MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Beware of the Outsiders - The AUT Boycott and Divestment Initiatives
Peace in the Middle East will be made by people who live in the Middle East. For us, compromise and realism are urgent, because only pragmatism and good sense will allow us to live as normal people. For us, our enemies are also our neighbors, human beings whom we meet and people who work with us. Ideologues who have no stake in the conflict can be a great obstacle to peace. Whether they are Christian Zionist partisans or Christian anti-Zionist partisans in the USA or Europe, or Bundist Jews or Marxists or Land of Israel fanatics in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, they should not be dictating the agenda. They don't live here. They will fight to the last Israeli Jew and the last Palestinian Arab to aggrandize themselves and forward their own outmoded and unrealistic ideological agendas.
The divestment initiatives and the boycott of Israel initiated by the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) highlight the damage that can be done by outsiders. They result from initiatives begun by those who do not want peace at all, who object "in principle" (what principle?) to the existence of Israel. They hide their program behind opposition to the "occupation" to make it more attractive, but they occassionally let it slip that they consider all of Israel to be occupied Palestine.
Outrageous initiatives succeed at first in aggrandizing the initiators. They get free publicity and crow about their "accomplishments". The initiative to force Caterpillar Corporation to divest from Israel was a flop, but Jewish Voice for Peace was very proud of their flop, because it gave them great publicity. It doesn't matter that it is grossly unfair and doesn't contribute to peace. The important thing is to get your name in the newspaper, right?
The AUT boycott is mostly the result of efforts by Susan Blackwell, an anti-Zionist activist who doesn't bother to hid the fact that she thinks Jews do not have the right to self-determination, because she judged that it is so. Is she an anti-Semites as well? That is not quite clear. Blackwell supports the anti-Fascism movement, but her Web site includes links to Nazi Web sites. However, it is hard to argue that someone who denies the right of self-determination to members of a national group is not a racist.
The AUT boycott, which succeeded at least for now, is based in part on false premises. Haifa university was boycotted for allegedly trying to expel Ilan Pappe, who backed the Master's Thesis of a student who was proven to have faked his data. In fact, Haifa university did not try to expel Pappe because of the thesis. They let the issue be decided in court. Bar-Ilan university is boycotted for supporting The College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. It is somewhat absurd however, to hold individuals responsible for the doings of their university administrators. Most tellingly, Palestinian and Israeli academics have signed an agreement on academic cooperation in which they have agreed to facilitate free exchange of information and mutual support. The AUT boycott contradicts the wishes of Palestinian academics.
The boycotters and divestment advocates claim that their initiatives are like the boycotts of apartheid South Africa. They point out that like Black Africans in Apartheid South Africa, Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank do not have the right to vote and cannot participate in Israeli society. However, that claim is specious, since it assumes that the occupied territories and Israel are part of a single state. Israel has not annexed the territories, which are the subject of dispute to be adjudicated by peace negotiations, not settled by boycotts. Germans and Japanese under allied occupation could not vote in US elections either, but nobody complained about "Apartheid."
The boycott provoked angry opposition not only from Zionist and Jewish groups, but from friends of the Palestinians, John Strawson, an associate of Bir Zeit University and friend of the Palestinians wrote about the AUT boycott and comparison to South Africa:
Strawson condemned university boycotts in general, citing the case of the Chinese occupation of Tibet:
Strawson also took issue with the anti-Zionist sentiment that motivated the boycott:
When the UN passed the infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution it prompted the building of new settlements. Similarly, the reaction to the boycott was not long in coming. The Israeli cabinet announced defiantly that it was upgrading the College of Judea and Samaria to the level of a University, bypassing academic review processes. Ariel is clearly problematic. It is stuck in the middle of Palestinian territory and its continued existence would probably be an insurmountable obstacle to peace. In the past, has not been part of the Israeli consensus regarding territory that must remain Israeli in any settlement. However, the AUT boycott threatens to make Ariel part of the Israeli national consensus. Another blow for peace.
