The Misuses of Anti-Semitism

Culture Watch

Mr. Cole is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and author of Sacred Space and Holy War (I.B. Tauris, 2002). His website is: www.juancole.com.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers has equated favoring university divestment from Israeli stocks with anti-Semitism. Summers has for some time misunderstood the duties of his office to include bullying professors, and in this recent equation he is profoundly wrong. He and others who are taking this tack are also pursuing an extremely dangerous and troubling course with dire implications for civil liberties.

In twentieth century American history, Jews were excluded from admission to some private universities, denied the right to rent or buy certain houses, and suffered from false stereotypes. Prominent Americans like Henry Ford spewed vile slanders about them. These bigoted exclusions were profoundly wrong, as were those visited on African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Prejudice and discrimination against Jews is iconic of ethnic hatred because of the Nazi holocaust. The Holocaust makes the dangers of a pervasive hatred of a particular people palpable, and for that reason it is a deeply human event, in the sense that it affects all humankind. The cry of "Never again" is a key support in the struggles of all civil libertarians and human rights workers.

But some use "Never again" in a far more disturbing way, as a warrant for imprisoning, crushing or dispersing the Palestinian people. The state of Israel is a project of Jewish nationalism that is as legitimate as any other national project. But Israel as a state is not perfect and cannot be above criticism in democratic societies, including practical criticism.

The Israeli state is in violation the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 (which forbids the mistreatment of civilian populations under military occupation), and of too many Security Council resolutions to list. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems intent on seizing more Palestinian land. Over a fifth of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation are acutely or chronically malnourished, according to US AID and the United Nations.

Ariel Sharon's arrogant trampling on the basic human rights of Palestinians is often justified by reference to the horrible incidents of terrorism suffered by Israel in the past two years. These suicide bombings are unspeakable. A sober estimation of their impact, however, would reveal that about 300 Israelis have died in them per year. More innocent Palestinian civilians, including women and children, have been killed in Israeli military action against the terrorists than have Israeli civilians in the terrorist attacks. The terrorists have amounted to a few dozen individuals, whereas almost all the 3.2 million Palestinians in the occupied territories have been peaceful.

Israel's current harsh lockdown of the entire West Bank would not be countenanced in other similar international situations. Would the United Kingdom have been justified in militarily occupying all of Ireland and keeping all Irish under strict curfew in their houses because of the terrorist attacks of the Irish Republican Army? In the 1970s, after all, the Northern Irish death toll was similar to what Israel has suffered in the past two years. It is hard not to conclude that a certain amount of racism toward west Asians like the Palestinians allows the world to turn a blind eye to such collective punishment.

Sharon's policies are widely perceived in the rest of the world to be an extension of those of the United States. A U.S. F-16 was used by Israel to attack a terrorist leader in an apartment building full of civilians, resulting in numerous civilian deaths. The footage of such events is shown repeatedly throughout the Middle East. The U.S. government keeps silent about Israeli human rights abuses. Sharon's iron fist is creating waves of new anti-Americanism in the rest of the world at a time when our country is still reeling from the September 11 attacks and attempting to dampen the flames of terrorism. With friends like Ariel Sharon, who needs enemies?

University communities have very little impact on world affairs and can exercise influence only through writing or through local campus actions. The false and monstrous equation of practical criticism of Ariel Sharon's policies with anti-Semitism is designed to silence voices critical of those policies, and to make the divestment movement look as though it were motivated merely by bigotry.

In the 1980s, many campuses saw a successful campaign for divestment against South Africa, a racist regime with which U.S. and Israel governments and industry at times collaborated. Only fringe voices would have suggested that the campaign was animated by prejudice against white people or by anti-Semitism. Summers's statements are most urgently dangerous because they cheapen the phrase "anti-Semitism," and thereby weaken its force and its power in the struggle for civil liberties and human rights for everyone.


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Michael Mantra - 11/14/2006

What is an anti-semite?...I hate neither Arabs or anyone of Middle Eastern descent, nor do I hate Jews...however, this term has taken
on a form of Orwellian 'NewSpeak' due
to the ownership & management of the
organs of media by the tiny minority of those living in America who we call 'Jews'...in fact even the use of the word 'Jew' by a 'Gentile' can lead to character assasination & attacks by this tiny minority...why
such is such power granted?...we have
an interesting paradox here....Thanks
Michael Phila PA

Rommel A E - 5/6/2006

Let me know why is it that you want your post to be the last in a series? Does that give you a false sense that you have won your argument?

Harvey S Cohen - 4/19/2005

The term "anti-Semitism" was coined in 1879 by the anti-Semitic German journalist Wilhelm Marr. He intended it to replace the common term, "Judenhass" ("Jew-hate"). The reason for the change was the shift from condemning Jews for religion to condemning Jews for "race." Jews could no longer redeem themselves by converting; they were genetically dangerous and had to be exterminated.
Notwithstanding the fact that most Semites are not Jews, The equation of "anti-Semitism" with "Jew-hate" was absolutely clear in 1879, and the term has always meant "Jew-hate."
Anybody who is uncomfortable about the *literal* meaning of "Semite" should be appalled by the sheer stupidity and ignorance of infantrymen who dig foxholes but don't have foxes.
And, of course, the ignoramus who calls a string of islands on the opposite side of the globe from India the "West Indies" is beneath contempt.

Chris None - 5/26/2004

YOU should be ashamed for trying to turn the palestinian situation into a petty trifle. What the Israeli government is doing and has been doing since the late 1940's is not acceptable, and correct me if i'm wrong but this thread was about the Israeli/Palestinian situation, no? Then I suggest you start your own thread if you want to discuss injusticies related to other countries/people. Or maybe you would prefer that anytime one atrocity is brought up, every other atrocity should be brought up to in order to make the discussion "legit" or "fair"? Then why did you neclect to mention the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia...?

"Trying to finish what Hitler started" - how come whenever someone critizises Israel, Hitler or WW2 is brought up, and on top of that to defend Israel's actions. You would think that a people that just had gone through something so horrible would not use similar methods themselves.

Keith - 1/13/2004

What a bunch of crap. Every thing that Israel has done is also being done by other nations, and to a greater extenet, and with more frequency.

I am less concerned about the Israeli settlers of the West Bank than I am of the Pakistani settlers of Western Kashmir.

500,000 "palestinians" left (many voluntarily) Israel in the first Arab-Israeli war ... and despite their "malnutrition," "dispersal," etc. etc., they have magically become 5 MILLION refugees? This is the only group of people in history who's children are given automatic refugee status the UN, perhaps because no Arab nation (except the very recent inclusion of Jordan) will take them in. Even though they expelled 600,000 Jews in the late '40s.

Well, two million Hindus have been forced to flee Kashmir since 1949... what are YOU going to do about helping them?

For every single anti-Israeli condemnation listed by that idiot, I could name (at least) one of equal or more serious value by another nation. Just consider the massive human rights abuses, murdered innocents, displaced people, and ethnic cleansing in so many Muslim-dominated nations... Cyprus, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon (occupied by Syria for 25 years!), the Philippines, Kashmir, Bangladesh, East Timor.

Where is the "international" outcry for the millions of abused women and homosexuals living in Muslim hellholes? Where is the condemnation of Pakistan's invasion and brutal occupation of the Indian state of Kashmir? How about the 20,000 "palestinians" killed by the King of Jordan in the early 70's?

You conservative pricks that hate Israel just make me sick. You reserve your judgement ONLY for Israel while so many others do so much more. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

You never mention (because you don't know, and refuse to believe) that the ENTIRE NATION of Western Sahara is OCCUPIED by Morroco. And that half of Cyprus is OCCUPIED by Turkey. Or that the Kurds of Syria, Turkey, and Iraq have been the victims of slaughter, oppresion, and genocide twenty times worse than the phony "palestinians" of Israel. And that the KINGDOM of Tibet, that HAD a legitimate NATIONAL ruler, is OCCUPIED by China. (Hey, who was the King of "Palestine" in 1946?) And that 300,000 East Timorese were killed by Suharto... why don't you try to bring him up to some "International Tribunal" for "war crimes" for him like you do Sharon? Why don't you whine about the THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS killed by the PLO and Hezbollah during the Lebanon War, instead of the less-than-one-thousand killed by the Christians while Sharon was defense minister?

By the way, no, I'm not Jewish, or Israeli, or "Christian Zionist". I'm a secular, liberal, progressive, vegetarian that doesn't want to see Israel go the way of East Timor.

You only bitch about Israel, tacitly giving the purveyors of much more suffering a free pass. Thus the Jihadis get braver and braver, and kill more women and children in other lands with increasing zeal. When the suicide bombers start hitting the hyper-crowded markets of India, the Philippines, etc. remember: YOU HELPED MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Stop blaming everything on Israel because the Israelis refused be destroyed. Bin Laden has already said that the Jihad will not stop until Spain goes back to Islam, and India goes back to Islam, and Yugoslavia goes back to Islam, and the Philippines goes to Islam.

What I want to know is, when is Istanbul going to go back to the Pope? When is Yemen going to go back to the Jews? When is Egypt and Syria going to go back to the Christians? When is Iran going to go back to the Zoroastrians? When is Afghanistan going to go back to the Budddhists? When is Kashmir, Bangladesh, and Pakistan going to go back to the Hindus? Oh, you don't know/care about THOSE suffering people, who lost their land, suffered a "holocaust," were "ethnically cleansed"? Why not, because an oil-rich theocracy isn't financing a world-wide propoganda campaign for them?

Saudi Arabia, which gives people fifty lashes for possessing a chocolate liqueur candy, and hundreds of lashes for being homosexual, kills women who get raped and dare to report it, is calling all the shots in the international hate-Israel campaign. They are trying to finish what Hitler started

That reminds me, when will all the Muslims go back to Saudi Arabia?

Julian Mannino - 11/4/2003

Stopping daily homicide bombers is what brought Israeli troops back into the West Bank. It's the duty of every country to protect it's citizens first.

noodles - 9/13/2003

ask a group like the adl their thoughts on building a fence around mexifornia then ask them what they think of a law that say if a white would marry a non white that they couldn't buy property they would scream hate,nazis, kkk, yet israel has the exact same laws for jews and arabs and is buliding a "security" fence. i read an article about how israel is concerned that arab birth rates are to high and israel is in danger of becoming more non jewish than jewish yet the same jews cheer mexicans and other third world garbage coming into the u.s., i'm concerned white birthrates are too low compared to that of non whites so the adl labels me a racist or nazi yet it's great for jews to do the same thing in israel ONE STANDARD FOR JEWS ANOTHER FOR THE GOYIM!

