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Academics and activists oppose Vienna conference that equates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel

Activism
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The Austrian Students’ Union (Österreichische HochschülerInnenschaft) will host a congress, Confronting Antisemitism [1] at the University of Vienna from the 15th to the 17th of November 2018. Israel’s embassy in Austria is a co-organizer[2].

From an historical perspective, we are dismayed by the choice of venue – the University of Vienna – which has doggedly persisted in standing on the wrong side of history. A hundred years ago this institution measured the skulls of non-Europeans for “scientific purposes”. Today, it supports the whitewashing and legitimization of Israel’s occupation and expulsion policies by making its facilities available to Israeli institutions and other supporters of Israeli Apartheid, while denying such privileges to the former Black Panther Dhoruba Bin Wahad based on his criticism of Israeli policies and support for human rights.[3]

Thus, while critical academics are boycotted and vilified, speakers who are known for their unconditional support of Israeli Apartheid are given the stage at the “Confronting Antisemitism” event. In addition, some of these speakers have in the past called for denying Israeli BDS activist Ofer Neiman and Holocaust survivor Hedi Epstein the possibility of speaking in publicly supported facilities. [4] Moreover, Alexander Feuerherdt, who writes for the radical, racist, right-wing website “Liza’s World,” gets the stage for his conspiracy theories. He claims, for example, that the repeated criticisms of the Israeli Apartheid state by the United Nations are “an expression of institutionalized anti-Semitism that is characteristic of the United Nations as a whole.” [5] Feuerherdt also accused the Jewish-Israeli activist Jeff Halper, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 together with the Palestinian activist Ghassan Andoni, [6] of “acting anti-Semitically,” [7] and of serving as the “principal witness” for the accusations Palestinian solidarity groups level against Israel. This choice of conference speakers could be interpreted as an embarrassing mistake, or as an attempt to promote the broadest possible academic discussion, but the co-sponsorship of the event by the Israeli Embassy, and the choice of an embassy official for the opening address are simply unacceptable.

As an anti-racist movement, we advocate that genuine past and present anti-Semitic phenomena be critically evaluated and dealt with. However, the labelling of people as ‘anti-Semitic’ because of their criticism of human rights abuses by Israel, is calculated to support the normalizing and legitimizing of Israeli occupation, Apartheid and human rights abuses.

Anti-Semitism Congress of Austrian University Students will take place at the University of Vienna in November. (Image: Confronting Antisemitism)

More than 40 Jewish groups from across the world recently released a statement that opposes equating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel’s policies and its system of occupation and Apartheid.[8]

Inviting a racist state to cooperate in an anti-racist event is not only bizarre and macabre, but also contravenes the ethics of science. After all, amongst other things, the Israel’s policies ensure that:

• Palestinian students and academics – inside and outside Israel – have their academic freedom restricted[9], are imprisoned[10] or even killed[11].

• new weapons and surveillance systems are developed in the context of an occupation that violates international law and are then exported throughout the world. Israeli universities participate in the development of these weapons, which are “tested” on Palestinian civil society, and then sold as “battle-proven.”[12]

• as this is written, the Palestinian population of Khan al-Ahmar is under threat of being expelled from their homes; their village is inundated with sewage, and bulldozers stand ready to demolish their schools and kindergartens.[13]

• at the Apartheid fence in Gaza, F16 fighter jets blow demonstrators to pieces[14], snipers shoot hundreds of people and maim thousands.[15]

• the European phenomenon of anti-Semitism, which had claimed millions of victims, is decontextualized and instrumentalized to construct a new and false anti-Semitism definition that is then used to stigmatize Palestinians and human rights activists, as well as to justify the inhumane and anti-democratic policies of the Israeli state.

Paraphrasing Bertolt Brecht, we would like to point out that there are various ways to kill people.
To list only a few, flood their village with sewage, have fighter jets blow them up, or lock them up in an open-air prison and cut the supply of vital necessities. Unfortunately, this hardly outrages anyone today.

That is why we call on academics and concerned people throughout the world to question the prevailing narrative, to manifest their outrage about the immoral and inhumane situation in Israel and Palestine, and to join the Palestinian call to boycott events with Israeli government sponsorship and/or official participation.

