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Academic Boycott and the Israeli Left
by Electronic Intifada (repost)
Monday Apr 18th, 2005 12:17 PM
Some of the most committed Israeli opponents of their state's illegal military occupation of the Palestinian territories have recently expressed serious reservations about, if not strident opposition to, the Palestinian call for boycott of Israel's academic and cultural institutions. We think that their concerns are worth addressing.
Almost all of the publicized reservations we have seen are prefaced with moral support for the right of Palestinians to resist the occupation — nonviolently, most would write — even by calling for boycotts to achieve that goal. A common theme in their antagonism to the academic boycott, however, is the pragmatic consideration that such a boycott may be "counterproductive" in the struggle to end the occupation.

They allow themselves to raise this objection because they regard themselves as partners of Palestinians in the anti-occupation camp, not as outsiders patronizing us. In some cases, this premise is valid. Most of the time, however, it is not. Israelis who arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to arbitrate every issue dealing with the Palestinians ought to think twice about their self-appointed role as sole licensers of the form the anti-occupation struggle should take.

Israelis who are opposed to the occupation should be doing so on moral grounds, above everything else, and should not dictate the agenda of the struggle. This remains a struggle of Palestinians and their supporters — including conscientious Israelis — led by Palestinians against Israel's racist and colonial policies. It is high time to recognize this profound fact.

Another crucial issue that demands consideration here is the fact that even conscientious Israelis are objectively in a situation of conflict of interest: boycotts, even of the most sensitive and nuanced types, will in all likelihood hurt their interests. Does this morally rob them of the right to opine or give Palestinians advice about boycott, as their views will always be tainted by self-interest? No, but the fact that their interests are on the line should not be ignored either in judging the degree of fairness of their opinions. A few principled academics, like Ilan Pappe, have decisively overcome this conflict of interest by declaring their readiness to accept the price that they may have to pay as a result of implementing any meaningful boycott against Israeli academic institutions. Such admirable moral clarity and consistency should set an example to other Israeli academics.

Regardless of intentions and moral considerations, we do think it is important to lay out the most recurrent and serious pragmatic/political arguments raised by progressive Israelis, and to respond to each of them with due deliberation.

The "counterproductiveness" claim -- by far the most potent of all assertions -- rests on the following arguments:


1. Academic boycotts in general hurt the one sector in the oppressor society that is most likely to be sympathetic to the struggle of the oppressed. Israel is no exception, it is held.

Even if this holds in other places, in Israel it simply does not. Israeli academics by and large serve in the occupation army, and hardly ever publicly denounce Israel's occupation, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens or its obdurate denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees. This constitutes collusion — even if passive, at times — with their state's criminal oppression of the Palestinian people. Moreover, Israeli academics' organizations, such as university senates or professional associations, have been totally silent on the conduct of those academics who have contributed to the occupation regime either through direct service as advisors or as producers of "knowledge" useful to the project of control, oppression, and occupation. As far as we know, no racist or complicit academic has ever been publicly censured by representative bodies or associations of academics. Many of those Israelis who object to the academic boycott admit, quite freely, the complicity of the academy as a whole in the colonial project, both historically and in the present.


2. Academic boycott by its very nature contradicts academic freedom.

This claim needs to be examined carefully. We think that the freedom that Israeli academics appear keen to preserve is the freedom to continue being scholars, i.e. to have an uninterrupted flow of research funds, to continue to get grants to be released from teaching, to take sabbaticals, to continue to be able to write, engage in scholarly debate, and to do all the things respectable academics are supposed to do. But can they or should they be able to enjoy these freedoms (which sound more like privileges to us) without any regard to what is going on outside the walls of the academy, to the role of their institutions in the perpetuation of colonial rule? We are faced here again with the problem of Israelis seeing the world from their vantage point, and assuming — and demanding — that others do the same. Why does the world owe it to Israel's academics to help them perpetuate their privileged position?


3. Israeli academics opposed to the occupation are themselves largely antagonistic to boycott. Insisting on boycott, therefore, runs the risk of losing them. Palestinians cannot afford that, particularly given their evident political weakness.