Roark - 4/2/2003


ira jaffe - 12/14/2002

Date: 12/14/02 3:16:56 AM Eastern Standard Time
SCOPE: INTERNATIONAL, particularly Columbia alumni

SUBJECT: Columbia's English Department considers hiring poet who opposes
speech and advocates having Jews "shot dead"

The word on the street in Ivy League English departments is that
Columbia is
considering hiring poet Tom Paulin, who has been a visiting professor at
Columbia this fall. Paulin is a distinguished poet. He is also an
implacable opponent of the right of the state of Israel to exist. But
things that ought to make him ineligible for consideration by any
university are that he has called for the murder of Jews and for the
suppression of free expression of ideas.

ACTION: Write to the University and to the media opposing the

Write to:
President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University

Jonathan Arac, Chairman of the English Department

Michael Rosenthal, Chairman of Undergraduate Studies for the English

(the addresses of all members of the English Department are listed on
Columbia WEB site, and it would be useful to write to each of them)

If you are a Columbia Grad, write to:
Derek Wittner, Director of Development, Columbia University

Susan Levin Birnbaum, Director of the Columbia College Fund

If you are a Barnard grad, write to:

Prof. William Sharpe, Chair, English Department

Dean Dorothy Denberg

Ms. Alden Prouty, Director of the Barnard Fund

If you live in New York State, please write to your congressman and
requesting that they write directly to President Bollinger to express
indignation that a man of Paulin's views would be invited to teach in a
University in New York.

Also write to the New York Times.


Unfortunately, the Columbia Spectator has already ceased publicaton for

BACKGROUND: Tom Paulin is the notorious British poet who gave an April
interview to Al Ahram in which he said that Jewish settlers
"should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists."
He is also the author of a poem in which "another little Palestinian
Is gunned down by the Zionist SS."

What you may not be aware of is that Paulin is an opponent of free
speech for
those who disagree with him. He has formally requested that the
newspaper cease publication of articles written by Zionists. He also a
supports the boycott of Israeli academics.

The University has not yet publicly announced Paulin's appointment; this
why it is essential for us to move aggressively to block the appontment
If Columbia faces a tidal wave of opposition, it is possible that they
back down by denying that such an appointment was even considered. If,
however, we wait to muster opposition until Paulin's appointment is
admitted to be under consideration, it will be far more difficult for
University to back down.

The following information was gathered by nationally known political
commentator, Tom Gross.

1. Letter to New York Times by the award-winning British novelist Linda
Grant (in response to one of the three articles the NY Times has now
published on Paulin.) Grant says that Harvard has reinvited Paulin on
"principle of freedom of speech" but that last year Paulin "wrote to The
Guardian, in London, asking why it permitted 'Zionists' like me and the
author and critic Ian Buruma to write for and express our views in the
paper." (Both Grant and Buruma are left-leaning British Jews who have
opposed the policies of the Israeli Likud and Labor parties regarding
settlements and other issues).

2. "Harvard at Bay: What to do with Tom Paulin?" (The National Review,
December 3, 2002). The National Review's senior editor William F Buckley
discusses the controversy. He notes that even The New York Observer [a
weekly liberal newspaper which often carries very anti-Israel pieces -
says in its editorial, "Columbia should fire Mr. Paulin immediately, on
principle that having an anti-Semite on the payroll does a disservice to
Columbia professors, students, and alumni who don't subscribe to the
that calling for the murder of Jews is something an Ivy League professor
should be doing in his off hours."

3. Above-mentioned editorial from The New York Observer, which says that
"Paulin has not confined his anti-Semitism to one newspaper interview"
some of his defenders have claimed). The Observer criticizes Alan
and other professors at Harvard who have defended Paulin for the "absurd
twisted logic" they have used (NY Observer's words, not mine.)

4. "Confused at Harvard," By Jay Ambrose, Anchorage Daily news (December
2002) (Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard
Newspapers, and this article has since appeared in a number of other
newspapers.) He writes: "I've never been invited to speak at Harvard,
what that means is perfectly clear, at least if you buy the logic
by faculty members of the famous institution's English department. I
been deprived of free speech. That is precisely the argument some on the
English faculty made after the group invited an Oxford poet to speak,
canceled the invitation and then extended it again. The fact that this
had publicly advocated murder should not get in the way of his coming,
faculty members concluded, because that would get in the way of free
... the English profs are using free speech as an excuse to do something

5. "Harvard's Disappearing Backbone" from The Weekly Standard (an
influential Washington weekly magazine), December 2, 2002. The magazine
that Harvard's English professors (as quoted in the Boston Globe,
their decision to re-invite Paulin) have merely shown that they don't
understand the U.S. First Amendment.

New York Times Letters
To the Editor:

On the basic principle of freedom of speech, Harvard University was
right to
reinstate its invitation to the poet Tom Paulin (news article, Nov. 21).
should be noted, however, that Mr. Paulin is himself committed to the
censorship of political opinions with which he does not agree.

Last year Mr. Paulin wrote to The Guardian, in London, asking why it
permitted "Zionists" like me and the author and critic Ian Buruma to
for and express our views in the paper. He is also a supporter of the
boycott of Israeli academics, denying those who (like me) deplore the
policies of the current Israeli government the right to speak in
international forums, solely on the basis of their nationality.

Hugh - 11/24/2002

What They Don't Tell You About Israel

Did you know that non-Jewish Israelis cannot buy or lease land in Israel?

Did you know that Palestinian license plates in Israel are color coded to
distinguish Jews from non Jews?

Did you know that Jerusalem, both East and West, is considered by the entire
world community, including the United States, to be occupied territory and
NOT part of Israel?

Did you know that Israel allots 85% of the water resources for Jews and the
remaining 15% is divided among all Palestinians in the territories? For
example in Hebron, 85% of the water is given to about 400 settlers, while
15% must be divided among Hebron's 120,000 Palestinians?

Did you know the U.S.A awards Israel $5 billion in aid each year?

Did you know that yearly US aid to Israel exceeds the aid the US grants to
the whole African continent?

Did you know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has
nuclear weapons?

Did you know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that refuses
to sign the nuclear non proliferation treaty and bars international
inspections from its sites?

Did you know that Israel currently occupies territories of two sovereign
nations (Lebanon and Syria) in defiance of United Nations Security Council

Did you know that Israel has for decades routinely sent assassins into other
countries to kill its political enemies?

Did you know that high-ranking military officers in the Israeli Defense
Forces have admitted publicly that unarmed prisoners of war were executed by
the IDF?

Did you know that Israel refuses to prosecute its soldiers who have
acknowledged executing prisoners of war?

Did you know that Israel routinely confiscates bank accounts, businesses,
and land and refuses to pay compensation to those who suffer the

Did you know that Israel blew up an American diplomatic facility in Egypt
and attacked a U.S. ship ininternational waters, killing 33 and wounding 177
American sailors?

Did you know that the second most powerful lobby in the United States,
according to a recent Fortune magazine survey of Washington insiders, is The
Israeli AIPAC?

Did you know that Israel stands in defiance of 69 United Nations Security
Council resolutions?

Did you know that today's Israel sits on the former sites of more than 400
now-vanished Palestinian villages, and that the Israeli's re-named almost
every physical site in the country to cover up the traces?

Did you know that it was not until 1988 that Israelis were barred from
running "Jews Only" job ads?

Did you know that four prime ministers of Israel (Begin, Shamir, Rabin and
Sharon) have taken part in either bomb attacks on civilians, massacres of
civilians, or forced expulsions of civilians from their villages?

Did you know that the Israeli Foreign Ministry pays two American public
relations firms to promote Israel to Americans?

Did you know that Sharon's coalition government includes a
party -Molodet-which advocates expelling all Palestinians from the occupied

Did you know that Israel's settlement-building increased in the eight years
since Oslo?

Did you know that settlement building under Barak doubled compared to
settlement building under Netanyahu?

Did you know that Israel once dedicated a postage stamp to a man who
attacked a civilian bus and killed several people?

Did you know that recently-declassified documents indicate that David
Ben-Gurion in at least some instances approved of the expulsion of
Palestinians in 1948?

We often hear of Ehud Barak's generosity about an alleged return of 95% of
the Palestinian Occupied Territories. When Palestinians refused, they were
blamed for "missing an opportunity." Did you know that the Palestinians have
already accepted Israel's existence on 78% of what was Palestine?

For those who use the argument of the Bible: God said to Abraham, "Unto thy
seed, I will give thy land," Abraham had two sons Ismael-the Arab son, and
Isaac-the Jewish son. So even if one wants to go to the Bible, the land
would belong to both.

Did you know that Palestinian Christians are considered the living stones"
of Christianity because they are the direct descendants of the disciples of
Jesus Christ?

Did you know that despite a ban on torture by Israel's High Court of
Justice, torture has continued by Shin Bet interrogators on Palestinian

Did you know that Palestinian refugees make up the largest portion of the
refugee population in the world?

Is not normal that young people become a suicide bombers. It happens as a
result of the terror they have been subject to. See with Photos The Israeli
massacres, visit:



Alec Lloyd - 10/7/2002

Mr. Gomez writes: “I still don't understand why it has become the rule that any criticism of the actions of Israel's Government is automatically labeled as anti-jewish and racist.”

It isn’t the rule, as a careful reading of the above post made abundantly clear.

One can and should fairly criticise the actions of the US or Israeli government. How one chooses to do that, however, is what defines “unpatriotic” and “anti-Semitic.”

When one singles out Israel for divestment because of its human rights abuses and yet is silent in the face of far more egregious atrocities by the surrounding regimes, one can fairly be accused of an anti-Israeli bias. By the same token, when someone excuses Iraqi atrocities and treaty violations and readily accepts even the most dubious assertions by Saddam at their face value, yet also questions the credibility of democratically elected leaders, again, you have a disconnect.

The “Jenin Massacre” allegations had zero proof, beyond the hysterical press releases sent by known terrorist organizations, yet they were taken seriously. Only after the volume of proof became insurmountable was this charge dropped. So it is with each and every other flimsy allegation advanced by the state-run news agencies of despots. How a thinking person can possibly contenance this propaganda is beyond me. Only someone with an axe to grind, someone looking for an excuse to slam a particular nation, would bother to cite this blather.

I used to be highly skeptical of charges of “anti-Semitism,” which once seemed to surface over even the most trivial matters. Now, however, it is impossible to deny that this ancient bigotry is resurfacing. Rather than close our eyes, we should confront it head-on.

Alec Lloyd - 10/7/2002

Please don’t quote the Guardian as a credible “independent” news source. They were among the first to fully embrace the “Jenin Massacre” libel.

You’ll forgive me if I take their “news analyses” with a half ton of salt.