______________________________________________________________________

[1] https://facingantisemitism.oeh.ac.at/

[2] Although the Israeli Embassy is not explicitly listed on the Website, the Facebook page of the event list it as a co-sponsor. See: https://www.facebook.com/events/713614398997118/

[3] https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20180620_OTS0184/universitaet-wien-untersagt-de-facto-oeffentliche-veranstaltung-mit-ehemaligem-black-panther-dhoruba-bin-wahad

[4] https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20160307_OTS0090/offener-brief-an-buergermeister-dr-michael-haeupl-die-stadt-wien-sowie-die-verantwortlichen-im-amerlinghaus ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=QjN6xr9dxck ; https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20160308_OTS0256/internationale-persoenlichkeiten-protestieren-gegen-die-absage-der-frauentagsveranstaltung-im-parlament-anhang

[5] https://www.mena-watch.com/mena-analysen-beitraege/un-menschenrechtsrat-blanker-antisemitismus-im-alten-stil/

[6] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/u-s-quaker-group-that-won-nobel-on-israels-bds-blacklist-1.5729790

[7] https://lizaswelt.net/2017/12/25/die-israelkritik-des-jeff-halper/

[8] https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/30jewishgroupsbds/

[9] http://bdsberlin.org/2016/04/18/akademische-zusammenarbeit-zwischen-israel-und-deutschland-aus-sicht-der-universitaeten/

[10] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171214-israel-raids-birzeit-university-at-dawn/

[11] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180421-palestinian-lecturer-shot-dead-in-malaysia/

[12] https://electronicintifada.net/content/cruel-experiments-israels-arms-industry/19011

[13] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-can-now-legally-demolish-contested-west-bank-village-1.6515934

[14] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/israeli-air-strike-kills-palestinian-boys-gaza-181028211536125.html

[15] https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/14/gaza_israeli_soldiers_kill_30_palestinians

Signatures (in chronological order):

Dr. Graeme MacQueen, Canada
Lucy Edwards, PhD, UK
Nahla Abdo, Carleton University, Canada
Peter Fitting
Ronnie Barkan, BDS in Hebrew, Israel-Palestine
Sunaina Maira, UC Davis, USACBI, United States
Marwan Rashed, Sorbonne University, France
Doris Ghannam, Germany
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, International
Sam Durrant, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Haim Bresheeth, Free Speech on Israel, UK
Cynthia Franklin, Professor, University of Hawaii , USA
Stavit Sinai, Germany
University of Brighton, Professor of Moral Philosophy, UK
Cheristoph Glanz, BDS Initiative Oldenburg, Germany
Dr. Anthony Leaker, University of Brighton, UK
Ofer Neiman , Israeli citizen , Israel
Dr. Jeff Noonan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Windsor, Canada
David Comedi, National University of Tucumán and INFINOA (CONICET-UNT), Argentina
Mona Baker, UK
Prof. Stephen Pender, University of Windsor, Canada
Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)
Sophia Deeg, Germany
Dror WARSCHAWSKI, CNRS, France
Omar Ramahi, Canada
Deborah Cook, Canada
Samidoun Göteborg, Sweden
Em.Prof. Herman De Ley, Ghent University, Belgium
BACBI (Belgian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Belgium
Hadas Leonov, Israel
Dr. Angela Waldegg, Austria
Jules Townshend, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Jonathan Ofir, Israeli citizen, resident in Denmark – conductor and writer on Israel-Palestine, Denmark
Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS) , Israeli citizens , Israel
Judith Bernstein, Germany
Tali Shapiro, Israel
John Chalcraft, LSE, UK
Wilhelm Langthaler
Amitai Ben-Abba, Israel/Palestine
David Klein, California State University Northridge, USA
Prof. Richard Seaford, University of Exeter, UK
Juana Celia Djelal, Retired faculty, United States
BDS Berlin
Michal Sapir, Israel
Dr. Med. Hiba Odeh, Palestine
Greilsamer Jean-Guy, UJFP and BDS (France), France
Dr. Les Levidow, Open University, UK
Adi Shosberger, Palestine
Michael Letwin, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return; Labor for Palestine, United States
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), United States
Ahmed Abbes, Directeur de recherche au CNRS, Paris, France
Tikun Olam, United States
Ken Baker, The Human Race, UK
Waltraud Schauer, Frauen in Schwarz
Danielle Ravitzki
Christl Meyer, Frauen in Schwarz / Wien, Austria
Annette Groth, former MP, Germany
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ireland
Anja Matar BDS Berlin, No Apartheid in universities
Ahmad Matar
Trade Union Friends of Palestine, Ireland
Philippe de Henau, Belgium
Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, Africa
Adanya Qaddafi , United States
Jan Van Herzele, Belgium
Shelly Steinberg, Israel
Cuba Si, United States
Dr. Nozomi Takahashi, Ghent University, Belgium
Josef Pampalk, PhD
Palestina Solidariteit vzw, Belgium
Dr. Raymond Deane , National University of Ireland, Ireland
FLOWERS FROM THE HOOD, Campaign to End the Death Penalty , USA
Jasmine Schmid
Theresa El-Amin , Southern Anti-Racism Network , USA
Robin Dunford, United Kingdom
University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Em.Prof. Marc De Meyere,University Gent, member of BDS, Belgium
Association belgo-palestinienne , Belgium
Angela Flynn, AfP , Ireland
The Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, Norway
Gibanje za pravice Palestincev, Slovenia
Gruppo Ibriq per la causa e la cultura Palestinese, Italy
Nada Pretnar, Slovenia
Salaam ragazzi dell’olivo Comitato di Trieste, Italy
Dee Reynolds, United Kingdom
UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, United Kingdom
Kristine Martinsen , Norway
Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden im Nahost, e.V. Deutschland, Iris Hefets (Vorsitzende), Deutschland
Paul Reynolds, Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy, UK
Diensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina, Netherlands
USA Palestine Mental Health Network, USA
Palestina Solidariteit vzw , Belgium
Dr. Suzanne Ross, Clinical Psychologist, Educator, and Human Rights Activist, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, US
Samuel Welber
Monika Vykoukal
South African Jews for Free Palestine
Dr. Susan Blackwell, Netherlands
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), United Kingdom
Robert Boyce, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Ruth Moshkovitz, Universität Wien, alumna, Austria
The Iceland-Palestine Association (Félagið Ísland-Palestína), Iceland
Peter Unterweger, International Metalworkers Secretariat, ret.
Ariana Macon, Austria
Camillo Friedrich, Germany
Oskar Lechleitner, Austria