With "peace advocates" like Susan Blackwell and her friends, who needs warmongers? May a benificent providence save the Palestinians and the cause of peace from friends and supporters such as these.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000352.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to email@example.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 18 comments
While I fuly commend efforts to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis, I too am wary of outsiders. But I object to you being overly selective in your assessment as to who is an outsider and who is not. It's all too easy to put the blame for political actions at someone else's door. Politics require men of vision and courage, not easily sidetracked by a bunch of academics. Indeed peace will only be achieved by people who live in the Middle East when they acknowledge that wrong has been committed by all sides, and make moves to recognise that fact, not build walls to lock in despair. Tell me, how can anti Zionism (a political Israeli/Jewish movement) be deemed anti semitic when Arabs are semites too? Please refrain from using the term 'anti semitic' when you are writing about someone else's political objections - nothing short of deception. Only when we find the courage to face the truth and face our enemy as equals with an open hand, not down the barrel of a gun (weapon or word), will peace in our time be achieved. Everything else at this point is irrelevant. Salams from a troubled land -
Posted by jan saval @ 05/05/2005 10:36 PM CST
Posted by Ratna Pelle @ 05/06/2005 10:29 AM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 05/06/2005 10:47 AM CST
Thankyou Ratna, Rod, for your comments, points noted. (sorry mistake made in my first reply. I was not referring to 'anti' Zionist movement as Israeli/Jewish - rather Zionism itself. apologies)
But we are still no further on are we? Israel is now a member of the world community, rightly so, and as such is governed by international law just like everyone else. Perhaps it's time to move on from semantics and rhetoric and engage in immediate action to right the wrongs.
Rod - afraid I do not agree with your assessment that AUT activists support a crusader viewpoint against Islam "and that genocide committed by Muslims is permissible". that's outrageous! Genocide (caused by racism) by any party (including Israel: Jenin, Sabra and Shatila, aftermath of 1948 in then Palestine) should be fought by us all; as you say Rod: "Sadly the international community has not done this." But then we are going down the same worn out path of the past. We look to our politicians to right the wrongs, so that our academics don't have to pay the consequences in the future. Do they have the courage?
Posted by Jan Saval @ 05/06/2005 06:07 PM CST
A well balanced view on why boycott of Israeli academia and economy is not productive to peace at this time....sey
Posted by seymour alberts @ 05/06/2005 07:51 PM CST
Israel has been boycotted by the Arab countries from 1948 on, occupation or no occupation (or do you call all of Israel 'occupied territory'?), and the AUT boycott is instigated by the same people that protested the breaking of the Arab boycott by Europe. Look at the website of Sue Blackwell, one of the leaders of this boycott, and you will see that she doesn't support a two state solution. None of the advocates of this boycott do. In their view, all Zionists are bad and out to expell the Palestinians from their land. That's why I said the AUT boycott is denying the right of self determination of the Jews. Without a two state solution, that grants the right to a homeland and live in peace for both Palestinians and Jews, the violence will go on. This boycott doesn't promote peace and cooperation, but alienates also the Israeli left and will nourish the israeli sentiment that the whole world is against them and they can't expect justice from the outside world.
Posted by Ratna @ 05/08/2005 11:25 AM CST
Jan - I think you misunderstand my statement, probably because I did not articulate it clearly. The individuals behind the AUT boycott and their political allies in UK repeatedly express the opinion that the West is prosecuting a "crusade" against Islam. This view concords with that of many Muslim pundits here, whom regard the current situation in terms of the the Crusades. I for one find it very disturbing that this reference to a centuries old religious conflict in which the Christian world and the Islam world were pitted against each other. In last weeks election the Respect party stated that the West is prosecuting a war against Islam - you will note that they won in the Bethnal Green & Bow constituency with it's large Muslim population. There seemed to have been almost challenge to Respect of why they consorted with political movements such as Baath that have committed appalling attrocities against Muslims and others.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 05/09/2005 10:22 AM CST
The boycott seems very strange to me. Universities are places for exchanges of ideas and learning, and often the most liberal places in society. This appears to be an attack on Israel, as many other countries also have human rights issues (were there boycotts against British universities when Britain was occupying Northern Ireland?, what about rights issues in China, other Middle Eastern/African countries (hello freedom? in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nigeria, actually almost any country on the globe has issues,... ). Too bad professors in universities feel the need to get into political boycotts, must take time away from their teaching, which should be their focus.
