Several recent instances of anti-Israel boycotts highlight both the distortions of logic and reason, and the abuse of universal values like human rights and free speech in order to justify the antisemitism lurking behind their anti-Israel boycotts.
For example we read in my previous post how the Dutch water company Vitens has ceased all collaboration with Israel’s water company Mekorot because of Israel’s alleged violation of international law. It appears that the advisor, if not the instigator of this boycott was the Dutch Foreign Minister, as the JPost article notes:
Vitens decided to cancel collaborations due to Mekorot’s presence in the West Bank, following consultations with the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry.
“Vitens attaches great importance to integrity and adhering to (inter)national laws and regulations,” an official statement from the company said. “Following consultation with stakeholders, the company came to the realization that it is extremely difficult to continue joint work on projects, as they cannot be separated from the political environment.”
Hmm. But what appears morally impossible for Vitens doesn’t seem to be a problem for example for the Dutch TV company Endemol, who have bought into Reshet, Israel’s Channel 2 concessionaire.
The Netherlands as a whole also doesn’t seem to have a problem with Israel, as we can see from the fact that the two countries have signed a cooperation agreement:
Netanyahu and Rutte signed a document that established “the Netherlands Israel Cooperation Forum.”
The forum provides a framework to cultivate private sector initiatives, particularly in technology, agriculture and energy, and to enhance the political dialogue.
This being the case, why would the Dutch Foreign Ministry advise Vitens to boycott Israel? Israeli news channel i24 News enlightens us:
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans says Europe sees Israel as a “European country” thus holding it to a European standard, a higher than the one to which other countries in the region are held.
“It is easy to be Israel’s friend as an underdog,” said Timmermans, adding that it was “cultural, part of our heritage.” It becomes harder for Europeans when Israel is “top dog,” or perceived as a strong nation, “not relenting, not giving in to the requests of other people.”
In other words, this is all political-correctness gone mad: supporting the underdog is good, supporting the top dog is bad, no matter who is actually in the right. There’s no actual analysis or understanding of the problems facing Israel, just a simple “Israel is strong, therefore must be wrong” attitude.
But wait, there’s more. i24 continues:
Timmermans stirred controversy when he refused an Israeli military escort through the Palestinian town of Hebron. Israeli officials were taken aback by the refusal, adding to tension caused by the Dutch Prime Minister’s cancellation of a ceremony to dedicate a new security scanner which the Netherlands donated to help examine goods coming out of Gaza, in the hopes of bolstering their exports.
These new hints of controversy were troubling as the Netherlands is seen as one of Israel’s closest friends inside a sometimes hostile Europe.
Both incidents made headlines in the Netherlands and some officials suspect the decisions were fueled by domestic Dutch politics.
Timmermans name has been included on a list of candidates who are being considered to replace Catherine Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief after she steps down next year.
Now it all becomes clear. It’s simply personal aggrandisement, getting his name in the papers with a “right-on”, radical chic cause, to enhance his street cred before the EU elections, and Israel is the coin with which Timmermans paid.
The man ought to be ashamed of himself, and the Netherlands ought to be embarrassed that such a person represents them. But he isn’t and they aren’t.
Another egregious example of such self-serving justification can be seen in a recommended academic boycott of Israel in some American universities. Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has been following this issue closely.
The American Studies Association (ASA) has endorsed a proposal to boycott Israel universities while excluding a boycott of individual Israeli academics. How that would work out in practice is debatable:
As reported by JTA…
“We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA,” the council announcement said.
These groups, of course, do not boycott Islamic countries which discriminate against Jews and Christians, which shut out or severely limit educational opportunities for women, or which persecute gays. Only the Jewish-run universities, which are far, far more tolerant of minorities and afford much more equal treatment and educational opportunities, are singled out.
To call them hypocrites is far too mild.
Professor Jacobson calls out the boycotters on their hypocrisy in greater detail:
While disavowing anti-Semitism, BDS singles out and holds only Israel to standards not applied much less met by any other country in the Middle East or Muslim world. Israel, and Israel alone, is put under a microscope and each defect found turned into grossly exaggerated and often outright false claims of racism, Apartheid, colonialism and so on. Only Israeli academics and institutions are subjected to boycott even though by any objective standard non-Jews are far more free academically and otherwise in Israel than non-Muslims are in the Muslim world.
We also witness the bizarre self-parody of LGBT and Women’s rights groups siding with Islamists who hate LGBT and women’s rights, all in the cause of BDS.
BDS and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand, particularly in Europe. There is a thin line between organizing abusive disruptions of speeches, concerts and lectures by Israelis and throwing the punch or thrusting the knife. …
The rhetoric emanating from BDS supporters in the U.S. also is so extreme that even some harsh left-wing critics of Israeli policies have dared call it was it is. It is no surprise that strong BDS supporters like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd conflate criticism of Israel and Jews, and BDS campus activists in South Africa sang “shoot the Jew.”
BDS, because of the facade of supporting Palestinian “civil society,” is in vogue in many corners of American academia. Those academics stand apart from the U.S. population, where support for Israel is at historic highs.