Although the views of our Israeli supporters regarding methods of struggle matter to us, they are not our only, or even our most significant, consideration. As argued above, we hope that their opposition to the crimes committed in their names is based on more than pragmatic considerations, and that they are capable of seeing themselves in the wider context of the struggle, thereby overcoming the tendency to feel that they lie at the center of the universe. The boycott is a morally sound means of struggle that challenges the world to force Israeli compliance with international law; it therefore serves Palestinian interests in the struggle for emancipation, self-determination and equality. That is our most urgent consideration.


4. Conscientious Israelis who are exempted from the call for boycott will be isolated even further by their Israeli colleagues if they accept such a privilege. This will hurt their standing and diminish their ability to influence those colleagues' attitudes towards the occupation.

This is even less relevant than the consideration raised in the third claim! The above response amply addresses it.


5. Although the Palestinian call for boycott explicitly calls for "institutional" not individual boycott, by exempting "conscientious Israeli academics" opposed to occupation and oppression, it implies that the rest of Israeli academic individuals are to be boycotted. This apparent contradiction sheds some doubt on the sincerity or coherence of the Palestinian call.

Although as a matter of principle we refuse to be put in the seat of the accused in this not-so-innocent case of questioning our integrity, we shall respond to this charge. One year after the Palestinian call for boycott was issued, PACBI's record of public statements, press releases, published articles and letters should put to rest any doubts about our moral and political consistency. Our Call explicitly and unequivocally calls for institutional boycott, period. The fact that we go out of our way to "Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies" follows from our realization that there is always a grey area where an academic may be perceived as representing her/his institution rather than her/himself. We were cautious and nuanced enough to address that eventuality. This does not imply anything beyond what it says. Our discourse has always avoided double-talk and mixed messages, unlike that of most of our detractors.


Silence in the South African Context

One final and crucial point to make is where were those critics of boycott during the years of comprehensive, blanket boycotts (in all fields, including academia) of the apartheid regime in South Africa? Did they object then to the far more stringent criteria of the boycott? If not, it is fair to conclude that they must be either hypocritical or else they have good reasons to believe that such punitive measures cannot be as effective in the Israeli apartheid case as in its South African predecessor. We have yet to read or hear one good argument supporting this unfounded belief. The burden of proof lies flatly on their laps, not ours.

Treating Israel as a state outside of history, unaccountable to international law and morally untouchable has got to come to an end. It reflects moral inconsistency and political blindness; furthermore, it serves to perpetuate Israel's rarely matched oppression of the people of Palestine, and, by extension, it inhibits the struggle for genuine peace based on justice and the universal principle of equal humanity.


Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki are founding members of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). The full text of PACBI's Call for Boycott can be read at: right2edu.birzeit.edu/news/article178.

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3763.shtml

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Ran Greenstein
Tuesday Apr 19th, 2005 10:49 AM
Yes, the majority of Israeli academics are not very different in their views
from the majority of Israeli plumbers, tax officials or chefs. But the crucial
question, that is not answered here, is: what is the envisaged mechanism
that would translate academic boycott and negative impact on Israeli
academics into positive results for Palestinians under occupation? What is
the empirical evidence that academic boycott in South Africa expedited the
fall of apartheid by one single day, or that it had any positive impact at all?
I am talking specifically about the academic boycott, not about sanctions
and boycotts in general. Can Barghouti point to a single study or evaluation
of the boycott that tells us it was useful and had positive results (again,
asking about specifics, not about the sanctions in general)? From where I
am sitting I can see all the negative aspects of isolating SA academics, but
fail to see a single positive one.


Ran Greenstein
Johannesburg, South Africa
By Tamara Traubman and Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondents

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, has joined Prof. Menachem Magidor, president of Hebrew University, to denounce the academic boycott of Israeli universities.

Nusseibeh and Magidor issued a joint declaration last Thursday urging the end of the boycott declared by Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) and signed a cooperation agreement.

"Our position is based upon the belief that it is through cooperation based on mutual respect, rather than boycotts or discrimination, that our common goals can be achieved," the statement says.

"Our disaffection with, and condemnation of, acts of academic boycotts is predicated on the principles of academic freedom, human rights and equality between nations and among individuals."

The AUT's plans to meet this week to reconsider its controversial decision to bar Israeli faculty members of Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities from taking part in academic conferences and joint research.

