Academic boycotts and anti-Jewish racism

This is a joint post written by myself together with frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb.

Brian writes:

I borrowed the phrase “rancid left” from the US blogger Noga (of the website “the contentious centrist”), to distinguish it from my own stance as part of the “sane left”. Just recently, I came across this article by Eve Garrard (a philosopher formerly at Keele University in the UK west midlands, now retired) in Fathom Journal . In it, while discussing contemporary antisemitism, she has this great line:

 “we see a shift from what has been aptly  called the bierkeller antisemitism of the right to the bistro antisemitism of the liberal left”.

I love it, and immediately wrote to her to tell she had lost any copyright in it – it is far too good not to deserve wider circulation. She told me that, in fact, it comes from Ben Cohen, (author of Some of my Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism: on my e-book reader and it should be on yours!). Eve also told me that he would be pleased that the phrase is getting a wider circulation.

So start using it, folks, and, when appropriate, pass on the source as well.

Anne adds:

I had a look at Eve Garrard’s article to which Brian linked and it really deserves much wider coverage. It is entitled Anti-Judaism, Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and I would recommend you read it all. Here are a couple of short excerpts:

People who think of antisemitism as being the result of the behaviour of Israel, or more widely the behaviour of Zionists, are concentrating on what we might call a push factor: the way Israel has fought its most recent war, … , is seen as pushing people, however reluctantly, into the otherwise unwelcome embrace of antisemitism. But the push explanation is in many ways very unsatisfactory. It’s supposed to work like this: people are horrified by what Israel has done in Gaza, where about 2,500 people were killed last summer, and that horror leads them to feel hostility towards Jews here in the UK, since they’re inevitably associated with Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. On this story the arrow of causation, so to speak, runs from Israel’s horrifying crimes to a resulting antisemitism.  … These include the blood libel – that is, the charge that Jews, in this case Israeli Jews, callously and deliberately aim at the blood-letting of non-Jews, especially their children; and the trope that there exists a shadowy but powerful Zionist lobby (aka the Jewish lobby) which exerts a malign and well-nigh total control over international and especially economic affairs.

But when we ask, ‘Why Israel? Why is there among the groups so hostile to Israel no comparable hostility, no demands to boycott and ostracise, polities which commit far more, and far more serious, violations of human rights?’ then the answers we get range from the implausible to the downright ludicrous.

Clearly something else is going on here; … A proper explanation of the resurgence of antisemitism is going to have to say something to account for that remarkable selectivity.  And in view of how unsatisfactory most of the answers citing push factors are, we ought also to consider the possibility of pull factors: the possibility that there’s something about antisemitism which might actively attract some people and entice them to embrace it, however great a show of reluctance they may make. We ought, that is, to consider what rewards antisemitism offers, and what satisfactions it may provide.

There is so much more there. Do go and read it all.

Brian writes:

The hypocrisy of BDS

On the matter of academic boycotts, Colin Shindler, Emeritus Professor at SOAS, and author of “Israel and the European Left: Between Solidarity and Delegitimization” (which I wrote about here, to be found half-way down the article) wrote in Engage Online that “SOAS is not boycotting Israel”.  Shindler is arguing that although a “referendum” at SOAS delegitimises Israel, it represents only 15% of the constituency. So far so good. But then, tucked into his article, is the following from Shindler:

 “Attending SOAS forces Jewish students to examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to Israel. They emerge stronger and better informed than their elders and peers.”

My initial reaction to that was to disagree on the basis that this was not what Higher Education was about, forcing students to examine their ethnic and/or religious identity. Then, having reflected on what Prof Shindler had said, I posted the additional comment that:

“On second thoughts, I’m more than horrified, I think that Colin Shindler is excusing SOAS. If we revisit the sentences “Attending SOAS forces Jewish students to examine their Jewish identity and their relationship to Israel. They emerge stronger and better informed than their elders and peers”, and substitute “female” or “black” or “Christian” or, heaven forfend, “Muslim” for Jewish (and change “Israel” as appropriate), then, I suspect, we would all immediately be condemning SOAS for allowing such a breach of faith between a higher education institution and its student body in this country.

Instead, Prof Shindler actually defends what’s happening.”

This, of course, is from a former university lecturer, so, hopefully, from a position of understanding what HE should be about.

By now, we all know lots about the Southampton University conference on Israel. I’m not going to bore you with yet another long screed about this, but, rather, refer you once again to Engage Online, where the first 5 articles are all about this. Three of them have long comments threads, where we can see free speech in action, actually being carried out in a sane and civil manner. This is because none of the usual idiots/suspects have turned up – that is, members of Jews for Justice for Palestine (which I have long felt is rather like being against sin: a good idea, but how does one put it into practice?), et al – but rather genuine thinkers. I’ve put my oar in rather vigorously, arguing that the conference was not an academic one, but rather a gathering of activists coming together to discuss their favourite topic: how to delegitimise Israel. As such, they should be allowed to do that, say what they like (within the law), wherever they liked, to whoever was prepared to listen. But it shouldn’t be dignified as being an academic conference.

So, am I pleased that the conference appears to have been cancelled by the University (subject to a legal appeal by the organisers, among them the unlovely Prof Oren Ben Dror, apparently an Israeli in the mould of Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim: anything Israeli is to be deplored (to be polite about it))? Of course not: if you read my comments at Engage,that is abundantly clear. Privately, and don’t tell anyone, yesss, one for the good guys. Oops, did I just say that!?

