2013 December » ADL Blogs
December 31, 2013

Bigotry Questions About the ASA’s Boycott of Israel

With the flurry of condemnations issued by university officials and academic associations against the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israeli academic institutions, much of the focus has, of course, been on how the boycott suppresses basic principles of academic freedom and stifles the free flow of ideas. Less attention, however, has been paid to the other deeply disturbing element of the boycott – – targeting Israel for such unfair and harsh treatment by the ASA.

Jeff Robbins, a former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and current Board Chairman of ADL’s New England Region, examines the bigotry embedded in these important aspects of the ASA boycott in an op-ed for the Boston Herald. Mr. Robbins rightly concludes that the resolution was motivated by something other than facts-on-the-ground and a sense of academic moral responsibility, and points out the troubling role that bigotry plays when Israel is singled out for boycotts.

The following is an excerpt from Mr. Robbins’ piece titled “Israel Boycott Raises Bigotry Issues”:

In the case of the American Studies Association boycott of Israel, however, the problem is not unfamiliarity with the facts. It is the disregard of them. For the ASA boycotters, as for those urging that the Modern Language Association endorse a similar boycott, it is not that they are unaware that the Israelis have repeatedly had their offers rejected by the Palestinians, or that acceptance of these offers would have ended the conflict. It is that these facts are quite immaterial to them.

Confronted with the question why his organization has never proposed a boycott of institutions any place other than Israel, yet alone places with human rights records far less admirable than that of Israel, ASA head Curtis Marez offered this disingenuous reply: “One has to start somewhere.”

But Israel is where the boycotters start, and also where they finish.


Mr. Robbins goes on to point out the gross human rights violations by Hamas in Gaza, the restrictions on basic freedoms imposed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the disturbing human rights infringements in Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  He notes: “The ASA would never dream of a boycott against the government-run universities in Gaza.  There is no boycott of institutions in the West Bank.  American universities such as Georgetown and George Washington receive significant Saudi Arabian funding. This, too, is apparently undeserving of a boycott.”

He quotes Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, who called the boycotters “phony progressives.”

He ends with this important observation: “They are that, to be sure. But the singling out of the Jewish state legitimately raises the troubling question of whether they are bigots as well.”

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December 31, 2013

International New York Times Op-Ed Blames Israel and International Community for “Coming Intifada”

On December 25, 2013, the International New York Times ran an op-ed by Ali Jarbawi, a former Palestinian Authority government minister and current contributing opinion writer for the Times, titled “The Coming Intifada.” As evidenced by its title, the premise of Mr. Jarbawi’s piece is that a violent Palestinian intifada (Arabic for “uprising”) is looming beneath the surface and could explode sometime in the near future. Most telling in Mr. Jarbawi’s piece is the absence of any support or even mention of moving forward with negotiations.

Sbarro Jerusalem Bombing

Mr. Jarbawi writes that despite the appearance of normality for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, “no one should be surprised if a new intifada erupts in the next few months.” He claims there are four factors contributing to this: an unfulfilled hope for a Palestinian state, Israeli “violations” against Palestinians (of which he includes the scurrilous charge of “Judaizing Jerusalem”), financial challenges facing the Palestinian Authority, and the events of the Arab Spring.

While Mr. Jarbawi goes to great lengths to blame many non-Palestinians – with a heavy focus being Israel – for what he warns is the coming intifada, he assigns no responsibility for the challenges facing Palestinians to the Palestinians themselves. Attacking Israel for the failures of the 20-plus years of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he makes no mention of the numerous Israeli offers – including from Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 and from Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 – rejected by the Palestinians. He also overlooks the repeated statements by Israeli leaders calling on their Palestinian counterparts to return to the negotiating table, which went unheeded until Secretary Kerry’s initiatives this past summer.

He further absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for their financial predicament by failing to mention reports of rampant corruption within the Palestinian Authority, and instead attacks Arab, European and other international donors for not offering sufficient aid.

Perhaps most disturbingly, however, is Mr. Jarbawi’s claim that Israel is “Judaizing Jerusalem.” The term “Judaisation” is frequently used by those who dismiss the 4,000 year-old Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and implies that Jews have no historical right to a presence in modern-day Israel. Stating, as Mr. Jarbawi does, that Israel is attempting to “impose its presence in the Al Aqsa mosque” further ignores the millennia-old religious connection to Judaism’s holiest site, which shares this tiny piece of real estate, the Temple Mount.

All this speaks to an element of self-deception on the part of the Palestinians at best, and, at worst, lays a foundation to justify Palestinian violence. By refusing to acknowledge complicity in the political and financial predicament they find themselves in, Mr. Jarbawi and his Palestinian colleagues delude themselves into believing that violence is a justifiable reaction to their current situation. They seek to convince others that their current approach towards Israel, including threats of violence, are acceptable, and it is incumbent entirely upon Israel and the international community to change their positions towards the Palestinians in order to resolve the conflict.

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December 27, 2013

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem


St. James Church Wall

Right in time for Christmas, two campaigns have begun that demonize Israeli policy in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

In Atlanta, Georgia, five electronic billboards are currently on display for a two week duration that depict Jesus’s parents Mary and Joseph being unable to gain entry into Bethlehem in modern times because of Israel’s security barrier on the border of the West Bank (the image was created by the artist Banksy). These billboards are sponsored by If Americans Knew (IAK), a virulently anti-Israel organization that has been running anti-Israel billboards in cities across the United States over the past year.

In London, England, St. James’s Church erected a large display outside of the church to depict the security barrier that surrounds Bethlehem. The church’s reverend, Lucy Winkett, claimed that the display, which resembles the security wall in Israel, was designed to show passersby “what the people of Bethlehem are experiencing today.”

The mock security wall outside St. James’ Church is part of a festival called “Bethlehem Unwrapped,” which is being sponsored by the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based group that advocates for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. The festival will take place in London from December 23, 2013 until January 5, 2014. It will feature, among other programs, a comedy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Bethlehem Christmas dinner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Barrier – Separation or Security?” which will feature Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Leila Sansour, a resident of Bethlehem; Yiftah Curiel, the Public Affairs spokesman at the Embassy of Israel in London; and Alan Johnson, a representative from the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Both the billboard and mock wall display deliberately fail to account for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. While IAK claims that their billboards, “will be seen an estimated 4 million times,” those who view the billboards will not receive any information about why the security barrier was built and what it has done to thwart terrorist attacks.

Indeed, Israel’s security barrier was built as a defensive measure that was first approved by the Israeli government in 2002 to prevent Palestinian terrorists from reaching their civilian targets inside Israel. Since it was built, there has been a sharp decrease in Palestinian terrorism – not because there have been no attempted attacks, but because the security barrier has impeded terrorists from reaching Israeli cities, or has forced them to take more circuitous routes, leading to their capture.

Although both campaigns seek to reinforce the point that Bethlehem has become inaccessible because of the wall, thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world visit Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations every year. This year was no exception, according to news reports, the turnout was “the highest in years.”

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