Nusseibeh said the calls of Palestinian intellectuals for a boycott reflected the deterioration of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. "I don't believe the boycott is the way to go," he said. "I believe peace must be built on the bridge between two civil societies."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/578862.html
by david hirsh via gehrig
Sunday May 22nd, 2005 9:21 PM
http://liberoblog.com/2005/05/21/thursday-will-be-a-victory-for-the-authentic-left-over-the-posturing-left/

Without Engage’s efforts, AUT would still have an effectively racist policy, would be haemorrhaging members at a perhaps fatal rate and would be regarded as a racist union in the UK and worldwide by many people. So AUT activists should be pleased that Engage has rescued our union. Over the last few weeks we have been the strongest AUT loyalists around.

There are two pernicious sentiments hanging around AUT at the moment. One is that all the Jews came out of the woodwork because their ‘communal’ interest was threatened - they don’t really care about the union or about their colleagues - only about their own interest.

The other pernicious sentiment hanging around is that we (we Jews? we Engage?) pretend to be outraged by Israel’s racist treatment of the Palestinians but we really don’t care; we are just some sort of ‘Zionist Front’ (Jewish Front? Board of Deputies Front?) organisation. We are not serious about supporting Palestinians, we have no record of supporting Palestinians and we will not support Palestinians in the future.

Firstly, neither of these sentimetns are actually based on fact. While it is true that some Jewish AUT members were motivated to join with Engage and to attend their own special branch meetings, it is also true that many more non-Jewish members were activated either because they are genuine anti-racists, or because they believe in academic freedom or because they believed that their union had been plunged into crisis. The campaign against the boycott has not been a communalist campaign, it has been an anti-racist, and pro-union campaign.

The victory at next week’s Special Council will be a victory for the authentic left against the posturing left. It will be a victory for those who stand up for Palestinian rights and who stand against the Sharon regime - and it will be a victory for those who do so without allowing themselves to be polluted by the ’socialism of fools’ - antisemitism.

Secondly, even if it were true that Jews had come out to defend themselves as Jews from their own union’s antisemitic policy - what would be suspect or unusual about that?

If I wanted to detail the track record of support for Palestinians and for the Israeli peace movement represented by each contributor to Engage I could do. Most of us have been involved for many years in arguing and fighting against the racist policies of Israeli governments; many of us have been working in support of the refusenik movements. Many of us have proud records of supporting Palestinian rights and Palestinian national aspirations. Many of us are involved in academic projects and research that links with this record. And the boycott, after all, is a policy designed not for activists but for people who seek some kind of tokenistic way to feel that they are doing something to help.

But the point is not our record or our future plans. The point is the validity of what we argue. Opposing a racist policy in AUT does not commit those oppositionists to spending the rest of their lives doing Palestine Solidarity work in order to prove that they have the right to speak. AUT should make and facilitate links with Palestinian and Israeli academics; AUT should help and encourage Palestinians and Israelis who are fighting against the occupation, for freedom and for academic freedom. Individual Jews in the UK do not have any particular responsibility to do this – any more than anyone else does – and any more than they have a particular responsibility to oppose China’s occupation of Tibet or Russia’s occupation of Chechnya.

The central point on this, however, is that supporting Palestinians without saying anything about Israeli rights is one sided and counter-productive. The anti-Zionists who (through ignorance) flirt with antisemitism do damage to the cause of Palestinian liberation and to the cause of peace in the Middle East. Those who have abandoned the left and who are accepting the political leadership of racist, nationalist and fundamentalist-religious movements can have nothing positive to add to the debate and have nothing positive to offer Palestinians or Israelis who are fighting against the occupation and against the racist attitudes of the right wing of their own communities.

The tradition of the authentic left is not to pick good nations over bad nations, ‘oppressed’ nations over ‘oppressor’ nations, ‘anti-imperialist’ nations over ‘imperialist’ nations - the tradition of the authentic left is to work within all nations against nationalism and against the demonisation of the others.

There have always been people who hang around the left, who pretend to be part of the left, who speak the speak of the left, but who are in reality not of the left.

