Israelis – even receiving subsidies for those lessons from the suicidal, self-loathing, politically correct and intellectually incorrect Israeli government.

... Europe is undergoing the kind of mass psychosis it experienced once before – in the late 1930s …If you doubt what I am saying, ask yourself the following questions:

Why are there no boycotts of Syrian universities?

Why are there no boycotts of Saudi Arabian universities?

Why are there no boycotts of Iranian universities?

Why are there no denunciations of the police state totalitarianism that is the norm throughout the Middle East with one notable exception – Israel?

 



FULL ARTICLES

HAIFA, BAR ILAN SLAM ACADEMIC BOYCOTT

Haifa, Bar Ilan slam academic boycott
By The Associated Press and Talya Halkin
The Jerusalem Post
April 25, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1114395823246

Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities targeted in a boycott by Britain's biggest university teachers' union condemned the decision on Monday, calling it shameful and a blow to academic freedom.

University officials said they did not expect the boycott call by the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers to have any immediate effect.

Nonetheless, they said they would fight the decision and called on the worldwide academic community to reject it.

"This is a very unbalanced decision ... basically a shameful decision," said Bar-Ilan's president, Moshe Kaveh. "In academic spheres, one should not interfere between academic activity and research, and political decisions."

The union, which approved the decision at its annual conference on Friday, said the two Israeli universities had undermined Palestinian rights and academic freedom. It said it would soon issue guidance to its members on what the boycott would forbid.

Haifa University Vice President Ada Spitzer said she didn't expect the boycott to immediately effect academic collaboration.

"It's more symbolic than actual damage," she said. Still, she called it "an important symbolic act," since it is the first time an Israeli university has been subject to a boycott. "They are erecting a barrier to academic freedom," she said.

The British union said it targeted Bar-Ilan University for its links to the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Jewish AUT members have begun to secede from the union, and calls for mass resignations have been issued.

In addition, Al-Quds University in eastern Jerusalem also came out against the academic boycott of Israel.

"We are informed by the principle that we should seek to win Israelis over to our side, not to win against them," said the university, which is headed by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh.

"Therefore...we believe it is in our interest to build bridges, not walls; to reach out to the Israeli academic institutions, not to impose another restriction or dialogue-block on ourselves."

The AUT also accused Haifa University of threatening to fire an Israeli political science lecturer for supporting a student's research into allegations of killings by IDF troops.

Both universities on Monday said many elements of the allegations are false.

Kaveh said Bar-Ilan helps supervise standards of the college of Ariel, which awards a joint degree with Bar-Ilan, but that the 22-year-old West Bank college is largely autonomous and on the way to full independence. "We were like an incubator," he said.

Kaveh, a physics lecturer at Cambridge University for 35 years, said he is planning on doing research in Britain this summer and already has been assured by British colleagues that they would not honor the boycott.

Haifa University officials said they were baffled by the boycott call, saying it was based on an erroneous understanding of a dispute over a 5-year-old master's thesis.

In the thesis, the student claimed he had uncovered evidence that Israeli soldiers massacred 200 Palestinians during the 1948 war for Israel's independence. The university rejected the thesis after investigating the allegations and concluding the student had fabricated or distorted much of his evidence.

The student later apologized to an Israeli court and admitted to falsifying the story after soldiers involved in the case sued him.

However, Ilan Pappe, a Haifa University professor who helped the student, accused the school of suppressing academic freedom and called on colleagues in Britain and the US to boycott the university.

While Haifa faculty members have filed complaints against Pappe, the university said it has never taken any disciplinary action against him and he remains on the faculty.

Both Israeli universities said they are beacons of diversity in Israel, welcoming students and faculty of all religious, political and ethnic backgrounds. Haifa University, for instance, said 20 percent of its student body are Arab Israelis.

"We will continue our efforts to further Jewish-Arab reconciliation, despite politically motivated initiatives to muzzle free speech and the academic discourse," the university said in a statement.

