UK Times: “Mamma Mia!” could be first victim of boycott retaliation

June 14, 2007

* Time Out London: “An Islamic London would be a better place”
* Was Israeli basil deliberately infected in the UK?
* Dershowitz to sue British lecturers boycotting Israel

This dispatch contains items of interest from the UK, and is also a follow-up to other recent dispatches on threats to boycott Israel, including For first time, British journalists officially vote to boycott Israeli goods (April 14, 2007) and Nobel laureate cancels UK trip over Israel boycott (& a tale of two terror groups called Fatah) (May 28, 2007)



1. One in four British Muslims believe London bombs were staged
2. British Islamic terrorist killed in Somalia
3. Was Israeli basil deliberately infected in the UK?
4. Time Out London: “An Islamic London would be a better place”
5. British Minister: Boycott is “fundamentally wrong”
6. “If they boycotted medicines… half of England would be sick”
7. 1.4 million member Unison may also boycott Israel
8. “Moral masturbation”
9. Even the Independent runs an article criticizing the boycott
10. Mamma Mia! to be boycotted?
11. “The price of British Jewish criticism of Israel” (London Times, June 11, 2007)
12. “Israel discovers oil” (By Thomas Friedman, New York Times, June 10, 2007)
13. “Harvard legal expert vows to sue lecturers boycotting Israel” (FT, June 2 2007)
14. “Shame on the left and its vicious hatred of Israel” (Daily Express, May 31, 2007)
15. “A letter to the British academic” (Yediot Ahronot, June 12, 2007)

[Note by Tom Gross]


One in four British Muslims believe “Government agents” staged the July 7, 2005 London transport bombs, according to a new survey. A poll carried out by Channel 4 News discovered that a quarter of Muslims polled believe the four men named as responsible for killing 52 people on London transport were not responsible for the attacks – even though their ringleader left a video, broadcast on al-Jazeera, proudly claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Six out of every ten Muslims interviewed for the poll felt the British government had not told the whole truth about the bombings. And over half of the Muslims polled also felt the security services had made up evidence to convict terror suspects.

A selection of Muslims interviewed by Channel 4 claimed the CCTV images of the four bombers arriving at Luton station en route to London were “faked”. Some said the men were made “convenient scapegoats” and others claimed that the “martyrdom” videos left by Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer admitting responsibility for the attacks were also forgeries.


A British citizen was among the 12 Islamic terrorists killed by a U.S. missile strike in Somalia last week. There have been a number of reports in recent weeks that foreigners including British citizens have been fighting alongside Somali jihadists. British Muslims have already blown themselves up, murdering others, in Tel Aviv, Baghdad and elsewhere.

According to Mohamed Ali Yusuf, the finance minister of Puntland (a region of Somalia where al-Qaeda-linked militants are trying to take over), the authorities had retrieved documents from the bodies showing that “The terrorists were from America, Britain, Sweden, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen.”


Israeli officials have said that “hostile elements” may have been behind the Salmonella that was inserted onto Israeli-grown basil exported to Britain and then sold there and in other parts of Europe.

Oded Yaffe, from the private agronomy laboratory Shelef, said that “the odds that the Salmonella happened to reach three different Israeli farms at the same time are tiny,” and it appeared as if “someone just pasted Salmonella on the basil from Israel.”


Last week’s Time Out London (the city’s leading listings and entertainment magazine, which also publishes editions in New York and other cities) posed the following question – in both Arabic and English – on its front cover: “Is London’s future Islamic?”

The magazine featured an article inside, authored by Michael Hodges, which argued that “an Islamic London would be a better place.”

The preamble to the piece reads: “It’s the capital’s fastest growing religion, based on noble traditions and compassionate principles, yet Islam can still be tainted by mistrust and misunderstanding. Here Time Out argues that an Islamic London would be a better place.”

Time Out claims that an Islamic London would be an improvement in terms of ecology, education, public health, arts, social justice, food, inter-faith relations and race relations.

Regarding public health, the article claims that a Muslim-dominated London, in which alcohol was forbidden, would prevent thousands of deaths and alcohol-related crimes.

Concerning “race relations,” Hodges writes “Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim – it doesn’t matter what colour you are. End of story.”

The full piece can be read here.