There is a long tradition of antisemitism on the left and in the Labour movement; the ’socialism of fools’. Karl Marx mocked the antisemitic ultra-leftism of Bruno Bauer, who argued against Jewish emancipation in 19th century Germany. The Stalinists in the 1930s organised around antisemitic campaigns, and again in the 50’s with the ‘doctors trials’. Before the second world war, Oswald Moseley came out of the Labour Party to campaign on an ‘anti-war’ antisemtic platform in the East End. Since the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, left antisemitism has routinely clothed itself as anti-Zionism. The Polish Communist Party launched a purge of ‘Zionist’ academics in 1968. In the 1970s and 80s the Soviet Union imprisoned Jews who wanted to live in Israel in the Gulag. Anti-Zionists attacked the rights of Jewish students to organise Jewish societies in the UK in the 80s. Also in the 80s, Jim Allen wrote a play that put some of the blame for the Holocaust onto ‘Zionism’ and that represented Zionism and Nazism as being ideologically related belief systems. There is a commonsense notion present amongst much of the posturing left today of Jews as ‘oppressors’; Jews are Nazi-Zionists, Jews are rich Capitalists, Jews are scheming Communists, Jews are the shady neo-cons pulling the strings of American imperialism. This fake and racist leftism has to stop. The left has to radically re-educate itself so that it can recognise antisemitism when it sees it.

Armed with these kinds of nonsense ideas, the left cannot do effective Palestine solidarity work - or effective work of any kind.

David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College

---

@%<
by Aaron Aarons
Sunday May 22nd, 2005 11:18 PM
"I believe peace must be built on the bridge between two civil societies."

Given the existing relationship between Israeli and Palestinian societies, an elevator would be more practical. When the Israelis get off of the Palestinians, then maybe a bridge will be possible.
by Aaron Aarons
Monday May 23rd, 2005 1:17 AM
David Hirsh writes:
... in the 80s, Jim Allen wrote a play that put some of the blame for the Holocaust onto 'Zionism' and that represented Zionism and Nazism as being ideologically related belief systems.
Thanks for the reference! It sounds like a play that needs to be presented a lot more! Zionists did indeed both collaborate with the Nazis and place Jewish emigration to Palestine way ahead of saving Jews from extermination. And the Nazis themselves (including Eichmann), as well as some Zionists, recognized the ideological affinity between Zionism and Nazism.

Both anti-semitism and philo-semitism have been problems on the left at times. It was the latter that led much of the left to support the seizure of most of Palestine by the Zionists in 1947-1949, and in some cases even in 1967!

In this and other current disputes about Israel/Palestine, there will be some anti-semites on one side and some philo-semites (including tribalist Jews) on the other. (The former will tilt against Israel because it is "Jewish" and the latter will tilt in its favor for the same reason.) In the U.S. and Western Europe, the philo-semites will almost always outnumber the anti-semites -- especially in academia!

The central point on this, however, is that supporting Palestinians without saying anything about Israeli rights is one sided and counter-productive.
[...]
The tradition of the authentic left is not to pick [...] 'oppressed' nations over 'oppressor' nations, 'anti-imperialist' nations over 'imperialist' nations [...]
It is not a matter of picking oppressed nations against oppressor nations, but of supporting oppressed nations and peoples against their oppressors. And while I'm not sure what an 'anti-imperialist' nation is, there certainly are imperialist nations (like the U.S.) and nations dominated by imperialism, like most of Asia, Africa and Latin America. To fail to make such distinctions -- and act on them -- is to be an authentic part of the left wing of imperialism and national oppression.

Regarding "Israeli rights", I can only say that Jewish Israelis have too many rights in Palestine!

P.S. I'm a communist who happens to be of Jewish ethnicity. People of my ethnicity are disproportionately represented among communists, liberals, anarchists, neo-liberals and other belief systems -- good, bad and indifferent. The difference about Zionists (including the neo-cons) is that they act as Jews in the name of Jews. This is what makes it easy for them to attack their opponents (except for us "self-hating Jews") as "anti-semites".

by gehrig
Monday May 23rd, 2005 6:57 AM
The funny thing is, Sue Blackwell has _admitted_ in an open letter to opponents of the boycott a few weeks ago that the proceedings voting for the boycott _were_ undemocratic, and that there wasn't a full debate. But put a microphone in her hands and she starts complaining about some international campaign to convince the AUT members that the process she admits was undemocratic was undemocratic.

Feh.