Rafael Gomez - 10/4/2002

I'm fully aware of the fact that anti-jewish (palestinians are also semites, so I don't want to use the term anti-semitism)sentiments are eay to find, but I still don't understand why it has become the rule that any criticism of the actions of Israel's Government is automatically labeled as anti-jewish and racist.

No country or group of human beings is perfect, and we all make our fair share of mistakes, jews and arabs included. If Israel does something that one might consider wrong, why cannot it be criticized? The fact that most arab countries commit, or have committed more sins than Israel doesn't mean that Israel's actions are perfect and exempt from any criticism. The palestinian's wrongdoings do not justify Israel's wrongdoings, and vice-versa. Each side's wrongs may explain why the other side responds with another wrong, but the wrongs are never made into rights on account of that, and "explanation" is never "justification".
Why those that routinely criticize many arab regimes and societies are never labeled as racists by those that consider criticism of Israel as inherently racist?

There's a lot of talk about how much arabs hate jews. I'm sure very many israeli jews hate arabs equally strongly. Is the latter hate somehow better than the first one?

Any rise in racism against jews or anybody else is disturbing. But it is also very disturbing that any criticism of Israel or the US is automatically silenced with accusations of racism or lack of patriotism. I'm sure a good number of critics of Israel are racist, but that doesn't make all critics racists.

Rafael Gomez - 10/4/2002

I take the liberty of providing here an interesting article
published on Wednesday, April 10, 2002 in the Guardian of London

The Brilliant Offer Israel Never Made
To get peace talks started again means confronting a few myths by David Clark

Yesterday's carnage in the West Bank provided a bloody illustration of the limits of Ariel Sharon's military strategy. Armed force cannot provide his people with the security they crave because the terrorist infrastructure he has set out to destroy consists of little more than the willingness of ordinary Palestinians to kill themselves while taking as many Israelis with them as possible. This week, the hatred on which it is built burns deeper than ever. In the absence of a meaningful peace process, further atrocities are inevitable, and when they happen, the consequences may be far worse than anything we have so far seen. Israeli leaders are trapped in a mindset in which further military escalation appears to be their only option. Yet it is difficult to see how much further they can go without triggering a wider regional conflagration that might threaten the state of Israel itself. The "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians from large tracts of the occupied territories? The murder of Arafat? The consequences are unthinkable. Left to his own devices, Ariel Sharon may yet turn out to be the ultimate suicide bomber. Into the maelstrom steps Colin Powell on a mission that could represent the best hope of avoiding such a catastrophe. His task is clear: to secure a ceasefire and persuade both parties to return to the negotiating table. To succeed, however, he will need to do more than indulge in hand-wringing. He will need to come armed with some harsh truths and some even harsher consequences. With Israel, it will be necessary to challenge some deeply held illusions about the peace process and why it broke down. Chief among these is the assertion that the Palestinians rejected a "generous" Israeli offer at Camp David two years ago. It is a view that spans the Israeli political spectrum, uniting the hard right with born-again rejectionists like Ehud Barak, confirming all in their belief that political dialogue has been exhausted and that Arafat is an inveterate terrorist. It is time for some constructive revisionism. Barak's proposal for a Palestinian state based on 91% of the West Bank sounded substantive, but even the most cursory glance at the map revealed the bad faith inherent in it. It showed the West Bank carved into three chunks, surrounded by Israeli troops and settlers, without direct access to its own international borders. The land-swap that was supposed to compensate the Palestinians for the loss of prime agricultural land in the West Bank merely added insult to injury. The only territory offered to Palestinian negotiators consisted of stretches of desert adjacent to the Gaza Strip that Israel currently uses for toxic waste dumping. The proposals on East Jerusalem were no better, permitting the Palestinians control of a few scattered fragments of what had been theirs before 1967. Barak offered the trappings of Palestinian sovereignty while perpetuating the subjugation of the Palestinians. It is not difficult to see why they felt unable to accept. The only surprise is how widely the myth of the "generous offer" is now accepted. For this, Bill Clinton must accept responsibility. With the end of his presidency in sight, Clinton saw time running out along with the hope that he might be remembered in history for something more dignified than blow jobs in the Oval Office. He needed a quick deal rather than a just deal and chose to attempt to bounce Arafat into accepting Israel's terms. When this failed, Clinton vented his wrath at the Palestinian leader. Maladroit diplomacy played its part, but the failure at Camp David was the product of a deeper problem for which the Palestinians must also accept their share of blame. With the benefit of hindsight, the 1993 Oslo agreement that embodied the land-for-peace compromise was a mirage. Although both sides signed up to a two-state solution, neither was completely sincere in accepting its implications. The Palestinians clung to maximalist demands on refugee returns in the hope that demographics would allow them to rewrite the past. The Israelis insisted on territorial demands that made a mockery of the idea of a viable Palestinian state. It is here that the Saudi peace initiative has come to play such a critical role in getting the peace process back on track. In calling for Israel's withdrawal from all of the occupied territories and holding out the prospect of a compromise on the refugees that would meet Israeli concerns, it forces both sides finally to come to terms with each other's existence. Tony Blair's call for the Saudi plan to be enshrined in a new UN resolution is a tacit acceptance that Camp David was a botched job. Progress will now depend on Colin Powell's willingness to spell that out to Sharon and Arafat this week.

David Clark was a special adviser at the Foreign Office until May 2001. dkclark@aol.com
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

Sean C. Goodlett - 10/4/2002

Waiting for me in my e-box this morning was the latest missive from the HNN. Contained within it were links to a variety of articles, three of which were profoundly disturbing: David Grossman's morally vacuous, and historically inaccurate, piece on Israeli "occupation" sets the tone (Israel is to blame, never mind the root cause since 1948 -- Arab hatred of Jews and an Arab refusal to recognize the state of Israel after multiple and on-going wars). This, then, is followed by links for quasi-revisionist research on the Holocaust ("putting it all in context" has become a progressive trend it seems) and a fluff piece on Leni Riefenstahl by Salon. What *does* the HNN stand for? Is this some sort of agora for fusion politics, where extremists of the Left and Right meet in agreeing upon a hatred of Jews?

Lawrence Summers was right to point to growing acceptance of anti-Semitism, and HNN bears evidence of this trend. A useful corrective lies in the MEMRI site (http://www.memri.org/), which contains plenty of evidence of Arab hatred of Jews. As I explained in a letter to the editor of HNN this morning, to argue that the sentiments so freely available at MEMRI are "effect" rather than "cause" is to misunderstand the Middle East problem fundamentally -- and to advance the cause of anti-Semitism. If you can't bring yourself to read the hatred spewing forth from Palestine -- and much of the Arab world -- then perhaps you might watch video of Palestinian Friday sermons (http://www.memri.org/video/).

Summers' point, of course, was that hatred of Jews seems to be taking root in the American Academy. This is, without a doubt, the case. The comment above (by Laura) is merely a repetition of the more pernicious "scholarship" of Edward Sa'id, who has made the comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany with more force on several occasions (http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD42402). This vile argument is intended to inflame the rhetoric of any debate over the Middle East, for the analogy not only exaggerates the case but pointedly reminds Jews of their victimization at the hands of Germany; it is, in short, a veiled threat. Make no mistake, Israel's enemies speak in terms of extermination.

Summers also spoke of the rising tide of anti-Semitism across Europe. This, too, is without a doubt accurate. Temple-burnings and anti-Semitic graffiti are only the most visible signs of the trend. Recently, Europeans have begun speaking in code words about "U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East," which they perceive as biased toward Israel. Putting aside for the moment that the continentals murdered six million Jews, the moralizing of Europeans disguises a significant degree of continuing anti-Semitism (e.g., the French deputy foreign minister speaking of Israel as "that shitty little country"). Lest we forget why Jews fled to "Palestine," it bears repeating that "that shitty little country" is recognized by the U.N. but not the majority of Arab states; and Europeans consistently refuse to show Israel even a modicum of sympathy (which, given their treatment of Jews, is unsurprising).

Summers addressed the issue of anti-Semitism not as a spokesman for the Jewish peoples, but as a thinking individual. The venomous "debate" that Israel (for which one ought to read: "the Jew") seems to arouse reveals how far it is we've moved *backwards*. So-called progressives now liberally spice their rhetoric with anti-Semitic barbs, and the media (HNN included) repeat them with apparent glee. In other words, the Academy isn't slipping, it's already fallen.

Alec Lloyd - 10/4/2002

Uh, Sandra, given that there is no established international border between Israel and its neighbors (except Lebanon), under your logic, the Palestinian problem is also a “civil war.”

Alec Lloyd - 10/4/2002

Mr. Gomez: I agree, but I must also point out that Columbia was put on the back burner by the previous administration. Like it or not, there are Democrat members of Congress who would rather see FARC in power than the legitimate government. I will not speculate on their motives.

Furthermore, the Clinton administration pressed the Columbian government into a disastrous “peace process” which has only made things worse. Part of that process involved curtailing military aid as a carrot and stick to force the government to negotiate. Like much of went on in government from 1993-2001, I regard that as an egregious and unexcusable mistake.

To bring this back to the original subject, I am wholly in favor of US aid to any and all embattled free governments. We are the superpower and we must assert that role. The UN can wring its hands and issue ICC arrest warrants for all the washed-up ex-politicians it wants (is it not ironic that people speak of trying Pinochet and Kissinger, yet Robert Mugabe somehow doesn’t make the short list?) but it will be the US which must act in order for things to change.

This is why clarity on the Palestinian issue is of critical importance. Terrorism is never justified. It must be made clear that organizations which practice it will be crushed. States that support it will be targeted. Legitimate armed movements must abide by the laws of war—or, preferably, use passive resistance. When facing genocide, armed resistance is the only answer. That being the case, THERE IS NO JUSTIFCATION FOR TARGETING CIVILIANS.

Those who use them as human shields or hostages, particularly when they are their own people, are beneath contempt. In this, I think, we can agree.

Shenhav - 10/4/2002

Dear Lady,

Israel did not "invade" the territories "illegally" as you allege. It did not occupy them from their Palestinians residents but from Jordan, after Jordan attacked it on 5 June 1967, believing the Egyptian army had gained major victories against the IDF and rushing to share the booty. Jordan's rule in the West Bank had been recognized only by Britain and Pakistan and cannot be defined "legal". Jordan relinquished its claims to the West bank in 1988 in favour of the Palestinians, but this does not make Palestinian claims more legal than Jordan's.
Local leaders in the territories had rejected in 1967 Israeli offers similar to those that were later made to king Hussayn of Jordan. Similarly, Arafat dismissed much more generous offers by Barak. The palestinians are not struggling for the "territories" but for the whole of Palestine and wage their war acroos the entire country. Before they opened this terrorist campaign they had not been oppressed in roadblocks, they worked in Israel and their conditions were much better than now, though worse than they had been before the establishment of the PA.
As in the recent 85 years, they have only themselves to blame.
This does not mean that Israel should not make concessions for the sake of peace and co-existence, but concessions can be effective and should be made only when the Palestinian and their sympathizers admit that the Jews concede something that belongs to them as well for a nobler purpose, and not withdrawing from an "illegal unvasion". If we speak of justice: both sides have justified claims. If we speak of compromise, it means that each side concede his justice and acknowledge its partner's concession as well.
Your whole theory about oppressing people because they don't belong to the right religion is pointless and testifies to nothing except your ignorance about what is Judaism and who are the Jews.

