Sunday, August 05, 2007

Anti-Jewish bigotry and prejudice in British academe anno 2007

The unspeakables are at it again: the University and College Union (a trade union of higher education academic and academic-related staff) is proposing to boycott contact and exchanges with Israeli educators and academic institutions. The reason given is that the Israeli government is acting beastly towards the Palestinians and that Israeli educators and academic institutions are financed by the Israeli state and are therefore agents of the Israeli government, and complicit in this execrable behaviour.

To be fair, the University and College Union is also calling for a boycott of all contact and exchanges with the following

  • Educators and academic institutions from the People’s Republic of China, because of the suppression of the Tibetan nation and the Uigur ethnic minority, and because of the Chinese government’s responsibility for the Tiananmen Square massacre.
  • Educators and academic institutions from the Islamic Republic of Iran, for its persecution of the Bahai and its oppression of women.
  • Educators and academic institutions from the Russian Federation, because of its genocide in Chechnya.
  • Educators and academic institutions from the Sudan, because of its government’s complicity in the genocide in the Darfur region, and its earlier attempts to crush the Christian and Animist African population in the South of the Sudan.
  • Educators and academic institutions from Myanmar, because of its government’s brutal suppression of ethnic minorities, its continued used of forced labour and its most unkind treatment of a great lady, Aung San Suu Kyi.
  • Educators and academic institutions from Turkey, because of its government’s refusal to acknowledge responsibility for the Armenian genocide/massacre/regrettable incident.
  • Educators and academic institutions from Zimbabwe, because of its government’s suppression of the Matabele and its ruthless suppression of any form of dissent.
  • Educators and academic institutions from Saudi Arabia, because of that countries denial of religious rights to adherents of faiths other than Islam, and because of its oppression of women.
  • Educators and academic institutions from Vietnam, because of its government’s systematic oppression of non-Vietnamese ethnic minorities, including the hill tribes.

Of course, the Jew-haters of the University and College Union have not called for any such boycotts, except for the one against educators and academic institutions from Israel. I wonder why? What are the likely drivers of this curiously selective exercise of moral indignation?

I believe that the Palestinians are indeed the step-children of the 20th century - victims of ignorance, fear and brutality perpetrated against them by Israel, the Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the other Arab, Middle-Eastern and Gulf countries. They have been and continue to be used opportunistically and ruthlessly by all and sundry, during the Cold War and during the so-called war on terror. They are exploited and victimised by the jihadists and their paymasters and by the Christian fundamentalists that have egged on the Bush administration for these past 7 years. But what, in the name of Sarah and Hagar, has this got to do with calling for a boycott of educators and academic institutions from Israel? Or perhaps this proposal of the UCU is just the latest example of the cynical abuse of the plight of the Palestinians by third parties - this time by an association of non-entities trying to vent its anti-Jewish spleen and get some free publicity and lumpen-street-cred in the process?

I will keep talking to, arguing with and exchanging views with any Israeli educator willing to talk, argue and exchange views. We call this academic freedom - a concept apparently unfamiliar to some would-be academic Gauleiters. Remember the old saying: those who can, do; those who cannot, teach? In academe it should be amended as follows: those who can, teach and do research; those who cannot, do academic administration; those who cannot even do that, run academic trade unions; and those who fail even there, try to arrange academic boycotts of Israel.


Anonymous said...

It's a bit weak to call them anti-Jewish; the easy route out of any hard talk on Israel is to whip up the demagogic sentiment of anti-Semitism (a downright inaccurate word itself, considering that the Palestinians are more Semitic than most (Ashkenazi) Jews). If you want a simple and robust reason for the boycott, read this: Naomi Klein, 'How War was Turned into a Brand',,2104440,00.html

Quite understandable really.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I don’t know if you are Jewish/Zionist, but concerning your comments on the academic boycott, I am a rather surprised at your selective memory or ineptitude to acknowledge innate truths about the situation in the “Israel”.

As with any institution, it is well within their right, the UCU, to impose such a boycott if there is material evidence to support the accusations they hurl at Israel that have caused such a moral outrage. History has not shown Israel to be made of teflon concerning these matters and given the numerous current/past accounts by B'Tselem, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International… regarding the human rights violations by Israel, particularly against the Palestinians, it seems that such actions are not only warranted and justified but morally obligatory. Though I am against punishing individuals for acts of the state, it is my conviction that Israel is a special case here. To elaborate further, the matter of the academic institutions being funded by the government is not the issue here, but use of such research and the intertwined symbiotic relationship between the IDF and a large part of the academic elite in Israel which is enough to terrify anyone with a conscious.

On a side note, the pernicious nature of the way the Jewish Lobby in America projects Israeli interests in the mid-east and the trail of confusion intertwining Israeli and American interests does not endear the Jews to the world. And of course the “Holocaust Industry” will probably hurt the Jewish cause in the long runs, as anyone who has the courage to speak of Israel in any fashion other then glorifying the state is labelled a holocaust denier, anti-somatic, Nazi...

It is true that a lot of the “liberal” media are short sighted and view the problems in the middle-east through the Israel-Palestine prism, but it is also true that the supporters of Israel are always trying to confuse the public by perpetuating this myth that the situation complex beyond the public’s comprehension. I hope that a person of your stature and eloquence sobers up from the “complexity” of the situation in the mid-east and have the courage to write accurate accounts of the reasoning behind the UCU’s decision, rather then add radical and polarising conjecture to the debate, under the guise of a thorough treatment of the issue at hand.
(No doubt you will label me a Nazi, Anti-Semite, Holocaust Denier and so on)