Apparently Hodges forgot to mention that Time Out would have to dispense with about half its listing sections: Bars, clubs, women’s events, its gay and lesbian section, non-Muslim religious worship, and so on.


Britian’s Minister for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, visited Israel this week in a show of support after the 130,000-member British teachers and lecturers union (UCU) decided to call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Rammell called the boycott “fundamentally wrong” and said that “I hope my visit here sends a strong message of the views of the British government and people.” He also added that he was convinced “the vast majority of academics in Britain oppose a boycott.”

During his visit to Israel, Rammell defended the British press – which many blame for whipping up untruths about Israel which helped lead to the calls for a boycott. Whilst he did concede that Britons were “not always” getting a fair picture, he told the Jerusalem Post that “we’ve got a media in Britain that is open, [and] that does try to present in most cases, not all, all sides of the argument.”

However, Rammell (who had never been to Israel before) then admitted he had been a Guardian reader since the age of 16, so it was quite probable he knows very little about both sides to the Arab-Israeli conflict.


In reaction to the British boycott, a law has been submitted to the Israeli parliament, which if passed, will mean that a country that boycotts Israel or Israeli products will have all of its imports to Israel tagged with stickers reading, “This country is involved in an anti-Israel boycott.”

The bill was submitted by Otniel Schneller, a Member of the Knesset from the ruling (centrist) Kadima party. Schneller said: “When we are boycotted, we should respond in kind. When we are isolated by a country, we should isolate them in return.”

The bill has received cross-party support in Israel.

Schneller added that “We must respond to this current trend in England. If the British think that they can pass judgement on us as a group and boycott us in this manner, than we must respond similarly to the British. If they [the British] boycotted medicines that were researched or created in Israel, half of England would be sick.”

For more on Israeli scientific advances, see the second article below, written by Thomas Friedman.

Many British academics are also speaking out against their colleagues. Prof. Malcolm Grant of University College London, said, “An academic boycott of other academics is a contradiction in terms and in direct conflict with the mission of a university.”

UK based-lawyer Anthony Julius, who represented the late Diana, Princess of Wales in her divorce from Prince Charles, and leading American lawyer and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz have also vowed to fight the boycott. Julius and Dershowitz – who are both long-time subscribers to this email list – jointly wrote an article criticizing the boycott in the Times of London yesterday. Their full 3,500 word piece can be read here.

Julius also told the Times Higher Education Supplement that “the vote has stimulated a great sense of solidarity among distinct constituencies. The overwhelming majority of Jews find the motion repellent, academics recoil from the double standards in the resolution and the threat to academic freedom, and people who are neither Jews nor academics see this activity for what it is: generated by malice and hatred for Israel.”

Dershowitz likened the boycott of Israeli Jewish academics to the treatment of Jewish students and faculty in Nazi Germany. If the boycott proceeded he promised to sue various British universities leading them to “financial and legal ruin.” For more, see the third article below.

To hear Dershowitz debate this issue on Channel 4 News, click here.

In addition, an online petition signed so far by 4,000 non-Israeli academics has called on all scholars “of differing religious and political perspectives” to view themselves as Israelis and turn down activities from which Israelis have been excluded.

The petition criticizing British boycotters has been signed by 15 Nobel Prize laureates from several countries, and professors from Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, Toronto and others, including the presidents of Penn State, Tufts, Miami, Brandeis and Columbia.


In spite of this, anti-Israel activists at another British union – the 1.4 million member public services union (UNISON) – are planning to vote at their national conference (which starts June 19) whether to cut economic ties with the Jewish state.

The Histadrut, the largest labor union in Israel, has urged the British union to withdraw the motion, according to The New York Times.


Israelis across the political spectrum have reacted with great anger to the British university lecturers’ decision. Bradley Burston, a columnist for the left-wing newspaper Ha’aretz, wrote “the whole boycott campaign smacks of a uniquely far-left British brand of moral masturbation, a desperate, delusional, sterile, supremely self-contained form of non-activism that risks nothing even as it changes nothing. There must be some reason why no one in this world does condescension better than the British far-left. There must be some reason why the British far-left manages to satisfy itself with a uniquely public, uniquely self-congratulatory form of ideological self-abuse.”

An editorial in the Jerusalem Post pointed out that the academic boycott “is so blatantly unprofessional, misinformed and misguided that is more of a mark of shame on the institutions that promulgated it than on the Jewish state, its intended target.”