Rafael Gomez - 10/4/2002

Again, apologies for this out-of-subject posting, but it's the only way (for now) to communicate with Alec Lloyd.

This is just to make clear that I never thought the US had an obligation to help, and while I resent the hypocrisy and motivations behind the new US aid for Colombia, I still welcome the help. The Colombian Government's resources are progressively more limited (the economy is in shambles, causing tax revenue to drop drastically), while those of the guerrillas seem to grow every day (they have always derived huge profits from extorsion, and more recently from collaborating in the drug business).

Rafael Gomez - 10/4/2002

This posting is just to answer a comment made by Mr. Lloyd regarding US aid to Colombia. It has nothing to do with Israel, but I have no other way to anser Mr. Lloyd's comment.

I'm also for increased aid to the Colombian Government for fighting against our terrorist groups. The colombian government may be very ineffective and currupt, but it's much better that having some crazy, murderous rebel group in power. At least the government can be changed and improved with some effort, but the guerrillas don't know anything about democracy, they just want to impose a dictatorship and force everybody to think and do as they want.

My problem right now with US aid is that it comes only because the US is now worried about its supplies of oil and it now sees South America as a good alternative to the Middle East (the Andean region of South America accounts now for almost 20% of all US oil imports). The NY Times reports today about a group of US military personnel that is in Colombia to train troops for defending a very important pipeline (you should check the article). When it was "just" about defending the oldest democracy in South America against terrorists of the worst class, the US had no interest in helping. It only helps in the fight against drugs (which is mainly a US problem), with sometimes very counterproductive and hypocritical measures (there's a debate now in Colombia over the very adverse health and environmental effects of the widespread use of very strong chemicals to destroy drug plantations). And now it's only helping to protect its supply of oil.

This bothers me a lot because the US is constantly talking so much about democracy and its fight against terrorism, and how it wants everybody's help in the fight. But when we needed help to save our own democracy against terrorism (worse and more widespread terrorism than anything the US has seen), then we are on our own. Only when the US can get some goodies, oil especially, it offers help.

This reminds me of Henry Kissinger's book "Diplomacy". In it, Kissinger does nothing but talk about how disinterested the US has always been in helping other countries and how it promotes democracy everywhere with anyhting but the most altruistic motives, without expecting anything in return. The current US policy towards Colombia is a clear example of what a pile of BS that rosy picture is.

It's fine is the US doesn't want to help. What bothers me above all is the hypocrisy and oil-based motivations behind the help we get now.

Chris Osborne - 10/3/2002

Again be aware that the Arabs have not exactly been devoid of bigotry as an allegedly noble, dark-skinned people. Benny Morris, not exactly a conservative historian, has made note of the Arabs' annihilation of the Jewish Quraysh tribe shortly after the establishment of the Muslim caliphate. In his comprehensive review of the Zionist/Arab conflict in "Righteous Victims," Morris also stated that the Arab nations had discriminatory laws against the Jewish minority, such as mandating that they ride only on donkeys (and sidesaddle) and they were forbidden to raise their hand against an Arab even in self-defense. Morris also noted pogroms in then-Muslim Cordoba, Fez, and Baghdad, as well as a blood libel in Damascus in 1840 when even Jewish children were cast into the city dungeons. Speaking of Baghdad, one should bear in mind that an Arab mob slaughtered approximately 55 Jews living in the city during the short-lived leadership of pro-German prime minister Rashid Ali in 1941. Also bear in mind that in more contemporary times Hamas proclaimed that the Jews are the "scions of apes and pigs."
In a similar vein, if we support the Palestinian Right of Return, why not take the idea to its logical conclusions elsewhere in the world as well. Remove all non-Indians from the U.S. and indeed from all the other American states. Expel all Whites from Australia and New Zealand and Hawaii as well. Get the Zulus out of South Africa because of Dingiswayo and Shaka's Mfecane of 200 years ago. Return Japan to the Ainu people. Let the Germans return to Eastern Europe and displace the Russians and Poles living there now. Let the Thais return to the Szechwan province of China; and expel all the light-skinned Indians from India because of the Aryan invasions of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in 2,500 B.C. At least the Israelis purchased lands in Palestine prior to 1948 from the Palestinian aristocracy (the a'yan), whereas White Americans seized the land of the U.S. The displacement of aboriginal peoples is a reality in much of the world.
So far as Israel's conquest of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1967 are concerned, it was Nasser who blocked the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping and who demanded that the UN's patrol on the Egyptian/Israeli border (the UNEF) withdraw. Syria also conducted extensive military probes of Israel's pre-conquest borders that same year. I should state that Benny Morris also notes that Israel offered the Arab states the return of lands conquered in 1967 in return for security in its original borders, which the Arab nations refused, perhaps in the spirit of the Egyptian newspaper which proclaimed before the Six-Day War, "We will hang the last imperialist on the entrails of the last Zionist!"
If Pipes doesn't have a job in academia, perhaps it's because leftists have blocked the hiring of non-leftist faculty in the universities. "Dictatorship of Virtue" by Richard Bernstein (not a conservative) and "The Shadow University" by Harvey Kors and Alan Silverglate amply document leftist efforts at excluding contrary opinions from our campuses--evidently and example of Herbert Marcuse's "progressive tolerance."

Rafael Gomez - 10/3/2002

Oh! I'm sorry Sandra, but your arguments are flying away from reality very fast. I think your excuses for the arab's countries misdeeds are ridiculous. Atrocities are atrocities regardless of the political conditions under which they are perpetrated.

Sudan's or Saudi Arabia's sins should *not* be any less bad or worthy of condemnation simply because they occurr within their own borders or are perpetrated to their own citizens.

Sandra - 10/3/2002

Sudan: a CIVIL war within a sovereign state with established, official borders, a war based on religion and ethnicity in which the ruling Muslim government persecutes animist and Christian southern tribes. Massive atrocities occur on both sides but the more powerful aggressor is clear: government forces. Government forces, however, DO have serious alliances with certain rebel groups that have accommodated with it.

IRAQ: A sovereign, unified state with established official borders in which a Sunni regime (a minority group in Iraq) dominates the majority Shia and Kurdish population. The regime rules its outer regions by establishing important alliances with leaders of both groups. The weakest of these alliances are with the Marsh Arabs, who are very isolated. However, Shia and Kurdish citizens who accept the regime and do not involve themselves politically receive the same things the Sunnis do: access to education, health services and so on. There is discrimination as there is in Israel against Mizrahi Jews and Arab citizens.

SYRIA: the Alawite rampages you refer to are in the PAST. Alawites are certainly more privileged over other Syrian groups and any separatist or any sort of oppositional action, however, peaceful, is met with swift retribution. And, again, all this occurs in a SOVEREIGN STATE WITHIN ITS OWN ESTABLISHED BORDERS.

SAUDI ARABIA: The strictness of religious rule in that country is well known to everyone. I was in Saudi Arabia for two months in 1988 and experienced this for myself, especially as a woman. And, again, all this occurs in a soveriegn state within its own established borders.

ISRAEL: Illegally invading and occupying 3.5 million people in territories that does not belong to it, subjugating them, torturing them and murdering them, evicting them from their land, destroying their homes because they are not Jews. The closest analogy is Syria's military presence in Lebanon, which many Syrians regard as onerous. But the Syrian military isn't rampaging thru Lebanese streets demolishing people's homes, placing snipers on top of buildings to shoot at innocents, imprisoning them in their homes for months, etc., etc. Furthermore, Lebanese don't have to endure invading foreign settlers who steal their land, water and regularly rampage thru their markets, beat up and kill them, etc.

If you don't understand the dictinction between oppressive governments who are oppressing their own citizens (whether based on religion/ethnicity or a generalized tyranny that makes no such distinctions) within their own borders and an invading occupier on foreign land, illegally subjugating and brualizing an the natives for the simple reason that they don't belong to the right religion, then you understand nothing about the reality of the Israeli occupation. Like Saddam Hussein when he illegally invaded and occupied Kuwait, Israel is an aggressor nation rampaging on land where it had absolutely no right to be.

Alec Lloyd - 10/3/2002

Sandra writes:

“No Arab or Muslim country is currently militarily subjugating an entire ethnic/religious population, murdering them at will, destroying their homes, imprisoning them in their homes and shooting them DELIBERATELY (including children) for the crime of walking on their own streets.”

WHAT?!!! Have you ever heard of the Sudan, where slavery is still practiced against Christians? How about Iraq, where Kurds and Shias are utterly oppressed? How about the dictatorial monarchy of Syria where the Alawite minority rules by fear, not even flinching from massacring 20,000 people and bulldozing a town to maintain control?

In Saudi Arabia, the mere possession of a Bible is a crime. Praying aloud or discussing an religion other than Wahabbi Islam is grounds for imprisonment. Iran has long maintained a systematic program to annihilate the B’hai faith.

The hypocrisy of your statement, the utter blindness of it defies description. I must confess myself at a loss to write any further.

Alec Lloyd - 10/3/2002

Mr. Gomez, two points:

First off, all of my comments are NOT directed at you specifically, though I can understand the confusion. Given the way the board is set up and the fact that I will read through several posts sequentially, (you’ll notice I usually get multiple responses) I tend to lump my remarks into one brilliant and cogent whole. I’m also modest.

Secondly, I disagree with your assessment that there is something moral about hiding behind civilians. The use of civilians to protect military targets is explicitly and specifically outlawed and various conventions condemn it in uncertain terms. For Palestinian terrorists to keep their families around them in an effort to avoid retaliation is cowardly and contemptible, particularly since they purposely target civilians themselves. Essentially, they are using a double standard: when we purposefully kill your children it is justified; when you incidentally kill ours, it is an atrocity.

Again, if the Israelis wanted to rack up a body count, they would have done so. At Jenin, the Palestinians used similar tactics. Essentially they are using Israel’s respect for human rights as a weapon and a shield. Are we to be surprised when this callous disregard for international convention and morality rubs off on the Israelis? Were the Palestinians to attack only military targets and spare civilians, you would have a case.

As a Columbian, you surely have a great insight into this. I urge you not to give in to moral relativism in this case.