In its decision, the British union also asked its executive committee to consider a boycott against the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for allegedly bulldozing Palestinian homes to make way for new buildings. The university was closed for a Jewish holiday Monday and officials did not return a message seeking comment.

Israel's Foreign Ministry over the weekend accused the British union of hypocrisy - saying Israel is the only Mideast country with complete academic freedom - and urged British academics to distance themselves from the boycott.

In 2002, hundreds of European academics called for a boycott of Israeli universities to protest the treatment of the Palestinians. The move led to the firing of two Israelis from British publications and prompted allegations of discrimination and intellectual censorship.

(Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report)

 

ANGER AS UNION BARS ISRAELI ACADEMIC

Anger as union bars Israeli academic
By Julie Henry, Education Correspondent
Sunday Telegraph
April 24, 2005

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/24/naut24.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/04/24/ixhome.html

An Israeli professor has been refused permission to speak at a conference of British academics who were debating a motion to sever all links with her university.

The Telegraph has learnt that the Association of University Teachers (AUT) turned down a plea from Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv to send one of its most distinguished academics to Britain to rebut accusations of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

The AUT was accused of fuelling anti-Semitism after delegates at its annual conference voted on Friday to boycott all academic links with Bar Ilan and Haifa universities. The revelation that Prof Mina Telcher, a leading mathematician, was denied the opportunity to put the Israelis' side of the story before the vote will heighten criticism of the AUT, which was already under fire for cutting short the debate on the controversial motion because of time constraints.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews described the decision as "blinkered, irresponsible and dangerous".

The request to send a speaker to the conference was made on Tuesday by Prof Yosef Yeshurun, the rector of Bar-Ilan. He also asked if Prof Telcher could address the conference on Thursday, rather than Friday, to allow her to return home for the start of Passover yesterday. Prof Yeshurun was told that no external visitors were allowed to speak for or against motions and that the date could not be changed.

Delegates to the conference in Eastbourne were told that Bar-Ilan University had links with a college in what the union described as an "illegal settlement" in the occupied West Bank.

Ronnie Fraser, the chairman of the Academic Friends of Israel, said that the AUT had repeatedly manoeuvred to prevent an opposing voice being heard.

Lord Janner, the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, condemned the union's decision. He said: "They obviously did not want to hear the other case. I am deeply shaken by the vote and the curtailment of reasoned debate. It is a setback for academic freedom."

Jonathan Whitehead, a spokesman for the AUT, said that the conference would become unworkable if outside speakers were allowed to comment on motions.

 

BLINKERED AND ILL-TIMED

Blinkered and ill-timed
The AUT boycott of Israeli universities is inimical to academic freedom
Leader
The Times of London
April 25, 2005

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-1584297,00.html

The decision by the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two universities in Israel is a mockery of academic freedom, a biased and blinkered move that is as ill-timed as it is perverse. The vote at the AUT annual conference to forbid its 40,000 members to visit Haifa and Bar Ilan universities in protest at the alleged ill-treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories not only comes at the very moment when official Israeli-Palestinian relations are improving, but it also targets the very institutions in Israel that have been havens of political and racial tolerance and beacons of academic freedom.

The sponsors of the boycott maintain that Haifa University is threatening to sack a lecturer for supporting a student's thesis on an alleged Israeli massacre in 1948, and that Bar Ilan has links with a college based in a settlement in the West Bank. They say the academic boycott is a protest against discrimination, as valid as the widely supported ban by British universities on links with South African institutions during the apartheid years.

Such a claim is as laughable as it is inaccurate. Whereas many South African academics supported outside pressure on their government and almost all black students complained of discrimination, in Israel neither is true. In both universities, Jews and Arabs study together, and in Haifa especially there is a substantial number of Arab lecturers and students. Moreover, if Palestinian students themselves are not calling for a boycott, what is the point of such tokenism by the AUT?