Like Burston in Ha’aretz, the editorial claims that the boycott says much more about the state of British academia than it does about Israel. “What does it say, for example, about the state of the British academy when, far from showing solidarity with a fellow democracy under terrorist attack, it seems to unquestioningly support the side engaging in suicide bombings, the deliberate rocketing of civilian cities, and openly calling for Israel’s destruction? How does it reflect on professors and journalists when they so blithely violate every standard and principle of their own professions in order to excoriate Israel?”

Sari Nusseibeh, the president of the Palestinian university Al-Quds, also criticized the proposed British boycott of Israeli universities, calling it “self-defeating”.


Even The Independent, the British daily of which the notorious Robert Fisk is Chief Middle East correspondent and a newspaper which has constantly railed against the Jewish state, has allowed one of its regular contributors, Howard Jacobson to write a few days ago: “Heigh-ho, it’s boycott time again... It’s time to end the vilification of Israel. If anti-Semitism is repugnant to humanity, then it is no less repugnant to humanity to single out one country for your hatred, to hate it beyond reason and against evidence, to pluck it from the complex contextuality of history as though it authored its own misfortunes and misdeeds as the devil authored evil, to deny it any understanding and – most odious of all – to seek to silence its voices. For make no mistake, this is what an intellectual boycott means. We silence you. We will not let you speak.”

Jacobson’s full article can be read here.

Another poignant article on the boycott is by Amir Hanifes, a Druze Israeli student who participated at the UCU meeting as an Israeli delegate. Hanifes wrote that “the figures we presented [to show how Muslims, Christians and Jews all study together at Israeli universities] were futile, because all they cared about was their one and only objective: De-legitimizing the State of Israel with no relation to its academia.”

His full article can be read here.


According to the Times of London (full article attached below) “The ABBA musical Mamma Mia! could be the first casualty of a growing Israeli backlash against a proposed British academic boycott of Israeli universities.”

However, it seems that the show is not in any danger of being cancelled. The show’s producer, Mark Lieberberg, told the Israeli portal Ynet, in response to the Times piece, “We are here, and that’s a fact. Our show is almost sold out. No Israeli theatre or organization told us anything about a boycott. This whole matter is part of the British tabloid business – the British media are always presenting speculations as facts – and unfortunately this has reached the Times as well.”

Mamma Mia! is due to open shortly at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.


I attach five articles below. I particularly recommend the fourth article, by Leo McKinstry, who writes that “anti-Semitism is becoming not just tolerated but even fashionable in some of our [British] civic institutions, including the universities and parts of the media.”

In the final article, Yair Lapid, one of the most popular columnists in Israel, portrays what many Israelis think of the academic boycott: “[This is] all I ask of the Brits: not money, service or even friendship. Just understand the annoying fact that I don’t want to die.”

As if to underline this point, Israeli security forces announced yesterday that they had successfully foiled a double suicide attack on Tel Aviv and Netanya. Two Palestinian women, both mothers to young children, and one of whom was pregnant with her ninth child, were arrested as they were on their way to carry out the attacks. Islamic Jihad said it had planned the bombings.

-- Tom Gross



The price of British Jewish criticism of Israel
Tel Aviv gets ready to silence Mamma Mia!
By Sonia Verma
The Times (of London)
June 11, 2007

The Abba musical Mamma Mia! could be the first casualty of a growing Israeli backlash against a proposed British academic boycott of Israeli universities.

The British production, due to open in Tel Aviv in a few weeks, has been jeopardised by threats from local theatre companies who refuse to stage it in retaliation over threats from the University and College Union to boycott Israel for occupying Palestinian land.

But the musical is only the beginning, says a group of Israeli politicians who drafted a law that could trigger a consumer boycott of an estimated £1.2 billion of British imports sold in Israel every year.

“The British people should know we are very disappointed in England,” said Otniel Schneller, an Israeli parliament member who helped to draft the Bill aimed at punishing Britain.

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the six-day war, stances taken back then still loom over the Middle East peace process.

“For me, the cost of lost business is not important. It is impossible for us to have economic relations with a country that promotes such antiSemitic policies,” he said. Britain is Israel’s third largest trading partner, behind the US and Germany, according to the country’s Ministry of Trade.