Indeed, if I may be allowed a tangent, I also believe the US government should do more to support Columbia in it’s own civil war.

Sandra - 10/3/2002


Your posts are eminently reasonable on this subject but I cannot agree with the above statement. I fully support the boycott against Israel as I fully supported the boycott of South Africa, especially since the Israeli occupation of the territories is in fact a FAR WORSE apartheid than existed in South Africa. The pro-apartheid white South Africans used the exact same arguments: "why the fixation on us? We're a prosperous democracy, we're surrounded by brutal governments, why us, why us?" They didn't get it just like Israelis and their apologists don't get it. No Arab or Muslim country is currently militarily subjugating an entire ethnic/religious population, murdering them at will, destroying their homes, imprisoning them in their homes and shooting them DELIBERATELY (including children) for the crime of walking on their own streets. Anyone who actually KNOWS the occupation for what it is, who has been in the territories knows that the IDF *DELIBERATELY* and *wantonly* targets innocents all the time. I have lost count of how many times I have seen this for myself. Shooting directly into UNARMED demonstrators is terrorism. Shooting at children throwing stones is MURDER. Amnesty International has well documented many incidents in which Palestinians were shot at when there absolutely no threats to any soldier.

The best defense of the boycott is from Israeli Prof. Tanya Reinhart (http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart/political/17_05_02_Academic_Boycott.html).

The following is from a letter she sent to another Israeli academic, Baruch Kimmerling, who does not support the boycott:

"We can distinguish three forms of the academic boycott. The first is part of a larger cultural boycott -- cultural events in Israel have been boycotted for quite a while. In the academic sphere, the boycott is on any cooperation with institutional events of the Israeli academia in Israel. This means that scholars cancel participation in conferences and official academic events (e.g. some refuse an honorary degree offer) (1).

This form of boycott is already a fact. The reason is that it is the easiest step for individual scholars to take on their own. It is not always easy to distinguish between those canceling participation in events of the Israeli academia for safety reasons and those who are boycotting, but the phenomenon is quite large, as Traubman reports: "The most obvious expression of the isolation of the Israeli scientific community is the refusal of researchers to come here...'Whereas in the past Israel held many international congresses, says Gideon Rivlin, the chair of Kenes International, the principal organizer of such congresses, today there are no longer any international congresses in Israel.' ... 'Until 2004,' adds Rivlin, 'all the congresses in Israel have been canceled'... Brain researcher Prof. Idan Segev...from HU [Hebrew University, Jerusalem], says that scientists tend to refuse to come not only to scientific congresses, but also for joint research projects as well. 'At a conference abroad a short time ago, I met a friend with whom I've been working for many years; every year he comes to Israel for a few weeks to work with me,' says Segev. 'This year he told me openly, `I can't come, the moment I arrive, I am taking a political step.' For them it's like going to South Africa'." (Ha'aretz, ibid.).

The second, and more recent form, is economic sanctions on the Israeli academia. This extends the other forms of economic pressure which have been observed for a while: Consumer boycott; canceling European contracts with Israeli computer companies (link); and the divestment movements in the US academy, where scholars and students in Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, and MIT call on their universities to divest from US companies doing business in Israel, as means of pressure on these companies not to help Israel's economy. (See pages at Harvard and Princeton). While these actions target various aspects of the Israeli economy (industry and agriculture, electronics companies, etc.) the academic boycott targets the research funds of the Israeli academia, thus applying direct economic pressure on the academia, as a central (and collaborating) part of the state of Israel.

As Traubman reports, "Members of prestigious scientific bodies, such as the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, have condemned Israel's actions in the territories, and criticized their Israeli colleagues for their indifference to the situation of Palestinian researchers, and the damage to academic institutions in the Palestinian Authority. According to Israeli diplomatic sources, steps to have Israel join several large European projects have been postponed until further notice -- for example, accepting Israel as a member of a particle acceleration project at the CERN laboratory in Geneva. The contacts that began behind the scenes have been halted at this stage..." (Ha'aretz, ibid.).

The specific academic petition which ignited the fury of the Israeli academia, falls within this second type of boycott (2). This is a call for economic sanctions on the Israeli academia in general, and not for full boycott of ties with individual Israeli academics.

The third form of the academic boycott, however, extends it also to this most severe stage -- practiced in the South-Africa boycott -- of complete international isolation of individual Israeli scholars. It prohibits any contact with them -- invitations to conferences abroad, research collaborations, publications, editorial boards, etc (3).

Among the supporters of academic boycott, opinions are divided about the third form of boycott. At the individual level, many Israeli academics oppose the occupation and Israel's brutality in the territories. A large minority of them is actively involved, like you, Baruch, in a daily struggle against all these. Furthermore, among the goals of academic boycott is to encourage the Israeli academics to take a more active part in struggle and resistance. For this, it would help if we feel part of a large international community, sharing this cause, rather than completely isolated from it. Personally, I support the first two forms of academic boycott, but not the third form of individual boycott.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that if the economic-institutional boycott is successful and research funds to the Israeli academia are cut off, this will effect individual researchers, including not only you and me, but also students and young scholars who are supported by research grants. This is the logic of sanctions -- they are meant to hurt the political and economic system, and in that process, they inevitably hurt all segments of the targeted society. In South Africa, the Blacks were among the first to suffer from the boycott. Still they pleaded with the West to continue.


The model of boycott followed here is, indeed, that which was formed in the case of South Africa. Just a few years ago, in 1993, the whole world celebrated when the Apartheid regime in South Africa collapsed after 50 years of brutal discrimination and oppression. This change did not come about on its own. It was the outcome of a long and painful struggle of the blacks in South Africa. But the anti-Apartheid movement, throughout the world, also had an enormous impact.

The struggle was directed at governments on the one hand, and directly at corporations doing business with SA, on the other. There were protests and demonstrations demanding that an arms embargo be imposed. The pressure on corporations to divest, targeted specific corporations with product boycotts accompanied by demonstrations, stockholders speaking at meetings (churches who owned stocks, could get a few people in), and much more.

Following this pressure, in 1977 the UN Security Council imposed limited sanctions on South Africa. Their impact was, in fact, limited as long as the great powers -- primarily UK and US -- found ways around them (like getting Israel to provide arms, military training and oil to SA.). But during the eighties, the big corporations were beginning to move out of their SA ties anyway, due to the protest and turmoil it generated. Suddenly, there was a heavy economic price for the continuation of Apartheid.

This was combined with another aspect of pressure -- cultural boycott and social isolation: South Africa was kicked out of international sports; professional and academic organizations did not cooperate with South-African organizations; there was a ban on conferences and cultural events. All these helped. South Africa was forced to change (4).

I have no doubt that you supported the South Africa boycott. Where we may differ is in the question whether the Israeli case is sufficiently similar. I believe that even much before its present atrocities, Israel has followed faithfully the South-African Apartheid model. Since Oslo, Israel has been pushing the Palestinians in the occupied territories into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves, promising, in return, to consider calling these enclaves, in some future, a Palestinian 'state' -- a direct copy of the Bantustans model. (For a detailed description of the early Apartheid stages, see my article in Ha'aretz Magazine, May 27, 94).

Unlike South Africa, however, Israel has managed so far to sell its policy as a big compromise for peace. Aided by a battalion of cooperating 'peace-camp' intellectuals, they managed to convince the world that it is possible to establish a Palestinians state without land-reserves, without water, without a glimpse of a chance of economic independence, in isolated ghettos surrounded by fences, settlements, bypass roads and Israeli army posts -- a virtual state which serves one purpose: separation (Apartheid). "We are here and they are there" -- behind the fences, as Barak put it.

But no matter what you think of the Oslo years, what Israel is doing now exceeds the crimes of the South Africa's white regime. It has started to take the form of systematic ethnic cleansing, which South Africa never attempted. After thirty-five years of occupation, it is completely clear that the only two choices the Israeli political system has generated for the Palestinians are Apartheid or ethnic cleansing ('transfer'). Apartheid is the 'enlightened' Labor party's program (as in their Alon or Oslo plan), while the other pole is advocating slow suffocation of the Palestinians, until the eventual 'transfer' (mass expulsion) can be accomplished. ("Jordan is the Palestinian state", is how Sharon put it in the eighties.) (5). Even those who can swallow 'made in Israel' Apartheid, cannot just watch silently as Sharon carries this second vision out.

Given that the US backs Sharon, no UN resolution has any force. This was made perfectly clear by the latest shocking example in which Israel managed to defy the resolution regarding a search committee for the events of Jenin. The only way left to exert pressure on Israel to stop is through the protest of people around the world, including use of the most painful means of boycott. As an Israeli, I believe that this external pressure may save not only the Palestinians, but also the Israeli society, which is, in fact, not being represented by the political system. In a recent poll, 59% of the Jewish Israelis support immediate evacuation of most settlements, followed by a unilateral withdrawal of the army from the occupied territories (http://www.peace-now.org/Campaign2002/PollMay2002.rtf). But with no external pressure, no political party will carry out this will of the majority.


I am not sure whether your objections to the moratorium on research funds to the Israeli academia, which we called for, is because you object to any divestment or boycott moves, or whether you think the academia should be exempt. Many Israeli academics hold the latter view, so I suppose it is also yours. You say in your letter that the reason you "acted immediately and actively against this boycott" is "because I saw this as a blatant violation of academic freedom, which is the essence of academic research and teaching." This is a very peculiar use of the concept of academic freedom. What is under consideration here is your freedom to access international research funds. You seem to view this type of freedom as an inalienable right, untouchable by any considerations of the international community regarding the context in which its funds are used. But it is not. The traditional spirit of the academia, no matter how much of it is preserved in daily practice, is that intellectual responsibility includes the safeguarding of moral principles. The international academic community has the full right to decide that it does not support institutions of societies which divert blatantly from such principles. You had no problem accepting this when South Africa was concerned.

The only question is whether there is anything about the Israeli academia (as an institution, unlike individual resisting academics) that could exempt it from the condemnation and pressure of the international community. Let us turn to the broader arsenal of the arguments used to argue that. You find yourself here in large company. The Israeli academia, which was not so impressed with mere condemnations and the ongoing ban on official academic events in Israel, got on its feet when its freedom to access international funds was at stake. In a matter of days, they organized a counter petition (to the British petition above), which has gathered thousands of signatures (link). Dr. Ben Avot, one of the organizers of the counter petition "says that 'the signatories come from a wide array of opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ranging from members of [the right-wing] `Professors for National Strength' to people who are usually identified with the left, such as Prof. Baruch Kimmerling'" (Traubman, Ha'aretz, ibid.).

