Defending Zionism under the cloak of academic freedom

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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In a widely circulated Los Angeles Times op ed piece, Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth denounced the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as “a repugnant attack on academic freedom.” Parroting near-identical responses by other American university presidents, Roth’s ill-informed, grossly distorted polemic took me by surprise. While I do not expect him to agree with our stance, I did expect a more considered and intellectually honest disagreement from the president of Wesleyan University—a world-class institution with a long and distinguished record of teaching (and doing) social justice, grounded in an internationalist, humanist vision of liberal arts education; a school to which I gave nearly a quarter of a million dollars of my hard-earned academic salary so that my daughter (class of 2012) could learn what it means to be an informed, critical, engaged citizen of the world.

Roth either misread or deliberately misrepresented the resolution’s carefully considered language. He asserts that the ASA targets Israeli academic institutions merely for their “national affiliation.” This is not true. They are targeted for their complicity in the illegal occupation and government policies of dispossession, repression, and racism. He also claims that the resolution extends to individual faculty. It does not. It strongly condemns any attempts to single out and/or isolate Israeli scholars or any scholar of any nationality. On the contrary, the resolution and its authors encourage collaboration and dialogue, but outside the official channels of the Israeli state-supported institutions that continue to directly benefit from or support the occupation.

Roth repeats the well-worn argument that Israel is being singled out because the ASA has not boycotted countries with documented human rights abuses. But countries such as North Korea have no formal institutional ties to the ASA, and in most instances our own government has taken action, imposing sanctions and trade barriers or openly condemning violations of human rights or war crimes. Of course, there are egregious exceptions such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain—U.S.-backed repressive regimes that some of our most prominent ASA members have subjected to sharp criticisms.

But all of this is beside the point: Israel and the U.S. have a “special” relationship. As Carolyn Karcher recently reminded us in her rebuttal to Roth’s op ed, “the U.S. not only gives far more military aid to Israel than to any other country, but has also vetoed all U.N. resolutions in recent memory that condemn Israel’s abuses of human rights. The ASA resolution specifically cites the ‘significant role’ the U.S. plays in underwriting Israel’s violations of international law.” Three billion dollars a year, every year, is an awful lot of money. The money flows despite the fact that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the source of the region’s immense poverty, is a clear violation of Articles 33, 55, and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibiting the collective punishment of civilians and requiring an occupying power to ensure access to food and medical supplies, and to maintain hospital and public health facilities.

Roth, who takes great pride in being a historian informed about and even critical of Israel’s policies, knows that these intermittent wars in Gaza, not to mention IDF attacks and home demolitions in the West Bank, violate our own Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits the use of U.S. weapons and military aid against civilians. And the most recent violent racist attacks on African immigrants in Israel represent some of the worst examples of human rights violations. Some 60,000 undocumented workers, many having fled war-torn or economically devastated countries such as Sudan and Eritrea, are denied refugee status, subject to deportation and imprisonment for up to a year without trial, and endure horrifying violence from racist mobs. The entire community is accused of committing rape, robbery and other crimes, and in Binyamin Netanyahu’s words, threatening to destroy Israel’s “image as a Jewish and democratic state.”

“Under the guise of phony progressivism,” Roth writes, “the [ASA] has initiated an irresponsible attack on academic freedom.” It is not clear what Roth means by “phony,” but the academic and cultural boycott is a legal, legitimate, non-violent form of protest that targets institutions only. The original call for an international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005, inspired by the global solidarity movement that helped end apartheid and bring nonracial democracy to South Africa. Since then, the movement has gained support globally as well as from Israeli organizations such as Boycott from Within and Who Profits? The ASA membership voted overwhelmingly to support the resolution, but it did not come to this conclusion cavalierly. The implication that some deep-seated anti-Israel or anti-Semitic sentiment was behind it is downright insulting. The resolution resulted from a long process of debate and deliberation within our organization over how to respond to the ongoing 46-year occupation (the longest military occupation in modern history), the deadly blockade of Gaza, the escalation of violence, the expansion of illegal settlements, the denial of academic freedom to Palestinians and some Israeli scholars critical of their government, and the massive U.S. military aid to Israel that ultimately underwrites ongoing dispossession and an entrenched system of apartheid. These discussions began some six years ago, and they have not been easy.

