Monday, May 29, 2006

In Britain and Canada, a win for hypocrisy

England's National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) has voted for an academic boycott on Israeli institutions of higher education that do not renounce Israel's "apartheid policy." reports:

The move to boycott Israeli academics reopened a front which formerly involved a different British teachers’ association, the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which advanced a motion in April of last year to shun Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities. Responding to the urgings of Palestinian organizations, AUT declared the boycott and decided to exclude the two institutions from conventions and research projects.

A month later following a wide Israeli lobbyist campaign, the union voted to cancel the boycott. Soon after Monday’s Blackpool summit, the two teachers’ organizations are expected to unite into one association.

At the Blackpool summit, two motions were put to vote. The first called to help aid, protect and support Palestinian institutions and universities in light of the continuing attacks by the Israeli government, and to maintain ties with the Palestinian government to underscore this support. This motion also accuses Britain of scandalous incitement against Hamas.

The second motion called to renew last year’s boycott, and mentions “Israel’s persistent apartheid policy,” which includes the construction of the security fence and other discriminatory practices in the education system.

Whether the NATFHE boycott will be binding for the AUP, which reversed himself on a similar boycott earlier, remains to be seen.

The British Foreign Office deplores the decision, calling it "counterproductive and retrograde." The reaction from Israel is even stronger:

The chairman of the Knesset Committee for Science and Technology, MK Zevulun Orlev, asked his British counterpart to condemn the decision.

"We expect the British to decry the anti-Semitic and racist decision to encourage institutions for higher education to tighten cooperation with Israeli academic institutions," Orlev wrote in a letter addressed to members of the British parliament.

Also today, the Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the largest labor union in Canada, voted in favor of a boycott of Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

Are these boycotts anti-Semitic? Maybe not, but, as I noted the other day, they are hypocritical, sanctimonious, and deeply wrong. No one is demanding a boycott of Russian academics over Russia's occupation of Chechnya and the atrocities committed there (which dwarf, to put it mildly, Israel's human rights abuses in the occupied territories). Or, as Ari Paul points out in an article at, a boycott of Chinese academics because of the occupation of Tibet and other assorted abuses by the Chinese regime. Or ... sadly, the list could go on and on.

Partly, this double standard is rooted in the all-too-familiar leftist mentality which strenuously condemns bad behavior by Western or pro-Western governments while turning a blind eye to the far worse misdeeds of communist and/or Third World regimes. (It's not quite clear into which category Putin's Russia falls.) But the movement to boycott Israel is especially repulsive because it combines this anti-Western, anti-democratic bias with an element of "picking on the little guy." No one in his or her right mind, even among the British intelligentsia or Canadian public employees, would propose boycotting American institutions because of the occupation of Iraq. Why? Because, obviously, such a boycott would cripple any institution's ability to conduct its business; in the case of an academic boycott, it would cripple a country's academic life and scientific research. But lashing out at Israel as a proxy for America is something one can do with minimal inconvenience.

An American boycott of any institution that participates in this shameful enterprise would be an appropriate response. It would be too much to expect the American Association of University Professors, but the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers should step up to the plate.

More: An interesting comment from a generally non-political diary, reflecting on the irony of the British boycott to protest Israeli "apartheid" policies:

How incredibly ironic, considering that it was Britain who created this "apartheid" in the first place!

In 1917, the British government pledged to support the establishment of a Jewish "national home" in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire. But they also had a debt to pay to a certain tribal chieftain, Abdullah of the Hashemites, who sided with Britain against the Turks. When Britain was given mandate over the entire area in 1922, they lopped off 80% of the land, called it "Trans-Jordan", and gave it to Abdullah. The remaining land was then once again partitioned by the UN, once Britain gave up its mandate. The Jews accepted this partition, the Arabs did not, precipitating the war of 1948.

It was Britain, and Britain alone, who was responsible for giving Jordan to the Hashemites to rule, even though they did not represent the majority of the local population (and still do not).

Heaven forbid that knowledge of history should interfere with anyone's sense of self-righteousness! And how odd that Israel should be singled out, when there are so many more worthy candidates, from Turkey to Russia. And let's not forget Britain itself - Northern Ireland, anyone? And I don't see an Australian Aboriginal state being formed in this former British colony, either.


Anonymous said...

The irony is that I'm pretty sure if it were the other way around--if, for example, there was a call for a boycott of all institutions that supported some politically correct cause (for example, all institutions that supported a "two-state solution") these exact same folk would be crying "censorship" and "freedom of speech" and going on about "the marketplace of ideas". Amazing how fast such talk disintegrates when a nonpolitically correct cause comes up.

Revenant said...