A basic principle that the counter-petition you signed is based on, is that science should always be separated from politics. It is this line which enabled the Israeli academia to live in peace with the occupation for thirty five years. Never in its history did the senate of any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone voice protest the devastation sowed there during the last uprising. (Such resolution would be a violation of the sacred principle of separation -- more examples of this below.) If in extreme situations of violations of human rights and moral principles, the academia refuses to criticize and take a side, it collaborates with the oppressing system. But as we saw, it is precisely this principle, and the collaboration that it entails, which the international community is now condemning.

Interestingly, the principle of separation of science and politics never applies when what is at stake is defending the interests of Israel. The powerful Israeli scientific lobby managed to arrange an editorial in the central scientific journal Nature, which repeats faithfully the arguments of this counter petition ('Don't Boycott Israel's Scientists', Nature 417, 1, May 2, 2002).

What are these ('non political') arguments? One is that "A unilateral boycott of Israeli academics unfairly identifies Israel as the only party responsible for the violent shift in Israeli-Palestinian relations and ignores ongoing attacks against innocent Israeli citizens. Such a one-sided perspective is contrary to academic standards of truth-seeking" (Israeli counter-petition). "...Should we also boycott Palestinian researchers because the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to prevent suicide bombers?" (Nature editorial). Well, this is precisely what people of conscience no longer buy. Basic human values and standards do not place equal responsibility on the oppressor and the oppressed, when the oppressed tries to rebel. Even when we strongly condemn the means used by the oppressed, this does not exempt the oppressor. I take it for granted that you, Baruch, place the responsibility for thirty-five years of occupation and Apartheid on the Israeli governments, and not on the Palestinian people. I assume that you just did not bother to read the petition you signed.

But the next set of arguments is probably the heart of the matter for many. The Israeli academy views itself as liberal, democratic, and sensitive to issues of human rights. Hence "to boycott Israeli academics would endanger the democratic values and respect for human rights this community works hard to foster" (Israeli counter-petition). Most importantly, the academy views itself as promoting values of coexistence and peace by means of a "meaningful dialogue" with its Palestinian colleagues: "European programs have provided important frameworks for Middle East scholars to meet... to discuss academic topics of mutual interest, and to build informal interpersonal ties, thus helping to counter years of accumulated misunderstanding and animosity." (Ibid.). Hence, boycotting the Israeli academia will harm its devoted work of reconciliation and peace.

Nature's editorial is even more enthusiastic about this peace endeavor. "Science is less political than other issues, and is a bridge for peace. That is what Leah Boehm, then chief scientist at Israel's science ministry, enthusiastically told Nature in 1995. Then, Israeli and Palestinian researchers were optimistic that the peace process would cause funds to flow to joint Arab-Israeli projects from the international community, reinforcing peace by contributing to dialogue, and boosting research in the region..." Hence, Nature concludes, "the world's scientific community" should "jump at" the opportunity to support the Israeli academia, and thus, "encourage Middle-East peace." Even Nature must admit that "subsequent events have left these noble aspirations in tatters." But it calls on the scientific community to help the Israeli academia (with research funds) to renew the spirit of these wonderful years of dialogue. (This is emphasized further in Nature's second editorial of May 16)

It is typical and revealing that in proving the contribution of the Israeli academia to dialogue and peace, this editorial of Nature cites only Israeli (and one American) scholars. The Palestinian perspective is, apparently, irrelevant. If it were, a very different perspective on that golden era of Oslo and 'peace' would emerge.

Here is a fragment of a report of Sari Hanafi, Associate Researcher at the Palestinian Center for the Study of Democracy (6). It was written before the Palestinian uprising, and describes an event of 1998/1999:

"In end of 1998, the Jerusalem Spinoza Institute called the Palestinian University of Al-Quds (based in Jerusalem) to cooperate with it in order to organize an international conference, in August 1999, entitled 'Moral Philosophy in Education: The Challenge of human Difference'... The pros [for accepting the invitation] were supported by two arguments: first, the cooperation could help persuade the Ministry of Education to recognize Al-Quds University, taking into account that non-recognition is purely political; the second argument is related to the first: it consists of trying to convince the Ministry of Interior to not expel the administration and the main building of the university outside of Jerusalem (as announced once by an Israeli official). In fact, these two arguments show that the romantic view of cultural cooperation between two civil societies hide all the power imbalance between the two societies -- between an occupied and occupying people: 'We are here to put apart divergence and talk on science, philosophy and education far from politics', as argued by the President of the Spinoza Institute...

"However between May and August 1999, a serious incident happened: the Ministry of Interior of the Barak government withdrew the Identity Document of Musa Budeiri, a director of the Center of International Relations in Al-Quds University and a resident of East Jerusalem. Native of Jerusalem, his family has lived there for hundreds of years, under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule. He was given a tourist visa, valid for four weeks, and was told that he would have to leave Jerusalem by August 22 -- Musa Budeiri is one of thousands of other Palestinians in a similar situation. They all have the same problem: they are subject to the threat of being turned into 'tourists' in their birthplace. 2,200 Jerusalem ID cards of families (roughly 8,800 individuals) were confiscated between 1996 and May 1999 (according to the Israeli ministry of Interior)...

"In the opening session, Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University, contrary to his habit, gave a very moving speech concerned exclusively with the case of Musa Budeiri and his family. To outline the roots of the Budeiri family in this city, he discussed a manuscript on Jerusalem history written by Musa's father, which has never been edited. Sari Nusseibeh, pioneer of the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, finished his speech by saying that he is torn morally by these events, adding that the Israelis should not expect to conduct further dialogue with Palestinians, as the latter are increasingly becoming tourists [in their land]. If almost all of the participants were moved, the organizers were not. The president of Jerusalem Spinoza Institute commented on Nusseibeh's speech saying that 'there is some military problems' between Israelis and Palestinians which have not yet been resolved, while the rector of the Hebrew University asked Nusseibeh where he can find the Budeiri manuscript, as the Hebrew University would like to have it!!

"Finally the organizers of the conference refused to send the Minister of Interior a petition in favor of Budeiri, signed by the majority of the participants. The argument used was that there is a separation between the academic sphere and the political one, and as scholars they cannot take a position" (6).

This event took place in the days of peaceful Apartheid. As for the present situation of Al-Quds University, Nature finally acknowledged in its May 16 issue that, "Al-Quds University claims that Israeli soldiers badly damaged laboratories and other buildings at its campuses in El Bireh and Ramallah. The university has asked the Israeli government and the international community to send fact-finding missions and to help rebuild its infrastructure" (Declan Butler, European correspondent, Nature 417, 207, 16 May 2002)

As the most decisive argument for why no moratorium on research funds should apply, the Israeli counter petition and its echo in Nature point out that this will harm the Palestinian academia. "Many European-funded programs have explicitly aimed at enhancing scientific cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab scholars...Freezing Israeli access to, and participation in, such programs would...damage these important frameworks and undermine the benefits to research" (Israeli counter petition). This theme is further developed and emphasized in the more recent Nature editorial of May 16.

Regardless of what the facts are about this "energetic scientific collaboration," this is the standard colonialist argument. The colonialists were always certain that they are bringing progress to the natives. Here is what Prof. Rita Giacaman of Birzeit University told me about the matter: "Several individually linked projects began with Israelis since the Oslo accords were signed, mainly because Europe and the US were luring scientists with the carrot of money in a money starved environment, in exchange for being used as 'evidence' for peace and equity having been achieved, when the stick never stopped hitting Palestinian infrastructure, institutions, political processes and academic life. It thus placed us in the political arena, using us to show peace that does not exist and equity that exists even less. Many of us Palestinian academics chose not to get involved in such academic cooperative relations with Israelis and continued solidarity activities [with Israelis], aimed at changing the political reality instead -the root cause of the problem... Anyway, the issue is not about Israeli scientists helping out. This is like taking away the right of villagers to till their land and then giving them some food-aid instead. The issue is ending occupation and allowing Palestinian to develop their institutions, including scientific ones." (Personal communication, May 2002).

If continuing support to the Israeli academia is what the Palestinian academia considers best for its future, we should hear it from them. What I hear from my comrades in the Palestinian academia is only a full and unequivocal support for the boycott. "

Rafael Gomez - 10/3/2002

There we go again, with the labels.
So now I'm part of the Palestinian Sympathizing Lobby according to you. That's very funny because most of my arab friends think that I'm part of the Israel Sympathizing Lobby!!!

Again you read more than what I wrote. This is getting tiring. Again I have to remind you that I have never called for divestment from Israel. And I agree with you that if we were ever to call for such a measure, it will probably have to be aimed first at places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.

The problem is not that israeli arabs are barred from military service, per se. The problem is their not having served in the military is used to discriminate against them. They don't have the same access to housing loans, government subsidies and services, etc. on account of not having served. The subsequent discrimination is the problem, not the military service by itself.

And the "inavertent" killing of civilians by Israel doesn't look very inavertent to me. They know that there are lots of civilians around when they fire rockets at the buildings or vehicles where they say terrorist are. There's nothing unexpected in those civilians being killed. Israelis know that the civilians would be killed, but they consider it a fair price to pay to get rid of a terrorist. I personally don't like that kind of deadly math. I used to agree with it, especially in the context of the fight against terrorists in my own country (Colombia), but I have changed my mind. The more you use those tactics, the more you resemble your enemy, and the less sense it makes to fight it.

Sandra - 10/3/2002

And I repeat, your characterization of that position is flatly inaccurate. You merely parrot Israeli propaganda. And I ask how can you believe that a Palestinian's desire to return to his ancestral homeland that was stolen from him simply because he is not Jewish to be illegitimate?

Alec Lloyd - 10/3/2002

Mr. Osborne’s post makes an excellent point: why is Israel always singled out for condemnation and the despotic regimes around it given a pass?

If you are going to argue for divestment on the grounds of human rights abuses, you must logically also want to cease investment in Saudi Arabia (where the mere act of carrying a Bible or any non-Islamic prayer item is a crime), Egypt, Syria, Libya and a host of other countries (Cuba and China come to mind). Why single out the nation with the single best human rights record in the area? This hypocrisy naturally leads thinking moral people to wonder of there might be some darker motivation at work.

Israel is far from perfect, there is no question. It is also regrettable that its citizens have grown embittered at their neighbors. Once again, however, we must put things in perspective.

As much as you like to dwell upon Palestinian refugees, what of the Jewish ones? About an equal number of Jews were driven out of their ancestral homes in 1948, many from communities dating back to Roman times. This also can induce a certain amount of bitterness. Yet you (and the Palestinian sympathizer lobby) consistently overlook this.