Had Roth taken time to read discussions leading up to the resolution, particularly the extensive critical analyses by Judith Butler or the special issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom devoted to the question of academic boycotts, he may not have been so quick to indict the resolution as an “irresponsible attack on academic freedom.” As a matter of fact, the boycott will have no direct impact on the ability of individual Israeli scholars to teach, conduct research, and participate in meetings, symposia, or conferences around the globe. And ASA members are not required to abide by the resolution—it really only applies to official association business. The most important point, however, is that the resolution expresses a fundamental demand that the privileges of academic freedom extend to all: Palestinian teachers, researchers, students of all ages, as well as Jewish and Arab Israeli scholars, writers, intellectuals, artists, and students critical of the regime. Roth is silent when it comes to the academic freedom of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and within Israel itself.

While cognizant of the limited space afforded opinion pieces, I still find it baffling that an intellectual historian who has written about the Holocaust can treat academic freedom as an autonomous category separate and above other freedoms. As Sarah T. Roberts so eloquently explained:

It is a peculiar sort of academic elitism that puts academic freedom, a somewhat abstract concept in itself, in a position of primacy before other types of very real and tangible physical freedoms: the freedom to circulate unimpeded, the freedom to be treated as an equal citizen, the freedom to even access spaces of higher education, which must certainly be a prerequisite for the much-lauded academic freedom that is causing so much consternation. 

Palestinian people living in lands occupied by Israel are barred from these things. There are precious few freedoms for Palestinians, academic or otherwise, in Israel and in occupied Palestine. In this sense, the boycott is, in fact, a response to an actual lack of academic freedom for an entire people, not the creation of a potential for loss of some higher-order freedom for relatively few individuals. Supporters of academic freedom must side with Palestinians or their position makes little sense and loses its meaning completely.

The boycott is one of many actions in defense of Palestinians who are denied the right to travel freely because of checkpoints and roadblock. Palestinian students and teachers risk harassment, arrest, detention, injury and even death just to get to their institutions to perform basic tasks like teaching, research, and learning. In fact, in the first half of 2013 alone, 13,064 students were affected by access denial, and UNICEF documented egregious incidents of Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacking Palestinian students. In the realm of higher education, Palestinian scholars are routinely denied the right to travel abroad to participate in conferences and symposia, let alone travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

Any consideration of “academic freedom” must acknowledge the ongoing history of Israeli raids, closures, and constant disruptions of Palestinian universities such as Birzeit and Al Quds, as well as the hundreds of students currently detained in Israeli prisons for political activity, or for reasons unknown based on “secret evidence.” Israel can detain Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, with no limits on renewal. Administrative detention, as it is called, is based on three laws: Military Order 1651 which empowers the army to issue orders to detain civilians in the West Bank; the Unlawful Combatants Law which applies to Gaza residents; and the Emergency Powers Detention Law used against Israeli citizens. These laws violate Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits arbitrary detention, requires that detainees be told why they are being held, and stipulates that every person has the right of habeas corpus.

Violations of Palestinian academic freedom in higher education are legion. In 2008, filmmaker and professor Nizar Hassan was suspended from his teaching position at Sapir College because he asked an Israeli student not to carry his firearms and wear his military uniform to class. The administration appointed a committee to investigate Hassan’s alleged anti-Israel teaching, but he argued before his interrogators that he had acted out of the very humanist values that undergird a liberal arts education. “They wanted to believe that I object to the army uniform because I am Palestinian,” he explained. “But I reject the uniform because it is opposed to my universal and human values. I acted as I did because I am a teacher and a human being.” However, the committee thoroughly rejected Hassan’s argument. An “Arab” humanist was simply inconceivable. The report concludes: “Nizar [sic] abused his status and his authority as a teacher to flaunt his opinions, feelings and frustrations as a member of the Arab national minority in Israel, cloaking himself in a ‘humane’ and ‘universal’ garb, whereas in fact he demonstrated a stance of brute force bearing a distinctly nationalist character.”1 The administration threatened dismissal if Hassan did not apologize to the student and submit a written statement promising to respect and honor the uniform of the Israeli Defense Forces. Hassan refused. The administration eventually backed down in the face of international pressure; Hassan returned to his post after a one-semester paid suspension.