And what's worse, she still doesn't recognize that she's seeing a revolt from within AUT ranks, and is instead convinced that the only reason the AUT might _possibly_ reject the boycotts is because external forces -- wink wink -- are campaigning against it.

But, hey, look at it this way. Sue Blackwell is representing a university -- Birmingham -- whose AUT voted to rescind the boycotts. She has announced she plans to vote _against_ rescinding the boycotts. That is, she has promised beforehand to ignore the stance of the people she's representing.

Feh again.

@%<
by gehrig
Monday May 23rd, 2005 9:40 AM
Dear Friend,

My name is Amir Kneifiss and I am an Israeli Druze currently studying towards an MSc. in Governance at the LSE. I am writing as a former student at Haifa University, the institute you decided to boycott a few weeks ago and the place where I spent the best years of my life studying history and politics.

Haifa is a university in which one of every five students is Arab; in which loud but civilised political debates take place regularly; and one in which nobody was ever denied his/her freedom of expression. In my opinion, it is a hotbed of peace and dialogue that should be studied as a model for coexistence and not the opposite. Nevertheless, misled by a frustrated lecturer, you decided to boycott this amazing and diverse institute.

Israel is much more complicated than a newspaper headline. As with many ethnic or national minorities around the world, there are difficulties in integrating Israeli-Arabs and other minorities into the mainstream society. Much more needs to be done in these aspects. Yet, I am a firm believer that change can be made through engagement in the many facets of Israeli
democracy and I reject the false allegations portraying Israel as an apartheid and racist state. Not only it is wrong and deceptive, but it will do little to help us in the Middle East confront the real problems and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The misleading arguments about Haifa University are only one example. More disturbing is the one-sided depiction of Israel, portrayed by some extremists who have never really intended to understand the complexities. Nobody, for instance, mentioned that in Ariel College there are currently 300 Arab students and that only last week, three Israeli-Arab Mayors
publicly supported the College for its contribution to reducing inequalities. Yes, the occupied territories should be used to establish a viable Palestinian State. Nevertheless, instead of boycotting Israeli institutions, it is much more helpful to explore the various mechanisms capable of satisfying the interests of both sides (e.g. land swap).

An end to the occupation will not come from a blunt boycott, but from pragmatic solutions accommodating both sides desires. Only political negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians - and not the imposition of sanctions from the outside - will help to create a better future for us all. Therefore, although I am only in my twenties, I believe spreading hatred is the most ineffective way of promoting these goals. We need to bridge the gap, not extend it.

If you oppose discrimination and believe in peace, open dialogue and constructive debate, you should see why this boycott must be overturned. It helps none of us and shows one-sided hostility to Israel more than a love of peace.

Please do write to me if you are interested in hearing more about my point of view, and please defend dialogue, for the benefit of all of us.

Yours sincerely,

Amir Kniefiss
Department of Government
London School of Economics

http://liberoblog.com/2005/05/23/dont-boycott-my-home-a-letter-to-aut-members/

@%<
by Aaron Aarons
Tuesday May 24th, 2005 3:28 AM
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

Last update - 16:31 17/05/2005

Haifa University students protest against 'racist' conference on demography

By David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent

Several dozen Jewish and Arab students protested Tuesday morning at Haifa University against an academic conference titled "The Demographic Problem and Israel's Demographic Policies" that they described as racist.

The students, prevented by campus security personnel from entering the auditorium where the conference was being held, sat down outside and refused to be evacuated.

Conference participants are slated to discuss the forecasts that Arabs will constitute the majority of Israel's population with several decades.

The student protestors maintain the conference is racist and anti-Arab. They attempted to distributed to conference participants certificates reading "licensed racist" and "the bearer of this certificate completed with honors an advanced course in racism at Haifa University."

Conference participants include demographic experts Professor Sergio della Pergola of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Professor Arnon Sofer of Haifa University.


http://news.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/577144.html
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=577144
by Avraham Oz (repost by A.A.)
Tuesday May 24th, 2005 4:12 AM
http://www.sue.be/pal/academic/Oz_rep.html

Subject: A Middle East Update

by Avraham Oz

17 May 2005

Dear friends,

First, a warning, derived from TV news reports I watched with the years: those with weak stomachs, please refrain from reading this update.