England's National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) has voted for an academic boycott on Israeli institutions of higher education that do not renounce Israel's "apartheid policy."

But remember -- stories of left-wing bias in the academic world are just a myth cooked up by paranoid right-wingers. :)

Anonymous said...

Well whats worse, hypocracy or subjugating 3.5 million people under apartheid?

I kind of think it's the latter. I think I would rather hang out with a bunch of hypocrites then a bunch of torturers and murderers wouldn't you?. I guess I am one of those weird people who thinks that hypocracy is preferable to ethnic cleansing.

Honestly is that all you got? Have you shot your wad now? Oooooh you called them hypocrites, I bet they are not feeling morally superior to people who launch missiles into crowded cities anymore.

Let me make a suggestion. Why don't you wait till the teachers are bulldozing houses and leaving thousands homeless and then you can pounce on them and call them much worse thing.

Dean said...

As JW notes, CUPE is run by pretty hard-left whackos. That said, there's no anti-semitism in their stupid boycott. I strongly suspect that it is, as you say, that they make Israel a proxy for US foreign policy. Not that they're probably aware of it: it is rather that it is fashionable to bash Israel right now, and they're good little locksteppers.

Cousin said...

Because academia doesn't really believe Africans are human beings, they won't boycott the Arab League for its support of the genocidal government of Sudan. 4,000 dead Paelstinians is more important than 400,000 Darfurians.

Anonymous said...

I think it's quite charitable to say that "maybe" these boycotts aren't anti-Semitic, when that is exactly what they are. This is the new anti-Semitism: everything is in code. Race and religon are kept politely out of the conversation, it's just that the Jewish state happens to be the most evil in the history of the modern world.

Note also that in the news item, "a wide Israeli lobbyist campaign" reversed the earlier boycott - again, the all-powerful Israeli lobby (the influence of those Jews reaches everywhere... EVERYWHERE!) In fact, that boycott caused such widespread outrage that it became an international embarrassment.

Revenant said...

Nope. Unless you can point out where these people are calling for a boycott of universities because of their Jewishness, or for kicking Jews out of non-Jewish universities.

You're assuming that British academia is entitled to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. But British academia and society have a centuries-old tradition of open anti-Semitism which has only very recently declined. When a bunch of people whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents hated Jews single out a Jewish state for unfairly disproportionate condemnation, their motives are, in my opinion, not entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

The best that can be said of the boycott is that many, perhaps most, of those involved aren't provably anti-Semitic in that most of them haven't let any openly anti-Semitic remarks slip. But that doesn't mean it is a given that the boycott *isn't* anti-Semitic. There's no evidence their motives are pure -- as has been noted, they're ignoring countless worse misdeeds in order to focus on lesser ones "coincidentally" performed by Jews. Since the people in question are neither stupid nor ignorant, they must have some other motivation than a desire to take a stand against wrongdoing. What could that motive be?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the problem is here. People are fighting against what they believe to be a moral injustice. Shouldn't that be encouraged?

The principle argument against this boycott seems to be that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is a lesser evil. Who cares? Not every injustice can be fought at once. It makes sense to choose the fights where you can have the most impact. Israel is vulnerable to this sort of boycott, as was South Africa. Russia and China, although they may be more deserving, are not as vulnerable. Similar efforts targeting these countries would probably hurt those doing the boycotting more than the country being boycotted. That's no way to win a fight.

Revenant said...

Is it, perhaps, that we should expect more from a Western democracy than a Third World or Communist nation?

So your argument is that third worlders really *are* morally and intellectually inferior to westerners? That's a dangerous attitude to adopt. The concept of universal human rights is based in the idea that all humans are capable of moral reasoning. If some of us aren't, then the idea that we're all entitled to rights and freedom is incorrect.

I think many of us expect more from Israel not because we're anti-semites, but because we identify with Israelis.

That implies that people would stop criticizing Israel as much if it became a military dictatorship, which seems very unlikely. Besides which, hatred of Israel seems to be inversely correlated with how much people identify with the country -- the Arab world wants Israel annihilated, Europeans dislike it, Americans like it, and Jews are very supportive of it.

Anonymous said...

China and Russia are not largest recepients of U.S. aid and do not ask for diplomatic protection or re-organizing Middle East for its security. It is about time people find courage to do something about this 40 year occupation. IT CONTINUES BECAUSE ISRAELI ESTABLISHMENT KNOWS THEY GOT A LOT OF APOLOGISTS IN THE UNITED STATES AND EUOREPS.

Revenant said...

It is about time people find courage to do something about this 40 year occupation.

Oh, please. If the academics wanted to show courage, they'd boycott America. It doesn't take courage to hurt people who can't hurt you back. And by the way, the Palestinian position is that the occupation is 60 years old, not 40.