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15 Responses

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      November 16, 2018, 3:42 pm

      It’s a succinct, basic core issues argument/comment–one I’d like to hear somebody influential say on US primetime news shows.

      • JWalters
        JWalters
        November 18, 2018, 1:55 am

        I encourage all Mondoweiss commenters to also add their comments to mainstream news websites, such as PBS Newshour, ABC News, New York Times, etc. Pick one and become a part of that community. Include links to great Mondoweiss articles. Let’s help to push these facts and analyses into the mainstream discussions.

  1. Antidote
    Antidote
    November 16, 2018, 5:40 pm

    “The “anti-Semitism” claim about criticism of Israel’s actual behavior – not its identity, not its religion, not its ethnicity, but its actual behavior – is precisely parallel with someone’s having claimed that criticism of the Soviet Union – and we all know there was a great deal, both at home and abroad, to criticize in the practices of the Soviet Union – was the same thing as hating Russians, what today we would call “Russophobia.”

    Anyone can understand the absurdity of that.”

    I don’t. If your argumrnt was valid, how come “Jewish Bolshevism” is widely considered as an anti-semitic canard? If the Jews had nothing to do with it, that leaves the Russians? And that’s ok?

    Russian leaders, regardless of their ethnicity or gender, have been denounced as tyrants for centuries. Some exceptions apply, like FDR calling the worst of them, the non-Russian Stalin, a democrat, even though he knew better.

    Putin is Russian. Demonized beyond reason. McCain dismissed Russia as a gas station with a country wrapped around it. A bonmot based on the old Prussian stereotype (gas station = military), more reasonably applied to Saudi Arabia, A country named after one single family.

    The stereotype of the brute Russian has been around for a long time and has nothing to do with Soviet or any other Russia.

    There is no factual grounds for painting Russia or Russians darker than the white washed empires of the so-called democratic West

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      November 17, 2018, 12:01 am

      To be fair, though, pre-revolutionary Russia was a pretty brutal place if you happened to be one of the serfs, even by comparison with the contemporary conditions of the lower classes in Western European countries.

      “the white washed empires of the so-called democratic West”

      Back in the far-off days when I could persuade myself to give even a fraction of a hoot about hypocrisy, I used to be amused at the way the US, China, and the Soviet Union made condemnatory remarks about British imperialism.

      • Antidote
        Antidote
        November 17, 2018, 9:19 am

        re hypocrisy

        You are right, of course. But dismissing hypocrisy as ubiquitous fails to explain its relevance and usefulness, and its inevitabiliy. If you want to survive, that is.

        As for comparisons between the serfs/lower classes in Russia and the West, then or now, it comes down to the boast: there are countries that are even worse than us.

        It’s like the medieval cleric telling his flock: “ look what Christ suffered in life and death, and you complain about merely being hungry, and beaten by your masters who feed you?

