A small group of Irish Academics has published a letter in the Irish Times calling for a boycott of Israel. Such initiatives do not reflect conscientious examination of the issues. It is no secret that such letters are always the result of painstaking organization by someone. We can and should fight these initiatives.
Jon Ihle, who writes for the Irish Times and also has his own blog, has been following the boycott call. In the Irish Times, Ihle wrote:
Since 2002, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and other activist groups in Ireland and around the world have been trying to institute a global boycott of Israeli economic, academic and cultural institutions, as well as Israeli goods and companies that do business with Israel or Israeli firms. The movement arose in parallel with the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank that had begun in 2000, but had reached a climax two years later with a series of suicide bombings in Israel and the controversial Israeli assault on Jenin. As peace looked less and less retrievable, campaigners turned to what is now a well-known litany of activisim: boycott, sanctions, divestment.
The goal of the organisations involved is to brand Israel as a pariah state for its policies in the Palestinian territories and to isolate it from the community of democracies, as the anti-apartheid movement cut off and discredited South Africa in the 1980s. The similarity in tactics is no accident: to the activists, today's Israel is itself an "apartheid state" that has segregated the Palestinians in "bantustans" in the West Bank and Gaza. In their rhetoric Zionism is a doctrine of racial superiority, and not of national liberation as an overwhelming majority of Jews understand it.
This bland prose hides a bit of unpleasant Actually IPSC and the International Solidarity Movemnet are not only opposing Israeli policies. The boycott movement didn't just "arise." It was part of a planned Palestinian effort, whose aim is to discredit and destroy Israel. At a 2004 conference of the Badil refugee advocacy group, the plan to destroy Israel was stated frankly:
We must understand that occupation will end only after, or simultaneously with, de-Zionization. Doing away with the old dichotomy will also mean fusing together the struggle to end the occupation and the struggle for return ...
We must turn the one-state solution into a relevant political agenda, in Israel, the 1967 OPT, in the camps in Lebanon, among Palestinian exile communities in Detroit, everywhere...
About sanctions/boycott campaigns as a necessary means:
- The legitimacy of Israelís regime must be challenged for its racism on the one hand, and its colonialist character on the other. The only way this regime can be brought to collapse is from outside. We have to call for boycott and sanctions against Israel.
In his first blog about the Irish Boycott Israel call Ihle wrote:
If you didn't sleep through the latest denunciation/call for boycott of Israel on the letters page of The Irish Times last week, you might have noticed one of its 60 academic signatories was IRA bomber and Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign member Feilim O hAdhmaill, who served six years of a 25 year term for being caught in possession of 17kg of Semtex and a list of targets...while working as a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire. He now lectures at UCC.
This gives a big hint that this boycott call is the work of the ISM/PSM movement, which has been tirelessly at work subverting every organization possible and turning it into a hate Israel group. (see PSM - Palestinian Subversion and Mendacity Movement http://www.zionism-israel.com/ezine/PSM_Palestine_Subversion_Movement.htm.
As Ihle notes, the "academics" who signed the call for boycotting Israel are small fry, and some are not really academics at all. He notes that the boycott call probably doesn't merit the publicity it is getting. As Education minister Yuli Tamir noted:
The question is whether these lecturers have a say in the academic world or whether they don't. It is not pleasant, but not terrible. We don't want to make a big deal of it because this will give them a false status."
And Ihle notes:
Apart from Luke Gibbons and Seamus Deane of Notre Dame, and Ivana Bacik, the academics who signed the petition have about zero public profile. The IPSC's resident terrorist, Feilim O hAdhmaill, isn't even listed among the faculty at UCC's department of applied social studies, so his affiliation can't be particularly influential. I suspect the same is true for many of the names on that list.
Nonetheless, every such public call for boycott cannot be ignored. We understand that the real purpose of the boycott movement, the stated purpose, is to discredit Israel and end the Jewish state, rather than ending the occupation. In the best of all possible worlds there would be another ISM - Israel Solidarity Movement - active at campuses, churches, labor unions and womens groups.