In many British universities there are vocal critics of Israeli policies. Academics have expressed revulsion at the continued building of Israeli settlements and the occupation of Palestinian territories. They are fully entitled to the vigorous expression of their views. They can speak out in public, join protest marches and argue with pro-Israeli colleagues. What they are not entitled to do is to impose a trade union boycott that is inimical to academic freedom — a principle fundamental not only to civilised society but the very basis of their professional life. Their actions are an echo of the Nazi ban on Jewish academics, and the general discrimination so common three generations ago.

The second reason why this boycott — swiftly and rightly condemned by university vice-chancellors and principals — is so dangerous is that it can quickly become an excuse for anti-Semitism. Many people, including the Jewish co-sponsor of the motion, are able to draw a proper distinction between criticism of Israel and racism; an increasing number, however, are not — or, more despicably, choose not to see any difference. Many Jewish students at British universities are already suffering growing hostility, including intolerable abuse from extremists. The Union of Jewish Students argued that any of its members supporting Israel would not be equal in the classroom with an AUT member.

The issue of discrimination is more overtly political in the broader context of the Middle East. How much academic freedom exists in Syria? Or Saudi Arabia? Why does the AUT not call for a ban on contacts in dozens of other countries inimical to human rights? If the reply is that building bridges achieves far more, that is all the truer of Israel. AUT members should defeat this pernicious ban by cultivating every contact available as soon as possible with the two Israeli universities.

 

WHY ISRAEL WILL ALWAYS BE VILIFIED

Why Israel will always be vilified
It is convenient for many British liberals that Israel exists. It saves them from examining the manifest failings in their own actions
The Observer
Comment
By David Aaronovitch
April 24, 2005

observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1468969,00.html

Last Friday saw two examples of intelligent people behaving in a futile way. The first was the decision by the US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, to seek the death penalty for would-be suicide terrorist, Zacharias Moussaoui. Not only does such a sentence confer on Moussaoui precisely the heroic end that he was seeking (did Gonzales never read Brer Rabbit?), but it would also deprive the authorities of a potentially valuable source of information and psychological insight. All it does is make some Americans feel better.

And then there was the decision of the Association of University Teachers council in Eastbourne to boycott two (perhaps three) Israeli universities, the futility of which I now hope to prove.

Let us first look at the stated objectives of the boycott. What does it seek to achieve? The literature of the campaign suggests that these objectives, far from being focused, are many and nebulous. They are, according to the motion's prime mover, Sue Blackwell of the English Department of Birmingham University, variously to 'add to the pressure on the country's economy and dent its international prestige'; to send a 'message of support to students and colleagues in Palestine'; and to act as 'consciousness-raising' for British academics who, through the boycott, can be brought to realise how the world really is. A sort of speculum for their hidden political organs.

The boycott seems also to be simultaneously aimed at the Israeli system in toto, and at the specific misdeeds of particular institutions - Haifa University for political censorship, Bar-Ilan for having relations with the illegal settlements on the West Bank, and the Hebrew University for pulling down Arab houses to build student dormitories. The AUT executive is 'investigating' this last accusation, but the scope of these targets probably reflects the campaigners' need to maximise support for their motion.

So, according to the disclosed agenda, somehow or other, the boycott will make Israeli academics think again about their support for the system, thus strengthening the forces of progress and justice. It will make Palestinians feel better, it will make Sue Blackwell feel better, it will help.

But will it? On Friday morning, the participants in the council meeting may have read an article in the Guardian by the progressive Israeli writer, Etgar Keret. He recalled how the Manchester academic, Mona Baker, sacked his translator, Miriam Schlesinger, from the board of Baker's journal, the Translator. Keret reflected on the irony. Schlesinger was the former head of Amnesty International in Israel, as well as being a peace activist. Keret added: 'Baker was not the first to call for a boycott of [Miriam's] academic work. Israeli right wingers had been irked by her signature on some petition and had called upon students at Israeli universities to refrain from attending classes given by her and others of her ilk.'