Academic freedom includes the right to free speech and assembly. In November of 2012, during Israel’s bombing of Gaza [Operation Pillar of Defense], Palestinian students at Hebrew University were arrested for holding peaceful demonstration in front of the campus, and at Haifa University Palestinian students were banned from further protests after gathering to observe a minute of silence in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Following the ban, Zionist students and staff were allowed to assemble in support of the bombing and many chanted “Death to Arabs” and other virulently racist slogans.

One of the worst examples of state suppression of academic freedom is the notorious “Nakba Law,” passed in the Knesset in March 2011. The Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the violent expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians from 380 villages during the 1948 war, and the barring of the refugee population from the right to return or reclaim lost land, homes, personal property, bank accounts, etc. The law permits the minister of finance to reduce government funding to any institution (including schools and universities, civic organizations and local governments) that commemorates either independence day or the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel as a day of mourning (‘Nakba Day’), or mentions the Nakba in school textbooks. Besides the Nakba Law, right-wing parties have passed laws that directly infringe on the freedom of speech and academic freedom of Arab and Jewish citizens, including the so-called ‘boycott law’, which allows citizens to file a civil suit against anyone in Israel who calls for a boycott against the state or Israeli settlers in the West Bank – whether or not any damages can be proved.

In other words, many of us support the boycott out of concern for academic freedom—though, as I pointed out above, this does not supersede the main objective: to end the occupation and extend civil and human rights to all. The university presidents who have come out so strongly against the resolution betray a pedestrian understanding of academic freedom, both here and inside Palestine/Israel. Indeed, I was a bit surprised that neither Michael Roth nor Larry Summers nor any of the American university presidents who are so concerned about academic freedom mentioned the important document issued five years ago by Israeli scholars Menachem Fisch, Raphael Falk, Eva Jablonka, and Snait Gissis of Tel-Aviv University. They called on the broader academic community—especially senior scholars—to protest government and university policies that deny academic freedom to Palestinian students and faculty in the Occupied Territories:

We, past and present members of academic staff of Israeli universities, express great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We protest against the policy of our government which is causing restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and we call upon the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas. To leave the situation as it is will cause serious harm to freedom of movement, study and instruction – harm to the foundation of academic freedom, to which we are committed.

Nor have the university presidents much to say in defense of Jewish Israeli scholars, whose criticisms of government policies have left them vulnerable to blatant violations of their academic freedom. In December of 2012, Rivka Feldhay, a professor at Tel Aviv University, was banned from participating in a scientific conference in Berlin because she signed a petition four years earlier supporting Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the West Bank. The right-wing Zionist group, Im Tirtzu (Hebrew for “if you will it”) launched a virulent campaign against Tel Aviv University philosophy professor Anat Matar for her opposition to Israel’s administrative detention of Palestinian prisoners. Dr. Matar is also a member of “Who Profits?: Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry,” whose son spent two years in prison for refusing to enlist in the military. Im Tirtzu mobilized dozens of students to file complaints against her to the university, but rather than defend her right to free speech and intellectual freedom, the university decided to investigate her.

Another Tel-Aviv professor, Yehuda Shenhav, experienced similar attacks for statements he made in his anthropology class. A particularly high profile case involved the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, where what began as an Im Tirtzu-led campaign largely against Professor Neve Gordon turned into a state-sponsored witch hunt against the entire department. As early as 2008, Im Tirtzu accused some of the politics faculty of anti-Zionism. Then in August 2009, Professor Gordon published an op ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in support of the BDS movement in an effort to force Israel to move toward a two-state solution. Attacks on Professor Gordon coincided with a national review of all politics departments. After a couple of high profile resignations and administrative reshuffling, a reconstituted review committee issued a damning report on Ben Gurion’s politics department that pointed to “community activism” as a central problem. Although the university acceded to the committee’s recommendations, the government’s Council for Higher Education appointed another committee and concluded that the department had to be shut down altogether. Only international pressure, including a powerful op ed piece in the L.A. Times by my colleague David Myers, compelled Israel’s Minister of Education to withdraw the order for closure.

To put it bluntly, under the current regime academic freedom and civil liberties for all—Palestinians, Bedouins, and African immigrants more than others—are in jeopardy, and will remain in jeopardy so long as Israeli society is rooted in occupation, dispossession, militarization, racism and segregation. Some might argue that violations of Jewish Israeli academic freedom make the case against an academic boycott because, as Roth argues, there are Israeli scholars critical of the regime. Of course, the defense of a segment of academia at the expense of everyone else contradicts the principles of academic freedom. But equally damning is the evidence that Israeli universities have refused or are unable to protect their own faculty and students. The facts are unequivocal: in every case, it is the university administration that backs up state repression, that participates in denying the very intellectual freedoms Roth and his friends hold so sacrosanct. As the ASA resolution makes clear, Israeli institutions are complicit, and in defense of all of our colleagues they must be challenged.