If adopted by the Knesset, the law would require British imports to be labelled clearly, making it easier for shoppers to shun the goods. Machinery, electronics, pharmaceuticals, cars and diamonds are among Israel’s top imports from the UK.

Political observers say that there is growing public support for the Bill. The Israeli Government, leading Israeli academics and newspapers have roundly condemned recent moves by Britain’s largest trade and lecturers’ union, with some commentators branding its actions antiSemitic and the result of the influence of Britain’s growing Muslim community.

In Israel travel agencies are discouraging tourists from travelling to Britain. Some union workers are refusing to unload British imports and some Israeli importers have threatened to cut ties with British suppliers in protest.

A number of prominent Israeli academics, including Itamar Rabinovitch, the former president of Tel Aviv University and a leading author, have expressed outrage at British unions for targeting the wrong people, arguing that Israeli academics are among the most fervent opponents of Israel’s occupation.

But among some Palestinians, the view is different. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel called boycotts a valid tools to end the occupation.

“The Palestinian call for institutional boycott of Israel, which is principally inspired by the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa, is the most morally and politically sound resistance strategy to counter Israeli apartheid and colonial policies,” Omar Barghouti, a Campaign leader, said. He has organised a tour next month of British universities and colleges for pro-boycott Palestinian academics.

A visit to Israel yesterday by Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, to show solidarity with Israeli academics did little to quell the controversy. Speaking at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he called the planned academic boycott of Israeli universities fundamentally wrong. He also criticised Israeli restrictions that stop Palestinian students attending Israeli universities, or students from Gaza travelling to study in the occupied West Bank.

Hitting where it hurts

– Exports from the UK to Israel amounted to about £1.2 billion

– British imports from Israel amounted to just over £700 million

– Eleven Israeli companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange

– Almost 30 other Israeli companies, including Elron Investments and Sky Vision, are planning to float stock on London’s AIM market this year

– Britain exported more than £110 million of military equipment to Israel during its occupation of Palestinian territories and war with Lebanon

Source: Israel-British Chamber of Commerce



Israel discovers oil
By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
June 10, 2007

Lucien Bronicki is one of Israel’s foremost experts in geothermal power, but when I ran into him last week at Ben Gurion University, in Israel’s Negev Desert, all he wanted to talk about was oil wells. Israel, he told me, had discovered oil.

Pointing to a room full of young Israeli high-tech college seniors, Mr. Bronicki remarked: “These are our oil wells.”

It was quite a scene. Once a year Ben Gurion students in biomedical engineering, software, electrical engineering and computing create elaborate displays of their senior projects or – as in the case of a student-made robot that sidled up to me – demonstrate devices they’ve invented.

On this occasion, Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israeli venture capitalism – ever since he backed the four young Israelis who invented the first Internetwide instant messaging system, Mirabilis, which was sold to AOL for $400 million in 1998 – brought some of his venture capital pals, like Mr. Bronicki, down to Ben Gurion to scout out potential start-ups and to mentor the grads.

The first student exhibit I visited was by Yuval Sharoni, 26, an electrical engineering senior, whose project was titled an “Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images” (which has to do with military targeting). When I told him I was from The Times, he declared: “This project is going to make the front page, I’m telling you.” The cover of Popular Mechanics, maybe, but it could one day make the Nasdaq, where Israel now has the most companies listed of any nation outside of the United States.

“Today, every Israeli Jewish mother wants her son to be a dropout and go create a start-up,” said Mr. Vardi, who is currently invested in 38 different ones.

Which gets to the point of this column: If you want to know why Israel’s stock market and car sales are at record highs – while Israel’s government is paralyzed by scandals and war with Hamas and doesn’t even have a finance minister – it’s because of this ecosystem of young innovators and venture capitalists. Last year, Vcs poured about $1.4 billion into Israeli start-ups, which puts Israel in a league with India and China.

Israel is Exhibit A of an economic phenomenon I see a lot these days. Of course, competition between countries and between companies still matters. But when the world becomes this flat – with so many distributed tools of innovation and connectivity empowering individuals from anywhere to compete, connect and collaborate – the most important competition is between you and your own imagination, because energetic, innovative and connected individuals can now act on their imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.