If the AUT delegates read Keret's appeal, just over half of them ignored it. And now, if they have their way, the Schlesingers of this world will be routinely boycotted unless, according to the terms of the motion, they show sufficient individual zeal in the cause of justice of the Palestinians. Sufficient zeal as judged by whom? We have no idea.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, you can easily imagine whose position is strengthened by the AUT boycott. And it isn't that of the academics most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Look at the Europeans! Once again, they have singled Israel out for special treatment! Who can we trust but ourselves? In the United States, far more important to Israel than we will ever be, it will add grist to the arguments of those who want to support Israel at all hazards and under all circumstances.

So why do something so obviously counterproductive? The AUT delegates will have been reminded of the intolerable conditions of many of those living under Israeli occupation. They will have felt the emotional tug of those stories of checkpoint humiliations, collective punishments and the shooting of civilians. They'll have seen pictures of the wall. The motion may make them feel better. Warmer.

After the vote had been won, Blackwell, a former Christian fundamentalist turned revolutionary socialist, told the press how glad she was to be part of a union that was 'prepared to stand up for human rights'. The problem here, as she will have realised, is that if the AUT was to boycott places with bad human rights records, there'd be a whole lot of boycottin' goin' on. She has tried in the past to finesse this difficulty, at one point arguing: 'You cannot talk about academic freedom and free debate in Israel in the same way you can talk about it in the UK, or in almost any other country in the world.'

This sunniness is rather obviously absurd. There is a significant level of academic freedom and debate in Israel, flawed though it may be, compared with much of the rest of the world. Take just one country, Tunisia, which has a run-of-the-mill torturing authoritarian regime and no debate in its universities at all. Yet it wouldn't surprise me if many academics at Birmingham University have holidayed there, completely unhindered by Sue Blackwell. And then, of course, there's China.

No, Israel's universities are not bad and Israel's human rights record is no worse than that of many other countries. So, inevitably, the tack shifts. Israel's universities are intrinsically racist, according to Blackwell, with 'Israeli academics routinely implicated in racist discourses against Arab students and Arabs in general'.

And that's because there is something utterly unique about Israel itself, which marks it out from the merely abusive North Koreas and Irans. It has become an apartheid state, as South Africa was. And it, therefore, should be treated in the same way, with boycotts and disinvestments.

This is a genuinely, grade-A stupid argument, whether it emanates from the lips of Professor Steven Rose or the more sacred ones of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In itself, Israel is not anything like South Africa, where a majority was denied all political and civic rights on the grounds of race. What is analogous, however, is Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, which bears comparison with South Africa's occupation of Namibia or, some might say, Serbia's occupation of Kosovo.

So the object of those wanting peace and justice in the Middle East is to bring about an end to that occupation, and enable the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. It is to persuade both sides that such a settlement is practical and to persuade both sides to make the difficult sacrifices that are necessary. It is to build confidence between Jews and Palestinians, and to strengthen, always, the hand of the peacemakers.

Unless, of course, you don't believe that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state at all within any borders. And this, as it happens, seems to be the view of Sue Blackwell, who describes Israel as 'an illegitimate state'. Unlike the United Nations, she does not believe it should have been set up and she would rather it disappeared. As she pointed out in 2003 to a previous AUT council: 'From its very inception, the state of Israel has attracted international condemnation for violating the human rights of the Palestinian people and making war on its neighbours.' Or, to put it even more bluntly, everything is all the fault of the Israelis.

The problem is that many Jews understand very well that this is her view and, unfortunately, will believe that it is also the view of all her fellow campaigners. Consequently, there will now be a battle royal (of which this article is part) about the rights and wrongs of these particular tactics, and the bigger picture will inevitably be lost. Everyone will return to their trenches and take the tarpaulins off their heaviest and most inaccurate artillery.