Let me end with a very recent example of an assault on intellectual freedom from right here in the U.S. Just this fall, the artistic director of Washington D. C.’s Theater J and brilliant playwright Ari Roth, decided to produce Motti Lerner’s controversial play, “The Admission.” It tells the story of Teddy Katz, a graduate student whose master’s thesis uncovered an attack by an Israeli brigade on the village of Tantura during the 1948 war. Although Katz never called it a massacre, 240 unarmed Palestinians were killed and were never given the opportunity to surrender. The play explores not only the massacre at Tantura but the state’s attack on Katz and his defender and teacher, historian Ilan Pappe. Despite presenting solid scholarly evidence within the standards of academic history, Katz was forced to stand trial, his thesis withdrawn from the University of Haifa, and Pappe was eventually driven out of Israel. What is interesting is that a play about a gross violation of academic freedom suddenly became the object of a boycott by a group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA). COPMA waged a vicious campaign against Ari Roth and Lerner; Jewish Federations of Washington even threatened to pull $250,000 in donations if the play were staged. Roth refused to back down, just as he had a few years earlier when he produced the controversial play “Return to Haifa.” But he was compelled to move the play from the main stage to a workshop.

Where were Michael S. Roth or Richard Slotkin or Larry Summers or any other gallant defenders of academic freedom when Ari Roth was battling boycotts and pickets? The truth of the matter is that Michael S. Roth and many of the most high profile, vocal critics of the ASA resolution are less interested in defending academic freedom than defending the occupation, the expansion of settlements, the continued dispossession of land, the blockade of Gaza, the system of separate roads, the building and maintenance of an apartheid wall – no matter what the cost. Nothing in Roth’s editorial or similar statements directly criticizes these policies or suggests a different strategy to compel Israel to abide by international law and to end human rights violations. I don’t expect to persuade Roth or other university presidents to support the boycott, but I do wish they would come clean and admit that unconditional support for Israeli apartheid and occupation is not about academic freedom or justice. I’m not holding my breath.

1 Quotes take from Jonathan Cook, “Academic Freedom? Not for Arabs in Israel,” The Electronic Intifada (March 4, 2008), http://electronicintifada.net/content/academic-freedom-not-arabs-israel/7398 For an excellent account and critical analysis of Hassan’s case, see Leora Bilsky, “Muslim Headscarves in France and Army Uniforms in Israel: A Comparative Study of Citizenship as Mask,” in Maleiah Malik, ed., Anti-Muslim Prejudice: Past and Present (Abingdon, UK and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 79-103.

About Robin D. G. Kelley

Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of U.S. History University of California at Los Angeles. His books include the prize-winning, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009);Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Harvard University Press, 2012); Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (University of North Carolina Press, 1990);Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class (The Free Press, 1994); Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon Press, 1997); Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century, written collaboratively with Dana Frank and Howard Zinn (Beacon 2001); and Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press, 2002). He also edited (with Earl Lewis), To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (Oxford University Press, 2000), and is currently completing a general survey of African American history co-authored with Tera Hunter and Earl Lewis to be published by Norton.

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16 Responses

  1. Steven Salaita
    January 4, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Just brilliant, Professor Kelley. Thanks for writing this, and thanks to MW for running it.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    January 4, 2014, 12:06 pm

    RE: “In a widely circulated Los Angeles Times op ed piece, Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth denounced the American Studies Association’s (ASA) resolution to support a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as ‘a repugnant attack on academic freedom’. Parroting near-identical responses by other American university presidents, Roth’s ill-informed, grossly distorted polemic took me by surprise.” ~ Robin D. G. Kelley

    MY COMMENT: It is a mistake to assume that Roth and the other university presidents actually wrote these near-identical, ill-informed, grossly distorted polemics. Most likely, they were told what to say. I would not be at all surprised if they were presented with a suggested text and told to follow it except for the addition of some relatively inconsequential text meant only to personalize it to them individually.
    The Zionist campaign to control speech here in the U.S. (relating to Likudnik Israel) is yet another reason I fear that Revisionist Zionism and Likudnik Israel (specifically by virtue of their inordinate sway over the U.S.) might very well be an “existential threat” to the values of The Enlightenment [like the “right of free speech”]! ! !