What would you say if in a university, say, in New York, would hold an academic conference called "The Demographic Problem in New York", and, perusing the list of presentations you will realize that the "problem" dealt with refers exclusively to the scary proliferation of Jews in New York?

Unimaginable, right?

Well, please note the date of this update. In my (currently boycotted by the AUT) university, a conference was held today, entitled "The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel," organized by the Herzl Institute for the Study of Zionism, The Reuven Hecht Estate, and the Chair for Geo-Strategy. In my update from April 12th, I have provided some links as to the identity of the carefully selective list of speakers in that conference:

Professor Yoav Gelber, Head of the Herzl Institute, University of Haifa
(Please look up the following:
http://www.freeman.org/m_online/mar05/gelber.php
http://list.haifa.ac.il/pipermail/alef/2004-January/000172.html )

Professor Arnon Sofer
(Please look up the following:
http://www.bintjbeil.com/articles/en/020628_galili.html
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/10/18/181802.shtml
http://www.palestinetimes.net/issue122/articles.html )

Mr Harry Zesler, representative of the Hecht Estate,
(Please look up the following:
http://www.iruim.net/bnaibrith/page.htm )

Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, Rector, University of Haifa
(Please look up the following:
http://stop-us-military-aid-to-israel.net/b2/index.php?p=74&more=1 )

General (res.) Uzi Dayan, Head of the Zionist Council, initiator of the "Apartheid Wall"
(Please look up the following:
http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/
http://www.countercurrents.org/pa-rappaport100703.htm )

General (res.) Herzl Gedge, Head of the Population Administration, Ministry of the Interior:
Please look up the following:
http://www.kavlaoved.org.il/katava_main.asp?news_id=1023&sivug_id=4 )

Dr Yitzhak Ravid
(Please look up the following:
http://www.dontknowitfromadam.com/Blog_Archives/000109.html )

Professor Sergio della Pergola, Head of Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
(Please look up the following:
http://www.jafi.org.il/papers/2004/june/june24hz.htm
http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/The_Real_Threat_to_Europes_Je ws.asp )

Dr Yuval Steinitz, Head of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee (Likud), one of Likud MKs who opposed Sharon's "disengagement" plan.
(Please look up the following:
http://www.isracast.com/Transcripts/240504c_trans.htm
http://www.freeman.org/m_online/sep01/steinitz.htm
http://info.jpost.com/C002/Supplements/Intifada/str_04.html )

Needless to say, no speaker who might express a contrary view.

Needless to say, no Arab speaker: after all, are the patients taking part in medical conferences? Read again the title of the conference: they are "the problem!" When a reporter of an Israeli TV news channel reported the event (which developed into a major scandal, as you will read below), interviewed on the spot my colleague Professor Arnon Sofer, the chief organizer of the conference, what would he do to a Bedouine who has ten children, he answered on record, facing the camera: "If it were up to me, I would have arrested him, for he is a criminal." He did not refer to an ultra-religious Jew, who in many cases is bound to have a similar number of children, or sometimes more. After they are all Jewish, and thus, do not constitute "a problem."

Since I try to set some limits to the degree of stomach convulsion my job description at the University of Haifa obliges me to contract, I did not volunteer to show up on campus on a day where my attendance is not required for performing my teaching duties. But several of my friends, colleagues and students, went there, to protest. The event is described below, in an Ha'aretz report, and a more detailed account provided by my colleague Dr Ilan Pappe of the despicable event, which represents the way my university interprets academic freedom. Yes, I said my university, not a few right wing extremists who happen to be employed or invited by the university. The guest of honour at the conference was the Rector of the University, Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, who thought it wise to confer a prestigious prize under the auspices of that conference. This, then, is not a marginal conference tolerated by the university in the name of academic freedom: the well advertised attendance of the highest academic figure of the university (no matter who occupies that capacity at this time) voids any future claim by the university (when their PR consultants will advise them to do so) that it had no part in organizing it.