The Professor explains why BDS is so dangerous despite its minimal effectiveness in doing actual damage to Israel:
The BDS movement does not care whether the ASA boycott itself is effective. What is important to the BDS movement is isolating Israel in every way possible. BDS will take watered-down symbolic isolation if that is what it can get. That is why BDS also seeks boycott resolutions from non-academic professional groups and to prevent the sale of hummus and coffee by Israeli companies. It’s not about supporting academic freedom for Palestinians, it’s about destroying Israel.
The ASA boycott, if approved by the membership, will not be a wall around Israel, but it will be a brick in the wall.
Read the entire article. There’s much more there to inform, aggravate and enrage us.
In the same vein Prof. Jacobson recommends, tongue-in-cheek, that it might be time to start a “boycott me” movement – and that they ought to boycott Cornell University itself – in order to highlight the hypocrisy of the anti-Israel BDS movement:
Where does the boycott stop? ASA carefully tried to narrow the boycott to Israeli academic institutions, although it is hard to see how one can boycott an institution without also boycotting its faculty and researchers.
If ASA is going to be consistent and intellectually honest, it will have to boycott Cornell University, as well.
Cornell has formed a partnership with Israel’s Technion to develop a technology campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, as Bloomberg News reported in 2011:
The BDS movement still is trying to stop the project, Stop Technion/Cornell Collaboration!
To be consistent and intellectually honest, if the ASA boycott resolution passes the membership, must ASA not also boycott the Cornell-Technion joint campus? And since the joint campus will draw resources, faculty, staff and students from Cornell’s Ithaca campus, wouldn’t the boycott of necessity have to include the greater Cornell University?
Picking on Israel is easy for tenured radicals. It comes at no professional cost, particularly for organizations and academics not in the sciences.
But taking the boycott to the necessary level of boycotting those who enter into collaboration with Israeli academic institutions to form joint campuses and joint academic projects will be more difficult. I doubt the ASA has the guts.
I can even conceive of “Boycott Me Too” badges to be worn by those academic institutions and academics who, whether they agree with every Israeli policy or not, stand against the academic boycott of Israel.
CiFWatch have also been covering the ASA boycott with a series of articles by Jon from DivestThis! who points out their blatant hypocrisy. Here are just a few highlights:
From part I:
But remember that ASA is claiming to be taking a moral stand, a stand so moral and so important that it is worth jettisoning the raison d’être of the academy (freedom of inquiry and discourse) to achieve that goal. Given these stakes, what are we to make of an organization that has chosen to maximize their own chances for success using the kind of grubby back-door deal-making we’d have expected from Tammany Hall?
There is also a remarkable disingenuousness to a debate that refuses to acknowledge the consequences of what will happen if an academic boycott is enacted. Simply put, if this vote goes through then a permanent precedent will have been set that says academic freedom takes a back seat to politics. And regardless of the song and dance ASA leaders break into to explain why this particular punishment will be visited upon one nation and one nation only, the other precedent that will be set is that the organization’s moral voice is available to those who shout loudest and show the least concern for anyone’s needs but their own.
In Part II Jon highlights the self-serving justification of American academic boycotters by asking if they have the courage of their convictions and are willing to resign their positions because:
the very people who insist that their entire field distance itself from Israeli institutions are now drawing paychecks from colleges and universities that declared themselves (in a declaration that was never rescinded) Israeli institutions of learning.
And in Part III, Jon viciously highlights the hypocrisy of the boycotters’ justifications for the boycott:
Probably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.
…in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.
In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want. And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.
In a related matter, this time concerning antisemitism on campus, San Francisco State University (SFSU) president has defended calls for violence against Jews as an example of … free speech!
San Francisco State University (SFSU) president, Les Wong, has responded for the second time to criticisms that calling for the murder of Jews is perhaps something less than educative. And for the second time he refuses to address the central issue, which is a call to violence against Jews by the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS).
Professor Wong, who earned a PhD in educational psychology from Washington State University, makes three significant points. The first is that calling for the murder of Jews is essentially a matter of free speech. That is his first and foremost point. It is not that calling for the murder of Jews might be in contradiction to university policy, the law, or just common human decency, but that calling for the murder of Jews is a matter of free speech.
Nor can the university cease funding GUPS, and thus eliminate the call for the murder of Jews on the campus of SF State, because that would violate student rights to a free and open discussion on the issues of the day. In other words, it seems to Professor Wong that the question of genocide against the Jewish people is a matter open to discussion and as the president of an important institution of higher education, dedicated to social justice and human rights, he does not want to interfere with that discussion.
It is not as if we are unclear whether or not GUPS called for the murder of Jews, because they quite clearly did so. On November 7, during a rally in honor of anti-Israel / anti-Jewish scholar, Edward Said, they handed out signs that said, “My heroes have always killed colonizers.”
The question to ask yourself is just who are these “colonizers” in need of killing?
I am pretty sure that you know the answer to that question.
None of this should actually be surprising to anyone. For decades the progressive-left has told itself that the Jews in the Middle East deserve a good beating.
Doctor Wong just wants students to be free to discuss the possibility.
I’m sure that if someone accused Dr. Wong outright of antisemitism he would be horrified. But that is the consequence of his lily-livered reaction to this antisemitic incitement on his campus.
This is as clear an example as one could find of the use and abuse of universal values like human rights and free speech in the justification of bigotry and antisemitism.