Those countries and companies that empower their individuals to imagine and act quickly on their imagination are going to thrive. So while there are reasons to be pessimistic about Israel these days, there is one huge reason for optimism: this country has a culture that nurtures and rewards individual imagination – one with no respect for limits or hierarchies, or fear of failure. It’s a perfect fit with this era of globalization.

“We are not investing in products or business plans today, but in people who have the ability to imagine and connect dots,” said Nimrod Kozlovski, a top Israeli expert on Internet law who also works with start-ups. Israel is not good at building big companies, he explained, but it is very good at producing people who say, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this...” then create a start-up to do it – which is later bought out and expanded by an Intel, Microsoft or Google.

“The motto here is not work hard but dream hard,” Mr. Kozlovski added. “I had some guy come see me the other day and say, ‘You know Google? They make a lot of money, very famous, right? They’re not that good. We have a much better system that correlates to the cognitive process of searching. Google is worth $50 billion? Probably we can match their numbers.’ He was dead serious.”

My guess is that the flatter the world becomes, the wider the economic gap we will see between those countries that empower individual imagination and those that don’t. High oil prices can temporarily disguise that gap, but it’s growing.

Iran’s ignorant president, who keeps babbling about how Israel is going to disappear, ought to pay a visit to Ben Gurion and see these rooms buzzing with student innovators, with projects called “Integration Points for IP Multimedia Subsystems” and “Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance.” These are oil wells that don’t run dry.



Harvard legal expert vows to sue lecturers boycotting Israel
By Jon Boone
The Financial Times
June 2, 2007,dwp_uuid=34c8a8a6-2f7b-11da-8b51-00000e2511c8,print=yes.html

A top American lawyer has threatened to wage a legal war against British academics who seek to cut links with Israeli universities.

Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor renowned for his staunch defence of Israel and high-profile legal victories, including his role in the O.J. Simpson trial, vowed to “devastate and bankrupt” lecturers who supported such boycotts.

This week’s annual conference of Britain’s biggest lecturers’ union, the University and College Union, backed a motion damning the “complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation [of Palestinian land]”.

It also obliged the union’s executive to encourage members to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions”.

Prof Dershowitz said he had started work on legal moves to fight any boycott.

He told the Times Higher Educational Supplement that these would include using a US law – banning discrimination on the basis of nationality – against UK universities with research ties to US colleges. US academics might also be urged to accept honorary posts at Israeli colleges in order to become boycott targets.

“I will obtain legislation dealing with this issue, imposing sanctions that will devastate and bankrupt those who seek to impose bankruptcy on Israeli academics,” he told the journal.

Sue Blackwell, a UCU activist and member of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, said: “This is the typical response of the Israeli lobby which will do anything to avoid debating the real issue – the 40-year occupation of Palestine.” Jewish groups have attacked the UCU vote, which was opposed by Sally Hunt, its general secretary.



Shame on the left and its vicious hatred of Israel
By Leo McKinstry
The Daily Express
May 31, 2007

Anti-racism is supposed to be one of the guiding principles of our society, preventing discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin or nationality.

Yet it is a bizarre paradox of modern Britain that there is now a climate of increasing hostility towards Jews, particularly in those Left-wing intellectual circles which otherwise make a fetish of their concern for racial sensitivities.

Dressed up as criticism of the state of Israel, anti-Semitism is becoming not just tolerated but even fashionable in some of our civic institutions, including the universities and parts of the media.

Thanks to the Left’s neurotic hatred of Israel, we now have the extraordinary sight of self-styled liberal campaigners launching McCarthyite witch-hunts against anyone deemed to have Israeli connections, as in this week’s debate at the University and College Union’s annual conference at Bournemouth calling for a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.

Respect for democracy, individual rights and freedom of speech are being crushed beneath the juggernaut of shrill indignation.

What is particularly disturbing is the way opposition to the Jewish state descends into vicious antagonism against Jews themselves, as shown by this sickening recent outburst from writer Pamela Hardyment, a member of the National Union of Journalists, which in April voted to boycott Israeli goods.

Explaining her support for the NUJ’s stance, Ms Hardyment described Israel as “a wonderful Nazi-like killing machine backed by the world’s richest Jews”.

Then, like some lunatic from the far-Right, she referred to the “so-called Holocaust” before concluding: “Shame on all Jews, may your lives be cursed.”

