2013 December » ADL Blogs
December 31, 2013 5

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 3

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 5

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

st-james-church-wall-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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