Ihle also notes:
...let's not forget the vast infrastructure of anti-Israel NGOs which the EU supports with tax money.
That is not an accident either. At the end of days perhaps there will also be a "UN Committee for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Jewish People" that will accredit NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) similar to those anti-Zionist NGOs funded by the EU today and accredited to the "Committee for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian People." (See The Question of Palestine.)
The Irish Embassy in Israel has rejected the boycott call. Unfortunately, once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is hard to get it back in. The 61 people in Irish academia who want to boycott Israel got their publicity and presumably added to their number. In future, we need to try to stop these things before they happen.
Meanwhile, we need to do what we can. We need to expose the ISM/PSM subsversion campaign for what it is, every place it rears its ugly head. Please write to the editors of Irish Times and tell them that academic freedom is not about boycotts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A sample letter:
To the editors,
I am responding to the letter published in the Irish Times on September, 16 2006 from 61 Irish academics, calling for a moratorium on EU support of Israel academic institutions until Israel ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.
Academic boycotts over political issues are contrary to the spirit of academic freedom. They limit the exchange of knowledge and ideas.
Surprisingly, the academics did not call for a boycott of British universities, despite the British occupation of Northern Ireland, the longest occupation in history. Wouldn't that occupation be of greater concern to Irish academics? Nor did they call for boycotting Chinese academic institutions, though China has brutally occupied Tibet since 1949 and has denied self-determination to the Tibetan people.
What is the reason that Israel has been singled out for this treatment? Boycott Israel initiatives do not represent the free and spontaneous expression of academic positions. They do not reflect the positions of individuals who have conscientiously and fairly examined the issues. Rather, they are the result of organized agitation by partisans of the Palestinian cause, who are trying to subvert academic institutions, churches and other groups for their own purposes.
Responsible organizations that are concerned about freedom of ideas, academic freedom and freedom of the press should not turn themselves into platforms for limiting those freedoms or foisting the political agenda of a partisan group on an unsuspecting public.
Ami Isseroff, D.Sc.
Another sample letter sent by SPME is below (at http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000252.html ).
Promoting Academic Integrity and Honest Debate
International Advisory Board For Academic Freedom
September 25, 2006
Letters to the Editor Irish Times
In response to a letter published in the Irish Times on 16
September, 2006 from 61 Irish academics, calling for a moratorium on
EU support of Israel academic institutions until Israel ends the
occupation of Palestinian territories, we, who represent over 7300
academics world wide, have written to the EU to defend academic
freedom and to declare that it is against such boycotts.
Academic life is about building bridges for better understanding and resolution, not destroying them.
Academic boycott actions are also antithetical to the universal principals of academic freedom.
Academics who advocate academic boycotts are separating themselves from the academic community.
A moratorium which in essence is a boycott is betrayal of these values. The shameful acts of the former AUT and NATFHE over the last years have met with universal academic condemnation. Such
distinguished academics as Sari Nusseibah, the Palestinian President of Al Quds University and prestigious academic societies and unions including, but not limited to: the Middle Eastern Studies
Association, American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences, National Academy, American Political Science Association and the America Association of University Professors spoke out unequivocally
against such boycott attempts.
The attempt to single out Israel academics for isolation and demonization while erasing the complex history and decades of Arab-Israel violence is both intellectually and morally unacceptable. As
noted in a recent Report to the UK Parliament, virulent anti-Zionism, which appeared in the public letter, has become an expression of anti-Semitism.
In the spirit of academic freedom, we ask that the Irish Times also unequivocally renounce academic boycotts and not give credence to their legitimacy.
Rector, Bar Ilan University
Chair, International Advisory Board on Academic Freedom
Edward S. Beck
Walden University, Alvernia College and Susquehanna Institute
President, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
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