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 17, 2018, 8:36 pm

        “As for comparisons between the serfs/lower classes in Russia and the West, then or now, it comes down to the boast: there are countries that are even worse than us.”

        But it does explain the stereotype of the brute Russian.

      • Antidote
        Antidote
        November 18, 2018, 9:34 pm

        I do not see how the Russians, past or present, are more brute than the West, from the Romans to the Americans, the apex of Western civilization. I have studied many periods of that history extensively, and it is full of examples of outstanding and horrific, incomprehensible brutaliy. One may assume the Carthagians thought of the Romans as brutes, and the peace after WW I and II was understood to be Carthagian, and not only by the Germans, who had no say in it anyway. The harmless early Christians, male and female, branded as enemies of humanity, probably did not think highly of the Romans either when they were thrown to the lions for the amusement and inoculation of the masses. And as soon as Christianity was understood to be helpful in winning battles, it ceased to be harmless. Charlemagne’s campaign against the stubborn pagan Saxons can only be described as genocide. When Luther retaliated some 700 yrs later, all hell broke lose all over Europe. People ripping out the enemy’s heart and eating it are not stories we have not heard before the current wars in Syria. The first Thirty Years War is at least as insanely brutal as the second one in Europe (1914-45). And it’s not just war. The death penalties in Europe from the Middle Ages until the 19th c would make ISIS recoil in horror. As for “terror”: that word enters the political discourse with the French Revolution, an orgie of violence, even includin genocide of the very people they the revolutionaries sought to liberate. Are the French stereotyped as “brute” because of this? We know about slavery and genide in the US, but does anyone remember what the “patriots” (the actual traitors) did to the “traitors”, the Loyalists? Some 30-40 % of the colonists at the time? The poor people were lynched, tarred and feathered, buried and burned alive, and many went back to England (one of them the only son of Benjamin Franklin, who never forgave his father), to the Bahamas, or to what is now Canada. But, says Trump, to justify declaring Canada a security risk: “didn’t you burn down the White House?’ It was the British, helped along by Loyalists and Tecumseh’s gang. You know: Brutes

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 18, 2018, 11:20 pm

        “I do not see how the Russians, past or present, are more brute than the West”

        But in the 19th Century they seemed to be. An Englishman of 1850 could compare the treatment and position of the peasants of Russia with the those of the countries he regarded as civilised (just Britain, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and the German states) and conclude that Russia was even worse than the East End of London. He may have been wrong, but that is where the stereotype comes from.

        ” the Americans, the apex of Western civilization. ”

        You are just teasing, aren’t you.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 19, 2018, 12:05 am

        “the countries he regarded as civilised (just Britain,…”

        Though mostly England. He would have had reservations about Scotland and Wales. He would have had no reservations at all about Ireland.

  2. punterweger
    punterweger
    November 16, 2018, 9:38 pm

    @Antidote – while I wholly agree that there is a lot of biased criticism of Russia (and Putin), criticizing Russia (or the Soviet Union, which is actually referred to in the quote) is not the point. What the quote says is that it is absurd to interpret criticism of a state as hatred of its people. Of course, this conclusion still accepts the false notion that Israel represents all Jews.

    • Paranam Kid
      Paranam Kid
      November 17, 2018, 8:52 am

      @punterweger: you hit the nail on the head. Antidote misunderstands Chuckman’s point about the conflation.

  3. James Canning
    James Canning
    November 17, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Surely it is a bad thing for Israel, not to receive robust criticism where such criticism is warranted. The effort to suppress such criticism in fact is harming Israel’s own true best interests.

  4. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    November 17, 2018, 1:54 pm

    The Soviet example is a bit confusing because the Soviet system was imposed on the Russians and its Russian nature was not the reason for objecting to it. The fundamental fault was disfranchisement and this fault was widely shared with other regimes. Those countries, Western ones included, that do enfranchise those subject to their sovereign power are doing the right thing, those that don’t a bad thing. That is at the heart of what’s wrong with the Israeli system.
    Those who rightly denounced Soviet crimes were not immune from getting some things wildly wrong themselves because their anger against the Soviet system ran right away with them. I clearly remember the super anti-communist Bernard Levin’s writing quite passionately in support of the CIA version of the Gary Powers. The likes of us may sometimes, I suppose, be carried a step too far by our dismay at what goes on in Palestine. On the other hand it is wrong to remain totally calm and dispassionate in the face of terrible things.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      November 17, 2018, 8:39 pm

      “The fundamental fault was disfranchisement and this fault was widely shared with other regimes.”

      This was not, of course, the reason the US and sundry others opposed the Soviet Union.

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