However, there may be a saving grace. Two years ago, Blackwell predicted that Tony Blair would be ousted at the next general election over Iraq. But if not: 'Then it may well be time for international pressure to be brought to bear, since the British electorate will have failed in their moral duty'.

So, one last reason, perhaps, to vote Labour on Thursday week. To enjoy the sight of Sue Blackwell busily boycotting herself.

 

EUROPE BLINDED BY ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY

Europe blinded by anti-Semitic bigotry
By Joseph Farah
WorldNetDaily
April 20, 2005

www.wnd.com/news/printer-friendly.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43891

The Association of University Teachers in the United Kingdom is set today to begin blacklisting Israeli professors who refuse to condemn their country's policies toward Arabs.

The academics will debate today whether to boycott three of Israel's eight universities – Haifa, Bar Ilan and Hebrew – over their alleged complicity with the government's policies toward the so-called "Palestinians."

But the boycott will exclude "conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies."

Let me give you my perspective on this action – the perspective of an Arab-American.

Israel is not a colonial state. It is not a racist state. The Arabs who live in Israel are among the freest Arabs in the world.

Every so-called "Palestinian" college has been created and funded by Israel. There were no Palestinian colleges or universities before 1967. And that is with good reason. Before 1967, there was no such thing as a Palestinian national identity. That notion was invented by Yasser Arafat and his allies post-1967 so they could pursue their plan to eradicate the Jewish state and the Jewish people of the Middle East by posing as victims rather than persecutors.

You can see just how well that insidious plan is working among Europe's hateful, anti-Semitic pseudo-intellectuals. It's working to perfection.

The victim is being blamed for the crime.

The AUT's indictment of Israel is short on specifics – with good reason. There simply is no case to be made that Israel is oppressing Arabs, that it is making life unbearable for them, that it is the worst place on earth for them.

In Israel, Arabs vote in free elections. They hold office. They protest. They freely publish newspapers attacking the government.

Arabs don't do this in any other state – with the possible exception of newly liberated Iraq.

In Israel, Arabs are even permitted to teach their revisionist history lessons. They are free to teach the most vile kinds of hatred against Jews and Israelis – even receiving subsidies for those lessons from the suicidal, self-loathing, politically correct and intellectually incorrect Israeli government.

Yet, none of this matters in the rarefied atmosphere of Europe's perverted academic culture.

It's about Arab nationalist chic. It's cool on campus in Europe and North America to wear the keffiyeh. Never mind the fact that it represents repression, dictatorship, murder of the innocents, terrorism. Jews aren't cool. Arabs are.

Some Arabs, that is.

Christian Arabs aren't cool, either. Europe is silent as they are persecuted, murdered and scattered to the four winds by the Islamic nationalists and the phony Palestinians.

Only Christians and Jews who denounce their beliefs, embrace their enemies and tormentors and who blame themselves for acts of violence against them are to be accepted and tolerated under the new European academic orthodoxy.

Sadly, if this brand of ethnic and religious hatred were limited to the academy, it would not represent a crisis. Unfortunately, what is happening today in the annual council of the Association of University Teachers in England is symptomatic of what is spreading like a cancer throughout Europe, Canada and other parts of the world.

It is the mental disorder of anti-Semitism. It is a disease. It is irrational. It defies explanation. And it is evil.

Europe is undergoing the kind of mass psychosis it experienced once before – in the late 1930s.

This is how it started then. Self-delusion is a pre-requisite for the justification of holocaust, of genocide, of ethnic cleansing.

If you doubt what I am saying, ask yourself the following questions:

Why are there no boycotts of Syrian universities?

Why are there no boycotts of Saudi Arabian universities?

Why are there no boycotts of Iranian universities?

Why are there no denunciations of the police state totalitarianism that is the norm throughout the Middle East with one notable exception – Israel?


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.