Such words could have come straight from Hitler or the most fervent supporter of Osama Bin Laden.

But Ms Hardyment is hardly unique.

This sort of seething resentment can be found throughout the Left, whether in demands that Israel be treated as a Typical of this pariah state or in connivance at anti-Semitic propaganda. approach was the opinion of Ulster poet and darling of the BBC Tom Paulin, who once argued that “Jewish settlers in Israel They are Nazis, should be shot dead. I feel nothing but hatred for them.”

Yet Paulin would no doubt be outraged if some English extremist uttered the same sentiments about radical Muslims settling in Britain.

One of the most nauseating rhetorical devices used by hysterical campaigners such as Paulin and Hardyment is to draw an analogy between the Nazi regime and the modern government of Israel.

Such a link is not only historically absurd, since Israel is by far the most democratic and liberal country in the Middle East, but it is also offensive because it demonises the Jews and devalues the horror of the Holocaust.

The pretence that Israel’s actions in its own defence against Islamic terrorists are somehow the equivalent of Nazi Germany’s gas chambers is a lie worthy of Dr Goebbels himself. And the tragedy is that this continual assault on Israel has led to a rise in anti-Semitism in Britain, much of it fuelled by Islamic radicals.

In 2006 there were 594 anti-Semitic race-hate incidents in this country, a 31 per cent rise on 2005 and the highest total since records began in 1984.

I should perhaps stress that I do not come from a Jewish Like Tom Paulin, I hail from the family. Belfast middle-class. But I have been repelled by the anti-Semitism – disguised as support for the Palestinians – of parts of the British Left.

I first became aware of this nasty phenomenon when, in 1985, I attended the annual conference of the National Union of Students at Blackpool. There I was appalled to hear delegates calling for a ban on student Jewish societies, on the grounds that because such groups supported the state of Israel they were essentially fascistic in nature.

Yet, more than 20 years later, this sort of intolerance is no longer confined to the student debating floor. It now exists in large swathes of education, the press and the arts.

The boycott of Israel by academics was started by Professor Stephen Rose of the Open University, like Paulin another BBC favourite, who told his colleagues that “you have no right to treat Israel as if it were a normal state”.

The boycott is now so widespread that, in one grotesque incident, an Israeli PhD student had his application for Oxford initially rejected purely because he had served in his country’s army.

The professor dealing with the case, Andrew Wilkie, said he had “a huge problem with Israelis taking the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust and then inflicting gross human rights abuses on Palestinians”.

Professor Wilkie would not have dreamt of turning down a Zimbabwean because of Mugabe’s tyranny, or a Chinese applicant because of his own opposition to the occupation of Tibet.

This is what is so contemptible about the intellectuals’ fixation with Israel.

They are guilty of the most bizarre double standards.

While they scream about the Jewish state, they remain silent about human rights abuses carried out by brutal regimes across the world.

And it is ironic that, on the day the lecturers debated a boycott of Israel, they also voted to refuse to co-operate with any attempt to crack down on radical Islam on campuses, claiming such a move would be an infringement of free speech.

Given some of the lecturers’ enthusiasm for silencing Israeli opinion such a position is laughable in its hypocrisy.

United by anti-Semitism, the bigots of the academic Left and Muslim fundamentalism are destroying freedom of thought in this country.



A letter to the British academic
Yair Lapid responds to UK academics’ criticism, reminding them he might pay for the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints with his life
Yediot Ahronot
June 12, 2007,7340,L-3411227,00.html

It was with great interest I read of the British University and College Union’s call for an academic boycott of Israel. I was glad to discover that the association has not yet made a final decision as to how best to boycott us. Their highnesses are still pondering the decision. The blue-gray smoke wafts from their pipes, their foreheads wrinkle, a watch on their wrist sits underneath the sleeve of a Harris Tweed jacket with its leather elbow patch. Maybe they say to themselves, perhaps we’ll boycott them immediately or maybe we’ll wait a bit.

No reason to be hasty, these sweaty baby-makers somewhere in the Middle East, won’t stop killing each other in the near future. In the meantime let’s have another pint and study the rare 18th-century manuscript that we found in the library.