Posted by Karen @ 05/09/2005 02:59 PM CST
Dear Jan and all,
3- Many people opposed to Israeli policies (including MidEastWeb!) and particularly the Engage group have been protesting the boycott and are actively involved in trying to undo the boycott. British academic people should please go to http://www.zionismontheweb.org/AUT/aut_boycott_revote.htm where there is information on the current campaign.
Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 05/10/2005 08:05 PM CST
I think you are being unfair in your comments about Jewish Voice for Peace. In my experience, they are very compassionate people, and, while they are obviously very critical of Israeli conduct, they do not engage in the gleeful vilification of Israel that people like Sue Blackwell do. The whole point of selective divestment initiatives like Caterpillar is that it is targeted not at Israel, but rather only at companies that profit from the occupation. You call it "grossly unfair", but is there any doubt that "grossly unfair" can be used to describe the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the United States' contribution to relationship (indeed, can anyone say that the United States has been "even-handed" in its approach to the Middle East?) There is no question, in my opinion, that the gross power disparity between the Palestinians and Israelis has been a major obstacle to peace, and has served to radicalize Palestinians, to the breakdown of Oslo, and the expansion of support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The actions of the IDF against the non-violent protest at Bil'in -- where IDF not only bombared the protesters with tear gas and plastic bullets, but actually planted undercover agents to goad the protesters into violence -- demonstrate the effect of this disparity in power.I certainly think there's a defensible case to be made that the selective divestment promoted by JVP can serve as a nonviolent form of pressure and equalize the negotiating process.
Posted by Peter @ 05/12/2005 08:36 AM CST
As for the causes of Palestinian radicalization, if you check history, youâ€™ll find that targeting civilians is a prominent and constant feature of Palestinian violence since the very beginning of the conflict.
--- planted undercover agents to goad the protesters into violence ---- ? Sounds exactly like the kind of vilification Sue Blackwall spreads. Plus those demonstrators are small and closed tightly groups; any outsider would have been easily exposed. Seems to me they where trying to cover their own true violent nature, that is finally exposed.
Tell me Peter, is anyone who says peace, automatically gains your trust?
Posted by Dvar Dea @ 05/12/2005 08:09 PM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 05/12/2005 09:20 PM CST
Dvar and Rod,
Iâ€™ll try and respond to all your points soon but, for now, I just want to point out that the part about undercover agents at Bilâ€™in provoking the police into violence was reported in Haaretz â€“ Iâ€™m posting the link below. If you read the last paragraph, youâ€™ll see that even military sources donâ€™t deny using undercover provocateurs: "Stone-throwing by the undercover forces is part of the way in which they operate in such instances"
Thereâ€™s also a video of the protest at the Gush Shalom website.
Posted by Peter @ 05/13/2005 01:49 AM CST
Helloand How are you?
Posted by mohmmadalikhajehnouri @ 05/13/2005 09:51 AM CST
Posted by Ratna @ 05/13/2005 10:50 AM CST
The gush shalom videos do not support either of the claims because none of the Mistaâ€™arvim was caught in the act. As the films shows, they came from behind the main attraction, where all the cameras were and most of the demonstrators, hardly a place for goading.
Posted by Dvar Dea @ 05/17/2005 03:12 PM CST
Dvar - Your comments reminded me of a verse from Leonard Cohen's "Stories of the Street". It was the "peace" activists shouting, and I remembered their contorted faces on TV.
I know you've heard it's over now
We all should pause and ask ourselves if these shrieking voices speak for us? It is not just the peace activists, but all those angry clusters of people who claim to speak for the "majority".
Posted by Rod Davies @ 05/17/2005 10:35 PM CST
Rod, I can think of words from another famous song:
Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
It may be presumptuous for anyone to talk in the name of the majority, but we can all do the simple thing of trying to find out what the truth is. Not the absolute/holy truths, but the simple historic facts and what democracy, peace and racism are all about. Canceling one side isnâ€™t peace isnâ€™t peace its racism.
Posted by Dvar Dea @ 05/18/2005 12:24 PM CST
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