It is also interesting that these allegedly not-anti-Semitic men of courage only concern themselves with those years in which the territory has been "occupied" by Jews. You never heard any concern expressed about the preceeding thousand years in which the Palestinian Arabs were occupied by non-Palestian Muslims and Christians. Apparently it was just fine for the Palestinians to be occupied by "foreign" powers, so long as those powers weren't Jewish. :)

Anonymous said...

The boycott can only be viewed as an Anti-Semtic manouever. Anti-Israel sentiments of this nature are inherently a crude form of Anti- Semtisim, these institutions and academics are part of the only Jewish nation in the world. Israeli academics are not guiding international policy between the PA and the Knesset. As a South African, I can attest to the ravagens of apartheid, the border conflict between the PA and Israel cannot be drawn into any type of comparison. It saddens me greatly that so-called academics in the UK are so pathetically pedantic that they cannot protest a worthy cause! Talk about the levels of xenophobia in he UK, the plight of Darfur, international textiles.. something of some consequence. This boycott is in one word, pathetic.

Anonymous said...

"Partly, this double standard is rooted in the all-too-familiar leftist mentality which strenuously condemns bad behavior by Western or pro-Western governments while turning a blind eye to the far worse misdeeds of communist and/or Third World regimes"

-As a "leftist mental" I'll comment on this part. In all human interactions the opinions of your friends matter more than those of your enemies. Yes, Israel is not the worst human rights violator but criticism from one of its allies is taken far more seriously than say the US being critical of Iran. This is very similar to South Africa nearly 20 years ago. The US was friendly to South Africa and when we started our own sanctions against them apartheid fell in less than a decade. Cuba has been our enemy for 50 years and our criticism there has not changed anything. I am not pro-Castro but it's easy to see criticizing Castro helps Cubans not one wit.

Anonymous said...

In response to Tom's comment that:

Perhaps this Israeli boycott is a good point from which to expand to a more general one.

I'd like to ask when the Israel-bashing left plan to actually expand their campaign. They have, after all, been "starting" with Israel since the 1970s.

Anonymous said...

The principle argument against this boycott seems to be that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is a lesser evil. Who cares?

Well, that about says it all, doesn't it?

Revenant said...

So when can we expect a boycott of Jordan, or does discrimnating against one group not count?

It only counts when the people being mean to Palestinians are Jews. That's why there was no outrage in the international or Arab world during the twenty years Jordan occupied "Palestine" and killed thousands of Palestinians. It only became an unforgivable occupation once Jordan attacked Israel and lost the land to them in the war that followed.

An interesting question to ponder: if the occupation of the West Bank is the source of Palestinian ire, why was the PLO founded three years *before* the occupation began?

Cathy Young said...

anonymous: well, I'm sure a post like yours will go a long way toward showing us where we're wrong. Especially coming from someone who doesn't even have the guts to put a name to his/her post.

Sirkowski said...

Lefties don't denounce Putin because they're all communists...?

Jeez, lay off the crack.

Anonymous said...

"You people simply want us all to lay down and die, don't you?"

Interesting question.
What plan does Israel have for the people outside its borders if the unilateral border is imposed? Is there any consideration of that population (economy, food, water education, healthsupplies) or are you thinking they will all "lay down and die" problem solved?

Any imposed border is just the beginning. At some point, you have to live with your neighbors, preferably in peace.

Errant missles killing a family visiting the seashore provokes cries for justice. Calls for responsibility on all sides are not anti semitic but sane. Pull your heads out of your past and look forward. The rest of the world is and fears more of the present. That's not anti semitic either.

Anonymous said...

Israel uses tactics to avoid civilian casualties, not inflict them. They deploy ground troops which is "like being given a prize" according to a Palestinian. i have never heard of a state that warns occupants/residents before striking, as it greatly reduces strategy. unfortunately, civilian casualties r bound 2 occur as arab militant groups use regular homes as bomb factories, drive thru crowded streets with a trunk full of rockets, intermingle with civilians during combat... they dont care about civilian life, even palestinian. since 2000, over 300 palestinians hav been killed by fellow palestinians.

this boycotting bias is unbelievable. israel's policies r based on security concerns (whether 1 likes them or not), and palestinians (not israeli citizens) cannot expect the same benefit as arab-israelis or other citizens so long as the semi-occupation continues which is a product of the state of war between the now Hamas-led PA (and ther terrorist allies) and israel.

israel does not have a perfect record, but they consider international laws of war and organize investigations (unlike any other in the region). they have prosecuted their own soldiers 4 bad conduct, as they should.

again, this boycott is boloney

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