    SEE: “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics”, by David Theo Goldberg & Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009

    [EXCERPT] . . . It is an extraordinary fact that no fewer than thirty-three distinct organizations – including AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the American Jewish Congress, and the Jewish National Fund – are gathered together today as members or affiliates of the Israel on Campus Coalition. The coalition is an overwhelmingly powerful presence on American college campuses for which there is simply no equivalent on the Palestinian or Arab side. Its self-proclaimed mission is not merely to monitor our colleges and universities. That, after all, is the commitment of Campus Watch, which was started by pro-Israel activists in 2002. It is, rather (and in its own words), to generate “a pro-active, pro-Israel agenda on campus.”
    There is, accordingly, disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses across the country by a coalition of well-funded organizations, who have no time for — and even less interest in — the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process. Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies. As far as these outside pressure groups (and their campus representatives) are concerned, the intellectual and academic price that the scholarly community pays as a result of this kind of intervention amounts to little more than collateral damage. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to tikkun.org

    P.S. OTHER EXAMPLES OF ZIONISM’S VALUES TRUMPING (OVERRIDING) THE VALUES OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT HERE IN THE U.S.link to mondoweiss.net

    • German Lefty
      January 5, 2014, 7:40 am

      It is a mistake to assume that Roth and the other university presidents actually wrote these near-identical, ill-informed, grossly distorted polemics. Most likely, they were told what to say. I would not be at all surprised if they were presented with a suggested text and told to follow it except for the addition of some relatively inconsequential text meant only to personalize it to them individually.

      I had the same thought.

  3. Krauss
    January 4, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Kelley’s Op-Ed is very well-written and very well-informed. Just what you’d expect from an academic professor at an elite university.

    I should just, quickly, add that I think it is very telling that the bulk of opposition to the ASA resolution is based on tactics. MJ Rosenberg, who has all but abandoned any pretense to liberalism now that he has full-out attacked Max Blumenthal’s important book, similarily showed this side as he admitted that all the facts in Blumenthal’s book were correct but that the “tone” was too hostile.

    The argument that there are worse human rights violators is true, but it’s never mentioned by these same people that the U.S. has a unique responsibility for the continuation of Israeli Apartheid, not just through massive foreign aid(from the Israeli point of view) but also the relentless diplomatic backing as well as the implicit understanding that the U.S. will always military intervene on Israel’s behalf even if Israel began the war first and is now in danger of losing a war it started itself.

    Finally, as many have noted, there were many worse human rights violators when the BDS movement began against Apartheid South Africa. Mao’s cultural revolution, Pinochet, Pol Pot and the list goes on. Yet was it wrong to support the BDS against South Africa? I don’t think these same people making this argument for Israel would be making it in retrospect in the case of South Africa.

    So the lesson should be obvious: we are reaching a point in the American discourse where you cannot defend Zionism on substantive grounds as the apartheid becomes too entrenched. What these people are left with are outraged attacks based on “tone” and tactics, whitewashing an extreme ideology that they cannot defend as liberals without being called out for it.

    It is important that we write about this, as Kelley has done here.
    I am pleased, overall, at how eloquent the defences of the ASA vote have been from members of the ASA and how many of them have been resolute in the face of the growing backlash. Let’s hope many other academic institutions, organizations and associations show the same moral courage.

  4. Blownaway
    January 4, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Why are these so called academic freedom lovers not writing about organizations like campus watch which seeks to intimidate professors and students who want to teach and learn about Israel/ Palestine dispute from something other than AIPAC

    • JeffB
      January 4, 2014, 2:21 pm

      @Blownaway

      Because they don’t exist. AIPAC has no problem with professors teaching academic classes on Israel / Palestine from an academic perspective. AIPAC has problems with professors teaching academic classes on Israel / Palestine from a political perspective teaching students how to be anti-Israeli activists.