Furthermore, you once again ignore that while Israel inadvertently kills civilians, the Palestinians purposely target them. They place their children in the middle of firefights to force the Israelis to fire around them. Their snipes pick off Jewish infants. Their suicide bombers blow up chlidren’s parties. Is there any doubt that if the Israelis were as heartless as you make out, there would be no Palestinians left by now? Is there any doubt that if the relative strengths were reversed, the Jews would be an extinct people? Given the provocation, the Israelis have shown phenomenal restraint. Were Americans to suffer such atrocities, the West Bank would have been bombed clean long ago.

Furthermore, while it is true Arab Israelis are exempt from military service, it is not to relegate them to “second class” status. Were they subject to the draft, you would surely argue that they are “compelled to fight for a racist state.” This is probably the first time I have ever heard a categorical exemption from compulsory military service characterized as “racist.” Once again, damned if the do, damned if they don’t.

The Israelis are in a bad spot. All they want is a defensible homeland, something they have every right to expect. Their human rights record is not perfect, but they are also pitted against a foe that breaks every single rule of modern warfare. They can live as sinners or die as saints. Given that they have already endured one holocaust, they have wisely chosen life.

Israel craves peace and is even willing to do business with bloody-handed terrorists to get it. If you want them to achieve this, the point of pressure should be on the Palestinians to establish something more than a thugocracy, fueled by a culture of death and destruction. Should Palestinians cease hostilities, the Israelis would immediately drop their barriers and demobilize. They have made countless gestures of good will, yet each one is met with the death of more of their citizens. And still people like you blame them.

That is the moral blindness of which I speak.

Chris Osborne - 10/3/2002

I believe what many defenders (in full or in part) of Israel object to is the lack of anger from Israeli critics over crimes committed by Arab nations. Many of the Arab nations are also religious/ethnically exclusive, as witnessed by Saudi Arabia forbidding public worship by non-Muslim faiths and by Kuwait expelling its only convert to Christianity from the country and exiling him from his own wife and family some years ago. To not have a consistent outrage over crimes against humanity by all parties is not a compelling moral argument. For example, if I cannot persuade my opponent to abandon his double standards, neither can he persuade me to abandon mine--and thus we remain at an impasse. I concede that Cole's article was less shrill and emotional than Beinin's, but I am curious as to what MESA believes regarding the Palestinian insistence on an unconditional Right of Return--even with the pre-1967 borders of Israel.

Rafael Gomez - 10/2/2002

I agree with you, that the labeling cuts both ways.
I never said that you were a right-wing fundamentalist zealot. And I admit that sometimes I commit the same sin I condemned, by assuming that criticism of the palestinians automatically implies endorsement of everything Israel does or says, when it is not necessarily so.

My original posting was precisely about the fact that labeling cuts both ways. That's why I said, pardon the third repetition, that if the calls from divestment from Israel are racist and anti-semitic, many of the things Israel does or calls for doing to the palestinians are also racist or wrong, in general. That was the whole point, nothing more, nothing less.

In any case, my view is that both sides are equally blinded by hatred and prejudice, and they both do the most despicable things under the pretext that the other side started, or that it is justified because the other side did X or Y.

Read the book I mentioned in my previous posting and you will discover a lot of uncomfortable things about both sides. Among other things, the image it gives of Israel is not that of the nice, tolerant democracy many people think it is. Arab citizens of Israel are treated like an underclass, and are denied some basic rights, such as equal housing and employment opportunities. They are not truly full citizens as you say. For example, arabs are forbidden from serving in the military (with the exception of the Druse, a nomadic tribe that lives in the Negev desert, which the jews assume don't identify much with other arabs). This is a very nice and covert way of setting them apart from the jews (almost all of whom serve in the military) because a lot of government subsidies, services of all kinds (house loans, for example), and employment are impossible to get if you have not served in the military. Very often, when an arab-israeli family moves into a predominantly jewish neighborhood, jews organize pickets in front their house, break their windows, make theatening phone calls, etc., to force them to move out and go to a arab-only neighborhood. At the same time, palestinians are also mistreated and segregated in some arab countries (in case somebody wanted to jump on my throat and point that out).

Michael Kelley - 10/2/2002

This one sided appraoch sloves nothing. This is why most of American society have little regard for University professors. I was looking for a solution to the crisis, not continuing attacks.

Maybe suggesting a solution is too much for Mr. Coles.

Alec Lloyd - 10/2/2002

So how do you explain the 12 Arab members of the Knesset?

The moral inversion you practice is breathtaking.

And allow me to turn your question around: when one defends Israel, why is one always assumed to be some right-wing fundamentalist zealot praying for Armageddon?

The labelling cuts both ways.

Alec Lloyd - 10/2/2002

The Palestinians use ambulences to smuggle bombs. The Israelis use them to treat wounded Palestinians. The Israelis even keep separate “Arab” blood supplies because the Palestinians refuse to be tainted with “Jewish” blood. Who is racist now?

That is the moral differentiation of which I speak.

The fact that the Palestinians have rejected the rules of civilized warfare, rejected non-violent means of resistance, rejected all civilized forms of political dissent is key to the question of why they must suffer what you call “collective punishment.”

Given that Arabs within Israel have full citizenship and voting rights, how does one describe Israel is “racist?”

Joseph - 10/2/2002

I agree strongly with both Laura and Mr. Gomez on this subject. I am neither Jewish nor Arab I want to point out, but like everyone else I am strongly affected by the clashes of these two groups of people whether they are Isralis, Palestinians or Arabs. I have come to resent deeply the fact that American foreign policy has been captured by right wing religious fanatics of both the Christian and the Jewish faiths. This is offensive to me as an American citizen. To me it has become not an argument over democracy but a religious war. I am not surprised by the right wing Christians. They are fanatics who are ecstatic over what they believe is the coming of armageddon. I am on the other hand very disapointed in the American Jewish and Israeli citizens who have allowed this to happen. If the situation continues in the same vein it will surely set back the the social justice movement in this country for a long time. It will be a disaster for us all.

Joseph Kerr - 10/2/2002

Hi there. I have no idea if this has been posted in this forum before, as I have not had time to read the posts. I would just like to say, however, that I am appalled by the sheer stupidity and ignorance of so many in the education sector when it comes to identifying the population of which the Semitic race is comprised. PALESTINIANS ARE SEMITES. ISRAELIS WITH MIDDLE-EASTERN HERITAGES ARE SEMITES (something like Ashkenazi, I think?). PEOPLE OF THE JEWISH FAITH WHOSE ANCESTORS INHABITED EUROPEAN NATIONS ARE NOT. They are Caucasians. For an American of an Anglo-Saxon, Slavic, or ANY non-Middle Eastern heritage who happens to practice Judaism to call him or herself a Semite is absurd. Sure, you MAY be able to trace your lineage back to ancestors who lived in the Roman provinces which now constitute the Middle East, but why stop at that arbitrary point? Why not go even farther back and recognize that your family, my family, and the entire world population began in Africa? If one can arbitrarily denote themselves as Semitic, than I will, with an equal proclivity for arbitrary decisions, call myself, a white male, an African-American.

Thanks for reading my frustrated ramblings.

Laura - 10/2/2002

Exactly, Mr. Gomez. Why is it that when one criticizes Israel, one is ALWAYS met with a barrage of attacks on neighboring Arab countries? What does the nature of Arab governments have to do with Israel's 35-year military subjugation and enslavement of an entire people whose only crime is that they are not Jews? If thse 3 million Palestinians in the territories had been Jews, we wouldn't be having this discussion. There would BE no conflict. They would've been welcomed with open arms as full human beings, full citizens of the state of Israel. But since they are not Jews, they have been forced to exist in a stateless limbo as subjects of a vicious, racist military dictatorship, surrounded by religious fanatics who steal their land, water and homes.

The whites of apartheid South Africa used to endlessly whine to their international critics: "Why so much condemnation of us? We're the only democracy on the African continent, we're surrounded by corrupt and brutal dictatorships." Quite rightly, that argument fell entirely flat. A society that elevates one group of people over another on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion cannot be a democracy. Israel cannot be a democracy and it never has been. It is based on religious and national *exclusivism* and supremacy. It was also founded on terrorism and ethnic cleansing. Its pre-state leaders *introduced* terrorism to the Middle East in the first place.

Laura - 10/2/2002

To the contrary, the Scottish journalist's description of Zionist conduct in besieged Jerusalem in 1948 is perfectly accurate.

Rafael Gomez - 10/2/2002

Excuse me, but as usual you read more than what was written.
I never said that the Palestinian Authority or arab governments in the region are good or deserving of praise. Why is it that every time somebody criticizes Israel a lot of people interpret it as automatically complimenting the Palestinian Authority or the neigbouring arab governments???

I have never said that Israel *should* be punished (I might or might not think it appropriate, but I never said one way or the other). I just said that Israel's practice of collective punishment against all palestinians, in response to the terrorist's action, can be labeled as racist under the arguments presented by Mr. Harris and Mr. Summers, just as they use those arguments to label the collective punishment of Israel as anti-semitic. All the curfews, mass arrests, mass searches of homes, blockading of towns and communities, exile of bomber's families, etc. are clear examples of collective punishment.

You talk about the blood libel and other nasty images that arabs have of jews. But in this respect both sides are equally racist and prejudiced. Many israeli Jews have exactly the same kind of stereotypes and racist perception of arabs that arabs have of jews. They are just mirror images of each other. You should read the book "Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land," by David K. Shipler. It has at least two chapters devoted to this subject, one for the distorted image that most jews have of arabs (and what they teach their kids about arabs), and another of the distorted image most arabs have of jews (and what they teach their kids about jews).

You should read more about the kinds of generalized humiliations and mistreatments that all palestinians suffer at the hands of the Israeli security forces. Maybe you should hear palestinians themselves, describing the conditioins in which they have to live (I have heard these things from palestinians that also condem terrorism in the most clear terms). As usual, you will probably read this as an apology for the terrorists or a compliment to the neighbouring arab regimes, which is not. Any comment critical of Israel is automatically interpreted that way, and that leaves no space for a reasonable discussion of the failings of both sides. Criticizing one side of the conflict should never be construed as an apology or a praise for the opposite side.

Spencer FitzPatrick - 10/2/2002

yes, in fact, this is a wretched document you've posted (from the scotsman). that does not, however, mean anything in light of summers' comments. summers is race-baiting...he saying that if you speak out in such a way that is in contrast with an opinion in favor of israel, then you're an anti-semite. well, frankly, that's absolute bullshit, and since summers is a bit of a lightweight (don't tell me that he made professor at the age of 28...it means nothing), it makes it all the more hollow.

