Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Against the 'Academic Intifada'"

David Hirsh of Engage has an excellent article, "Against the 'Academic Intifada'", in the new Dissent. It tells the story of the campaign against a UK academic boycott of Israel, and of the emergence of the Engage website.

Final paragraphs:
The AUT Special Council voted against the boycott and for the authentic values of the left, academic freedom and for democratic norms. At the same time, it was almost unanimous in its conviction that Palestinians suffer unjustly under Israeli occupation. The boycotters argued that theirs was the only way to support Palestinians. British academics decided instead to make positive links with Israeli and Palestinian universities, engage in joint research, joint teaching, and exchanges of students and ideas.

The weekend before the Special Council, there was a very small demonstration in London for Palestinian freedom. Why is there no mass movement for this cause—in support, also, of the Israeli peace movement? The chief reason for this is that the existing Palestine Solidarity Campaign smells of anti-Semitism. Most people do not want to be involved with such a movement. In this way, the politics of Palestine solidarity does tremendous harm to Palestinians. Its unremitting hatred of Israel, its calls for divisive boycotts, its libeling of Jews as racists, and the crassness and one-sidedness of the stories it tells—none of this serves its ostensible cause.

The boycotters learned nothing from their defeat. They reacted with a new barrage of anti-Semitic rhetoric, insisting that they were defeated by a well-funded global Zionist lobby that pressured the AUT.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe and the United Kingdom. Some of the post-Holocaust taboos are withering; some are being bypassed with rhetoric referring to Zionists rather than Jews. Implacable hostility to Israel functions as a centerpiece to some “anti-imperialist” worldviews, not only on the left but also in right-wing isolationism. This problem is exacerbated by confused thinking about the distinction between jihadi-fascist movements, which incorporate hostility to Jews at the heart of their ideology, and Islam in general. Many people find it difficult to oppose the politics of those movements that claim to be the authentic voice of Islam. A wish to oppose anti-Islamic racism sometimes slips into an implicit or overt alliance with Islam’s self-appointed but in fact unrepresentative spokespeople. Today, at last, there are people organizing to resist this fake leftism, educating themselves to recognize talk of Jewish lobbies and Zionist power as a sign of a cancer within our movement.

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