  5. Sycamores
    January 4, 2014, 12:45 pm

    this is the second professor i read today who spoke up for the ASA

    David Palumbo-Liu is professor of comparative literature at Stanford University

    Tired of Talking About the American Studies Boycott link to truth-out.org

  6. pabelmont
    January 4, 2014, 1:04 pm

    “He asserts that the ASA targets Israeli academic institutions merely for their “national affiliation.” This is not true. They are targeted for their complicity in the illegal occupation and government policies of dispossession, repression, and racism. ”

    Well, yes and no, As suggested by Dickerson, above, this and other similar university president statements were most likely dictated (at least in effect) by BIG-ZION. But this president, Michael Roth, did make the assertion, so “he asserts” is correct.

    But unless the ASA has a per-Israeli-university-test (or makes a showing that ALL are complicit), the president is partly right that the boycott is based on “national affiliation”. However, president Michael Roth is also wrong, because the trigger for the boycott is not Israeli national affiliation alone, but the Israeli national support (and much university support) for the occupation, the denial of PRoR, and apartheid inside Israel and in the OPTs.

    If some university which does not support either the occupation or the apartheid or the denial of PRoR is targeted by the ASA boycott, then such a university might be said to be damaged by the boycott as a sort of collateral damage — well known in war, even non-violent war as by boycotts.

    • Shmuel
      January 4, 2014, 1:24 pm

      But unless the ASA has a per-Israeli-university-test …

      See e.g. Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic
      Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories
      (esp. Ch. IV: “Israeli Academic Institutions in Support of the Occupation Divided by Institution”): link to alternativenews.org

      • pabelmont
        January 4, 2014, 2:32 pm

        Shmuel — Thanks for the (PDF) link! At p.35 begins a list of specific educational institutions showing their connections to Israel’s military, war-industry, etc.

        One of these, Wingate Institute, is said merely to train soldiers and support the army. this is not of itself a proof of support for the occupation, etc., although in practice it probably amounts to it.

        I didn’t see a list of educational institutions with NO BDS-worthy behaviors. As I just suggested, Wingate Institute might possibly qualify for such a list. Certainly it is not the worst.

        As for me, I think a broad-brush academic institutional boycott of Israel should be seen as part of a (generally not very visible) broad-brush boycott of ALL Israeli institutions and businesses. That is, I don’t see attacking academia as particularly important (although, of course, it makes sense for academic organizations to choose it).

        After all, the occupation, the horrible apartheid in OPTs and antidemocratic (quasi-apartheid) Israeli system inside 1948-Israel, and the denial of PRoR are actions of the entire state and can be corrected only by actions of the entire Israeli people (or by the entire Israeli corporate establishment if Israel works the way the USA works).

      • Shmuel
        January 4, 2014, 2:55 pm

        Pabelmont,

        I wasn’t disagreeing with you. The report I cited makes distinctions between “ideological” and “tactical” boycott and between major and minor institutions. See the author’s conclusions (beg. p. 32), in which he suggests that perhaps the Open University might not be considered “obvious[ly] and unquestionabl[y]” complicit in the occupation.

      • AbeBird
        January 4, 2014, 5:55 pm

        Don’t you think that “broad-brush boycott of ALL Israeli institutions and businesses” will economically hurt and hit first the Palestinians and the PA, because they are the weaker economic chain in the area? That situation will lead to a new Intifada which will inflict disastrous consequences over the Arabs in the “West Bank”. Israel will surely exploit the chaos to hit further and farther the Islamic terror infrastructure in the “West Bank” which will lead the Arabs to a new Nakba.

  7. hophmi
    January 7, 2014, 10:43 am

    “‘He asserts that the ASA targets Israeli academic institutions merely for their “national affiliation.’ This is not true. They are targeted for their complicity in the illegal occupation and government policies of dispossession, repression, and racism.”

    The ASA did not do an in-depth analysis of each Israeli university to determine whether they were “complicit” in these policies. I’ve seen no rhetoric from the supporters of the boycott about how Israel is not the target here. You’re being extraordinarily disingenuous and dishonest here. The boycott is about a nation-state. The universities happen to be inside of the nation-state. You didn’t call for a boycott of Ariel and Bar-Ilan. You called for a boycott of ISRAELI universities.

    “the U.S. not only gives far more military aid to Israel than to any other country, but has also vetoed all U.N. resolutions in recent memory that condemn Israel’s abuses of human rights.”

    That is also nonsense. The US has not vetoed any of the many resolutions from the anti-Israel Human Rights Council or the General Assembly. It has vetoed some resolutions (and not all) originating in the UN Security Council.

    “The ASA resolution specifically cites the ‘significant role’ the U.S. plays in underwriting Israel’s violations of international law.”