Yoav Gelber - 10/2/2002

Let me share with you something I have recently encountered - during my routine work - that can give some perspective and proportions to the present Jew-baiting and hatred of Israel and show that they may emanate from different sources than we are accustomed to think.
A British "neutral" and "unbiased" journalist by the name of Clare Hollingworth wrote the following item in the newspaper The Scotsman, on Tuesday, 1st June 1948. She came from besieged Jerusalem, shelled at that time by the Arab Legion's artillery under the supervision and instruction of British officers, to the safety of Amman wherefrom she sent the report. I quote a few typical sentences:

"For the Christian who escapes from Jewish Jerusalem there is the same feeling of achievement as the Jews used to experience when they got out of Nazi Germany. Indeed, Jerusalem today - that is to say, besieged Jewish Jerusalem - is uncomfortably like Berlin in August 1939. Although Berlin was a cleaner and more orderly city… the new Jewish administration is copying Germany in its methods of government… "Security" is the usual excuse and, in fact all unpleasant orders are given in the name of security… Irgun [Etzel] is in fact rapidly becoming the SS of the new state. There is also a strong Gestapo - but no one knows who is in it."

This appalling description and vocabulary appeared in a serious though fringe newspaper, affiliated at the time to Reuter and the Daily Telegraph (at least in covering the Middle East), three years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust. When the Jewish state was 17 days old. Long before the "occupation", "settlements" and "settlers"; When
accusations of "apartheid" or segregation meant "against", not "by", Jews; Preceding by a few decades the emergence of post-colonialism, post-modernism and post-Zionism; Before the West was plagued by the discourse of narratives, human and other rights, power-relations, globalization, international courts and NGOs. When Israel was smaller than some people on the radical left would like it to be now. Prior to the Likud's rise to power and when a 20 years old wounded lieutenant Sharon was still recovering in a military hospital from his injuries at the battle of Latrun. This was written even before Israel and the
Israelis were thought to be arrogant, strong, victorious and repressing -- at a time when the very existence of statehood seemed precarious to the utmost. At that time Israelis also believed, erroneously, that the enlightened and progressive world public opinion liked them.

Meanwhile, most Israelis have been disillusioned, but how can one
ascribe to all the above-mentioned vices the present image of Israel in the so-called "liberal-progressive" academic circles that sponsor petitions, boycotts, divestments and plain atrocity-propaganda? They display the same profound misconception, disregard of truth and contemptuous ignorance of the facts, and use a language reminiscent of the British journalist's 54 years ago. Neither they, nor their Israeli collaborators have invented
anything new or original.

Alec Lloyd - 10/2/2002

Collective punishment for what?

Mr. Gomez will have to elaborate on what he believes Israel should collectively be punished for.

Being the only democracy in the region? The only state in which Arab muslims are free to cast votes? The only state in which there is the rule of law and proper judicial procedure?

Mr. Gomez, would you prefer to be tried by a Palestinian (or Syrian, or Egyptian, or Saudi) court or an Israeli one?

Had the Irish Republic launched a series of attacks on Belfast, had they announced that their stated goal is the eradication of the British people, had they taught school children that Englishmen drank the blood of Catholics with their communion wafers, indeed, they might have been justified to use a stronger hand in Northern Ireland.

Israel “occupies” territory whose ownership has never been legally determined. There is no recognized international border, simply a cease-fire line that has acquired some sort of defacto legitimacy. The land was fairly conquered as the result of a series of defensive wars. The Israelis have as much right to Hebron or any other settlement as France has to Flanders or Britain to Yorkshire. Shall we return Silesia to Germany? There is a much stronger case for that than evicting Jewish inhabitants from Judea.

It is true that Israel participates in mass arrests to break up terrorist attacks. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority uses summary execution to stop any who advocate peace with Israel. They call these moderates “collaborators,” a strange thing for a police force supposedly trying to halt terrorism.

Is there any question that there would already be an independent Palestine if Arafat had used non-violent resistance, formally recognized Israel’s right to exist and set about building a democratic and civil society?

Instead he has set up yet another thug-ocracy, complete with rival militias, political repression, lack of financial accountability and apparently rampant profiteering and embezzlement from the ruling class.

And for this, we blame…Israel.

Truly amazing logic.

Rafael Gomez - 10/1/2002

I guess we can use Mr. Harris' and Mr. Summers' argument to conclude that Israel's policies of punishing all palestinians for the actions of a few of them are as racist (maybe not in intention, but certainly in their effect, as Mr. Summers would say) as the calls for divestment from Isreal that he labels as anti-Semitic.

For those that believe in colletive punishment, I would say that collective punishment of Israelis for what their government does to palestinians would, in any case, make more sense than that of palestinians for what some palestinians do to israelis. After all, Israel is a democracy and its government is chosen by and derives all its legitimacy and authority from all israeli citizens. The responsibility for every action of the israeli Government ultimately rests on all citizens of Israel. On the other hand, most palestinian terrorists are not democratically elected or chosen by their fellow palestinians. If its wrong and racist to use collective punishments against Israel, such as divestment, it is also wrong and racist to punish all palestinians for what palestinian terrorists do to Israel.

Orson Olson - 10/1/2002

"Summers has for some time misunderstood the duties of his office to include bullying professors...."

Although most professors I know could use some "bullying," what Summers reportedly said, so sotte voce, can hardly be termed that! Unless one has a messianic complex, as Professor Cole appears to.

Guilt-By-Association (Israel equates with the US) is the stock-in-trade for such narcissists; apparently he does not know that anti-semitism is rising in Europe. ("Ooh Goody! It's so 1929 again!") He touts the authority of the United Nations; can he say "League of Nations, redux?" I can.

He compares Israel in Palestine to England occupying Northern Ireland. Does he foreget that the IRA had to abandon random civilian terror and pledge to warn of attacks in order to remain in business? It's something yet to occur to the 70-80% in that "peaceful" land who continue supporting the civilian terror he so vacuously defends.

I didn't neet Summers word "to make the divestment movement look as though it were motivated merely by bigotry." One can infer this on one's own. I did.

Jerry Sternstein - 10/1/2002

Yes, Lawrence Summers is correct and Juan Cole is patently wrong. This essay by Prof. Jay Harris, entitled the "Divestment Debate Demonizes Jews" in the Harvard Crimson, carefully explains why:

"In the hope of shifting the debate on divestment from Israel to the real issue—the nature of the divestment campaign—and not the specious accusations regarding University President Lawrence H. Summers’ speech on the issue, I would like to suggest why I believe the campaign is properly characterized as “anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent.” I would like to look carefully—if necessarily briefly—at the strategy of the campaign and the rhetoric of the petition, in order to show how it implicitly demonizes Jews.

Supporters of the divestment campaign insist they seek to protest the policies of the Sharon government, and not to de-legitimize Israel. I do not doubt the sincerity of this claim, although I cannot help but be bewildered by the Manichean world-view some display. It seems that some of the signers believe that one can only be a supporter of divestment or a supporter of the government of Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon. This belief is apparent in Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke’s and Pierce Professor of Psychology Ken Nakayama’s invitation “to the supporters of Sharon’s policies to join us in an open debate.” They argue as if one cannot oppose them and Sharon. Nevertheless, I have no reason to think such peculiar reasoning is shared by all signers. More importantly, I readily acknowledge that the signers known to me personally are not people to be suspected of conscious bigotry of any kind. Thus, I fully endorse Summers’ view that there is no intentional anti-Semitism in this campaign.

However, given the history of the divestment strategy and its earlier target, the claim that only the policies of the Sharon government are targeted here seems strikingly naive. As we learn from the precedent of South Africa, divestment is a tool far too powerful and destructive to express opposition to a set of specific policies in any focused way (apartheid was much too pervasive a political and social phenomenon to be called a policy). Rather, the divestment strategy was aimed at the very foundations of a morally repugnant state. Whatever the intent of the signers, the strategy chosen cannot help but say that we as a moral community cannot tolerate our hands being dirtied by association with the State of Israel. Summers understood this well when he described the campaign as seeking “to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university’s endowment to be invested.” Demonizing the Jewish State as uniquely repugnant, worse even than Sudan—as the campaign implicitly does—is something that most Jews cannot help but see as “anti-Semitic in effect.”

Furthermore, the petition’s justification for the campaign suggests that Israel and Israel alone is responsible for all the misery in the region. Such a suggestion displays willful ignorance of the history of the conflict; it ignores the fact that whenever in the last 10 years there was movement toward a settlement—that is, movement toward the end of occupation for the Palestinians, and an end of belligerency for all—Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians increased. It ignores the fact that many of the most violent Palestinian groups have been quite forthright regarding their goals: They do not seek the end of occupation as Westerners normally understand that term. Rather, they seek the “liberation” of all historic Palestine from the “Zionist invaders.” While I do not doubt that many of the signers of the petition will dismiss these concerns as Jewish paranoia, they are easily documented, and must be taken unto account. Taking them into account means that it is not at all clear that “ending occupation” will in fact bring peace and security to the region; it is, of course, not clear that it will not. Yet, despite the uncertainties that efforts towards peaceful compromise will bear any fruit, Israel has made significant efforts to reach an agreement. But such acknowledgement would undermine the basic Manichean structure of the petitioners’ narrative in which all blame rests entirely with the Jews.

Put simply, the petitioners prefer to reduce the complexity of the situation to a cartoon in which Palestinians stand on the side of the angels, which leaves the Jews right where, at an earlier time, many Christian zealots were quite happy to put them, on the side of the demons. If such a simplistic and narrative line is not “anti-Semitic in effect” what is?

Most disturbing of all: in the midst of a litany of alleged Israeli crimes, the petition states, “We find the recent attacks on Israeli citizens unacceptable and abhorrent. But these should not and do not negate the human rights of the Palestinians.” We are all familiar with the strategy of damning with faint praise; here we confront the strategy of faint condemnation. A condemnation this perfunctory, this ritualistic, so immediately abandoned, condemns nothing and no one. The thought seems to be, “Ideally, Palestinians would not be killing them; but we cannot allow the fact that they are killing them to divert our gaze for more than a moment from the plight of the Palestinians.”

That is, in my reading, we confront here a world-view that assigns greater moral value to the lives of some human beings—Palestinian civilians—than to the lives of others—Israeli civilians (not all of them Jews, to be sure). Here the petition’s rhetoric is simply shameful, its dehumanizing effects thoroughly offensive. Yet again, Summers got it right: anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent.

I do not know if any of this is what President Summers had in mind in his speech. The thoughts expressed here represent my view of the anti-Semitic effects of the divestment campaign and its rhetoric. What I do know is that, like the president, I have no interest in stifling debate, and do not believe that criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic. But criticism that can see nothing but evil on one side, and virtually no evil on the other, that values some lives more than others, has the inevitable effect of demonizing one of the parties, and takes us nowhere but back to a time that ought never to be revisited.

Jay M. Harris is Wolfson professor of Jewish studies.

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