But before you move to the reports, a few words about the boycott. Some of you would say all this justifies it even further. Two major pretexts advanced by the initiators and supporters of the move were that it may prove effective: perhaps change some minds in Israel, and definitely make noise to bring the Palestinian issue to the forefront. Now, almost a month since it was launched, as an experimental balloon (and before it may well be retracted next week), let's account for its effectiveness according to those parameters: Indeed the boycott decision made a lot of noise in my university, as well as in Israel and the world. During this month, some atrocities were made by the Israeli security forces, a Palestinian teenager shot by the security forces died in a Palestinian ambulance rushing him to hospital when the ambulance was detained for 15 critical minutes by an IDF watch barrier; Injuring demonstrators against the construction of the evil wall; Allegations of anti-semitism were flaunted to each direction.; Pappe was attacked by the Ministress of Education at her speech at the ceremony awarding the Israel prize to scientists, academics and artists; The Israeli cabinet voted 13-7 to confer university status on Judea and Samaria College in the West Bank settlement Ariel (a political move, since the Ariel College is rated one of the lowest ranking in quality among the Israeli colleges, and no academic criterion justifies such a promotion).

My university's administration had a lively activity during these weeks: do you think that following the boycott they have reconsidered the refusal to put signs in Arabic, in addition to Hebrew and English, on campus? to employ some Arab students in the library or elsewhere at the university? Reconsider the closure of the University theatre closed for mounting plays in Arabic? Reconsider forbidding a Christmas tree installed in Christmas a the university's main building, the same place were a Jewish Menora was put during Hannuka? Did they raise a voice of protest against the incessant undermining by the Israeli security forces of Palestinian higher education in the Occupied Territories? No, none of these. Instead, they were busy defaming Ilan Pappe; spread officially (via the university's official spokesperson, a misleading account of the disqualifying, by an alleged anonymous committee, of Teddy Katz's formerly cum-laude-approved MA thesis; hired a British lawyer to send a letter to the AUT threatening them that if the boycott was not revoked, the university will file a libel suit at a British court; and passing in the Senate a regulation empowering the University use the Appointments and Promotions committee (headed by the Rector) to appoint adjunct lecturers, suggested by members of faculty and endorsed by the Deans, as a declarative statement of support (a colleague of mine suggested parodically Sue Blackwell, the initiator of the boycott, as such an adjunct, and Sue, with a good sense of humour, wrote she would accept the offer once the boycott was revoked, but expressed her doubts whether the Israeli authorities will let her into Israel, or deny her entry, as it did to a group of women having come last week from the UK to support the Palestinians on the West Bank).

In short, the boycott indeed made noise, but not about the Palestinian issue, but... about the boycott. I would advise our International colleagues to learn this lesson and reconsider their decision: if you wish to put pressure on Israel, do it where it hurts, not where it serves just to enhance the feeling of persecution by most Israelis - including those who oppose the occupation. Protest against the persons directly asking for reproach. Or, better still, do something positive about helping and supporting the Palestinians in every way possible.

For better days,

Professor Avraham Oz
Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature,
University of Haifa
2105 Eshkol Tower, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel

This site is owned and maintained by Sue Blackwell.
It was last updated on 20th May 2005.
by Ilan Pappe (repost by A.A.)
Tuesday May 24th, 2005 4:26 AM
http://www.palestinecampaign.org/features.asp?d=y&ID=477 OR
http://www.palestinecampaign.org/print_article.asp?xid=f&id=477

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PALESTINIAN STUDENT

17 May 2005 | Dr. Ilan Pappe

This morning a group of Palestinian and Jewish students demonstrated outside the hall of the conference in the university of Haifa titled `The demographic problem and the Demographic policy of Israel` - the euphemism used for talking about the Arab Demographic threat and the need to encounter it; by transfer even, if need be. The posters against the conference were brutally torn and taken away by the security guards of the university, bruising and beating some of the students on the way. The students were unable to go into the whole as a wall - what else - of tables and chairs blocked their way into the seats. Cameras were working overtime, taking photos of the Arab students, so that they could be charged with violating public order and brought in front of a disciplinary committee.

My student, L. H., a fragile young Palestine woman, succeeded in getting in: "they thought I was Jewish", she told me later. She managed to stay calm when one demographer elaborated on the dangers of loosing a Jewish majority, and even when Professor Arnon Sofer, claimed that it was me who sent the students to demonstrate as part of my alliance with `contemptible` Europe and `despiable` Britain. She even sat through when he explained that he will not allow Tel-Aviv to become Cairo. The kind of rhetoric one hears in the meetings of the national fronts meetings across Europe and in the neo-Nazi rallies in Berlin. Here it was in an academic conference sponsored and honoured by the Rector.