    Then, again, why aren’t you boycotting the United States? Shouldn’t that be your target?

    ” And the most recent violent racist attacks on African immigrants in Israel represent some of the worst examples of human rights violations.”

    No, Professor, they are hate crimes. As I illustrated yesterday, anti-immigrant sentiment is extraordinarily common today in the West. The United States deports over 400,000 people every year. In France, as the New York Times discussed yesterday, the police engage in racial profiling in the center of Paris, with no public debate on the matter, people openly blame immigrants for their problems, and the French discriminate against immigrants in the workplace. France is only the latest example of a Western country to adopt anti-immigrant attitudes.

    “The money flows despite the fact that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the source of the region’s immense poverty, is a clear violation of Articles 33, 55, and 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibiting the collective punishment of civilians and requiring an occupying power to ensure access to food and medical supplies, and to maintain hospital and public health facilities.”

    Egypt receives well over a billion dollars a year in military aid from the United States. Its government in repressive. It is every bit as important to the blockade of Gaza as Israel is. Not only that: it is extraordinarily clear, beyond any reason, that there is no chance the Egyptian dictatorship would survive a week without US military aid. Why haven’t you called for a boycott of Egypt? Heck, you haven’t even called for the US to cut off the aid!

    “The implication that some deep-seated anti-Israel or anti-Semitic sentiment was behind it is downright insulting. ”

    Sometimes, the truth is hard to take, Professor. But there isn’t a soul in the universe that wouldn’t conclude that your support isn’t based on at least anti-Israel sentiment.

    “As a matter of fact, the boycott will have no direct impact on the ability of individual Israeli scholars to teach, conduct research, and participate in meetings, symposia, or conferences around the globe.”

    How disingenuous are you going to be, Professor? You’ve called for scholars to boycott the institutions these professors work for. Who do think supports their work? It’s like saying that you’re going to boycott the State Department, and arguing that it shouldn’t affect the ability of individual diplomats to pursue diplomacy.

    “It is a peculiar sort of academic elitism that puts academic freedom, a somewhat abstract concept in itself, in a position of primacy before other types of very real and tangible physical freedoms: the freedom to circulate unimpeded, the freedom to be treated as an equal citizen, the freedom to even access spaces of higher education, which must certainly be a prerequisite for the much-lauded academic freedom that is causing so much consternation. ”

    LOL! Have you read some the rhetoric from professors on the left about academic freedom? They will defend suicide bombing (the right to end the lives of innocent people for political causes) and then cry academic freedom if someone calls for them to be fired.

    “Had Roth taken time to read discussions leading up to the resolution, particularly the extensive critical analyses by Judith Butler ”

    Had Roth taken the time to read the work of my fellow pro-Palestinian partisans . . .

    “Israel can detain Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, with no limits on renewal. ”

    How long have we detained people at Guatanamo for without charge or trial?

    “Despite presenting solid scholarly evidence within the standards of academic history, Katz was forced to stand trial”

    Nonsense; his thesis was largely discredited. link to en.wikipedia.org

    “Pappe was eventually driven out of Israel.”

    No one drove him out; he chose to leave.

  8. Icarusverum
    January 8, 2014, 9:37 pm

    Excellent article. I completely support the academic boycott; it’s actually not enough. The idea that it’s an attack on academic freedom is nonsense … it is a rebuke of Israel’s violations of international law.

    Being an Israeli today means being a small cog in a large machine consistent with the apartheid of South Africa. And with these boycotts will come a realization that Israel’s policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing will not go unpunished.

    Until Israel stops telling the world to go jump off a bridge – the economic chokehold will only further tighten. Israel elected Netanyahu and his Likud party into power and this is the inevitable result.

    When Iran snubs the world – the world fights back. When North Korea snubs the world – the world fights back. It’s no different with Israel and that’s perhaps why Israel is the fourth most hated country in the world along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan … but instead of realizing this fact – they just blame it on antisemitism.

    BDS for the win.

  9. Nevada Ned
    January 9, 2014, 10:47 am

    Hophmi writes

    “Pappe was eventually driven out of Israel.”
    No one drove him out; he chose to leave.

    FACT:
    Ilan Pappe got death threats, some to his family, which caused him to “choose” to leave. In effect, he “chose” to leave because he had no choice!
    It would have been very risky to assume that the death threats were just bluffs.

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