We Israelis know that the decision has a comic side to it. Our academic institutions have always been the fortresses of the radical left, opposed to the occupation with all its heart. We sort of suspected that the Brits don’t really get what is going on here but this is the kind of ignorance that elicits the same kind of wicked laughter from students who catch their teacher making a mistake.

And yet maybe it is me who is making a mistake? Maybe I am too easily ridiculing the opinions of people who care, who are innocently trying to make the world a better place? For every human group that has adopted a lofty cause, there are always the cynics like me who believe that these idealists don’t understand the real world.

Those who opposed apartheid were told that the struggle against international communism was more important, environmentalists were called ‘tree huggers,’ and Tony Blair was told repeatedly that the struggle in Northern Ireland would never end. It is possible that instead of ranting and raving, getting angry, feeling insulted and canceling plans to travel to London to see some theatre in the West End, it is worthwhile to try and help the honorable lecturers in their deliberations. Perhaps this is immodest of me but I believe there is one small thing I can add: I don’t want to die!

While it may be true that the humane thing is to remove the roadblocks and checkpoints, to stop the occupation immediately, to enable the Palestinians freedom of movement in the territories, to tear down the bloody inhumane wall, to promise them the basic rights ensured to every individual. It’s just that I will end up paying for this with my life. Petty of me perhaps to dwell on this point. After all, how important is my life when compared to the chance for peace, justice and equal rights. But still, call me a weakling; call me thickheaded – I don’t want to die.

Make no mistake. Should we do what the honorable British lecturers are demanding, I will die. Maybe not immediately but the waiting won’t be fun. It will take two or three months until my death (don’t worry; it won’t take longer than that). I will always ask myself how I am going to be killed. Will a Katyusha fall on my home burying me in the ruins? Will a suicide bomber explode his charge at the mall as I am buying my small daughter a pair of new shoes? Will someone run pass me with an axe on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv and slice off my head? Or maybe a sniper will take me down on my way to pick up my son from school? If I could choose I would prefer the last option. It seems the most painless. At the very least, my wife will pick up our son a little late and explain to him that his father is dead. Unfortunately I don’t really have the choice of how I am to die, and the curiosity, if you’ll pardon the pun, is killing me.

However, in contrast to me and my ridiculous insistence on staying alive, academics – certainly those lecturers who wander the hallowed, silent halls of the distinguished English university – know how to look at the big picture. From the historic vantage point, my death is really marginal compared to the major effort to end what they are calling “Israeli apartheid”. Their use of this phrase concerns me a tad. Is it possible that even lecturers sometimes miss the lecture? Apartheid? Why apartheid?

The oppression causing the occupation (and yes the opposite is also true) is not there to turn the Palestinians into slaves. We never sent them to look for diamonds in our mines; to pick cotton in our fields or force them to use public toilets reserved for ‘Arabs Only.’ The separation between Israelis and Palestinians has nothing to do with race, creed or color. In fact, Israel is one of the only countries in the world that has banned racist politicians from being elected to the Knesset. Some 20 percent of the population is Arab – they will tell you that no one has ever dared to demand that they sit at the back of the bus.

The only thing that concerns us is that the bus won’t explode and yes my daughter travels on it to her gymnastics class twice a week. Promise this to us, and see how quickly the checkpoints come down and the wall crumbles. Promise us this and see how Israel rallies to help the Palestinians establish a state, to save their economy, to aid them in their most important war: the fight against poverty, ignorance, and Islamic messianic fundamentalism. This is all I ask of the Brits; not money, service or even friendship. Just understand the annoying fact that I don’t want to die.

I am aware of the argument that the occupation is the root of all this horrible violence. It’s just that this is an argument, well, how shall I say it – okay, academic. After all, Arab terror started long before we occupied even one piece of this land. Every major wave of Palestinian terror came as the chances of a peace treaty came closer. It was the situation when there was the wave of terror bombings on public busses in the “Black March” of 1996, which destroyed the prospects of the Oslo Agreement. This is how it was when the second intifada erupted as it did just after Ehud Barak proposed giving up nearly all the occupied territories including part of Jerusalem. That is the way it is now with the wave of Qassam rocket attacks in the wake of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza strip.

I still believe in peace. I am interested in the occupied territories, the bloodshed and cruelty. I believe in peace as I have all my life and I know that a price will have to be paid to achieve it. All I am asking for in the meantime is a fair chance to still be alive when it comes.

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