But she had enough when Yoav Gleber claimed that any numbers of Palestinians living before 1948 were fabricated for political reasons, and in any case if he had to choose between a Jewish State and a Democracy, he prefers the former. She stood up and condemned him and was silenced by the crowed as being stupid and later ushered out of the meeting by the security people.

L.H. is afraid to go into classes today if this is the university she studies in. But she will overcome her fear and continue to demand what is hers by right and virtue. The important question what does it tell us of the University of Haifa. The speakers in the conference came from among its top professors, but also the demonstrators came from that university. The former threw out the latter: oppressed and silenced them. Another question is how best can we help the Palestinian and Jewish students who demonstrated bravely and will be probably charged? I have answered these questions in the past and suggested that only outside pressure can help, but far more important is the question of what will happen if nothing is done? Can you, like me, conjecture the titles of next year`s conferences: `The Meaning and Objective of Transfer`; `Encouraging Abortion Among Palestinian Women` etc. Sometimes you feel that the authorities of this university deserve every bit of the trouble that came its way recently.
by Critical Thinker
Saturday May 28th, 2005 9:20 AM
By SAM SER


The Protestant campaign of divestment, meant to punish Israel for its "occupation," is weakening.

The announcement by Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop M. Thomas Shaw – a staunch pro-Palestinian advocate – that he would oppose divestment efforts from within his church was the latest in a string of similar declarations by small member communities of America's large liberal-leaning churches.

Across the country, Protestants are reevaluating the wisdom, and even the justice, of the high-profile divestment campaign their leaders began a few years ago.

Divestment could affect billions of dollars in the investment portfolios managed by the Presbyterian Church USA, the World Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and others that have either endorsed or are considering some form of punitive divestment from Israel.

And, despite Shaw's statement about his own diocese, the Episcopal Church USA is still reviewing whether to purge from its own multi-billion-dollar portfolio companies that do business with Israel.

Yet those steps have divided churches, according to David Elcott, US director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, which has been trying to persuade church groups to reverse or cancel anti-Israel divestment.

"They got caught with resolutions that undermined their own message... and ruptured relationships with their own congregations and with Jews," Elcott said.

"In every denomination there are leaders who say that divestment is a bad idea," he continued, "but Shaw's statement, talking about constructive investment" – supporting pro-peace groups rather than withdrawing investments from companies dealing with Israel – "is much better."

The Presbyterian Church USA has just amended its divestment call, Elcott added, to include Palestinian companies and groups.

"It's a major shift," Elcott said, because it recognizes that focusing solely on Israel is biased. The Episcopal Church has also begun stressing the need to investigate the Palestinian side of the divestment coin.

So far, the churches' calls to divest, and their repeated and harsh criticisms of Israel, have drawn complaints from Jewish groups that the churches are attacking the very legitimacy of the Jewish state.

"The so-called mainstream Protestant churches, headed by the Presbyterians, have been hostile to Israel for decades. It's an inexplicable hostility for Jews that has gone on for 2,000 years," Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, recently told The Jerusalem Post.

"I was at the sermons of many of these churches where they spoke about the Israelis being the real terrorists. They compared the Israelis to the Nazis. When they make prejudicial analogies, the meaning is, they're prejudiced," he added.

Brian Grieves, director of peace and justice ministries for the Episcopal Church, rejects the charge of bias in the church's focus on Israel.

"We divested from all companies doing business in Sudan six or seven years ago, and we have no holdings in North Korea," said Grieves, "I think [the question of bias] is the media's problem, not the church's problem."

On the other hand, he said the church had "heard more about this issue from the American Jewish community than we have heard from members of our own church" and that "except for a few high-profile people like Bishop Shaw, most people are favorable to our study" of selective divestment.

Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC's international director of interreligious affairs and the former president of the International Council of Christians and Jews, said that the Protestant preoccupation with Palestinian concerns was characteristic of "a strong focus on the question of social justice and a strong desire to identify with the underdog, even a passion for political correctness... that are often manifested as hostility toward the State of Israel."


http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1116814793519

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