Still on this topic, an article from earlier this week, the Battle of Southampton,  looking at the Southampton University “academic” conference, has this quote from David Cameron, who – until the general elections on 7th  May – is the UK PM (and possibly after then as well):

 “But in amongst all the heart-breaking anecdotes, there was one choice quote from David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, that really resonated:

“As well as the new threat of extremist Islamism, there has been an insidious, creeping attempt to delegitimise the state of Israel, which spills over often into anti-Semitism. We have to be very clear about the fact that there is a dangerous line that people keep crossing over. This is a state, a democracy that is recognized by the UN, and I don’t think we should be tolerant of this effort at delegitimisation. The people who are trying to make the line fuzzy are the delegitimisers.””

Good for David Cameron: I may not be voting for his party, but anyone who can say that, in contrast to what that idiot Ed Miliband (Labour Party leader) says, can’t be all bad.  (Anne adds: Ed Milliband has been accused of losing the Jewish vote in the upcoming elections).

Anne writes:

Continuing on with academic delegitimization, this time in the US, a pro-Israel professor at Connecticut College has been suffering from a campaign of defamation in order to silence his pro-Israel views, as Stand With Us reports:

StandWithUs is deeply concerned about a student-led defamation campaign to silence Connecticut College pro-Israel professor Andrew Pessin and by his administration’s apparent inaction against this vicious attack. StandWithUs has already contacted the administration expressing its dismay, and there is a letter signed by a coalition of organizations being sent to the president and provost of Connecticut College demanding administrative action.
We urge you to sign an online petition expressing support for Professor Pessin.

Read it all and sign the petition.

A few weeks ago I posted about the antisemitic attempt to ban a Jewish student from a student committee.  Legal Insurrection now reports on another similar incident of anti-Jewish campus racism against a student, this time at Stanford University:

… Molly Horwitz alleges she was questioned about her Jewishness by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), from which she was seeking an endorsement:

Miss Horwitz confirmed the events in an email to Legal Insurrection:

I am running for the student senate at Stanford. Candidates can apply for endorsements from various student groups. I applied for the endorsement of the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), which has quite a large influence on campus. At my interview, SOCC asked, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you handle divestment?” I asked for clarification of the question because I wasn’t sure that the interviewer knew the significance of what she was asking. After I questioned why my Jewish identity was relevant, she scrambled and referenced my application, in which I stated that I was very connected to my Jewish heritage.

I was deeply saddened to see my fellow student leaders unapologetically resort to anti-Semitism.

She is not the only one deeply saddened to see – not only on campuses but in politics, the media and across public life – the regrowth of the anti-Jewish racism that we once thought had died together with its victims in the Holocaust. Instead it has mutated and like a Frankenstein come back to life disguised as anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism.

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6 Responses to Academic boycotts and anti-Jewish racism

  1. Pete says:

    Anne – sorry to divert from the theme of your article. But we have seen in the last week, some absolutely masterful tactics by Tehran and Moscow. Putin’s announcement to deploy advanced missiles into Iran was clearly timed for maximum effect. It throws Israeli military planners into a real dilemma. And then today Zarif comes out with a new announcement that Iran will comply head-over-heels with the stated objectives of the nuclear talks. The remarkable difference between Zarif’s statements today, and the recalcitrant words of the Ayatollah a few days ago, really boggles the mind. All these steps put Israel in a very awkward and difficult position … Bibi is becoming more and more isolated. Clearly, its a goal that someone desires.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, can I just ask that you leave your comments on the relevant post and not derail a different subject? I will see your comment just as easily on an older post. Thanks.

      Yes, the Iran situation is getting worse by the day but it does have the effect of concentrating the mind on finding a solution – or getting rid of the problem altogether.

      I don’t think Russia’s moves were intended to get at Israel. That’s just a convenient by-product for them, but the effect of course is the same. I actually don’t think Bibi is more isolated now. In fact it seems a lot of the world is coming round to Israel’s way of thinking, so let’s not panic – yet.

      • Pete says:

        Anne – yes i will keep my Comments relevant to your posts. Hope you are right about things improving! Pete, USA

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    And more on the subject of delegitimisation of Israel, yesterday (14 May) on the 8.00 am BBC Radio 4 News, there was the ever-present Jeremy Bowen, the BBC Chief Middle East Correspondent on problems for Christians in the region. All very straightforward and accurate until…the very end. Then, guess what, he finishes off with the problems for Palestinian Christians and their worries over what the Israeli Government will do.

    So, as ever for him and the BBC, it’s Israel’s fault that Hamas (if there any Christians left in Gaza) and the PA treat Christians other than equitably. How twisted can you get? Clearly, very.

    • anneinpt says:

      Jeremy Bowen is the Lord Haw Haw of our day. He’s a disgusting piece of work and an outright antisemite I think.

      There was a similar article in today’s Guardian about the plight of the Christians, bemoaning their fate, without one mention that Israel is the only place in the Middle east where they are flourishing. As one of the commenters there said, “you mustn’t put Israel in a good light, and therefore better not to mention them at all”. Which is still better than the BBC which out and out slandered Israel.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Perhaps Bowen is of the genteel kind: the sort of whom African-Americans would say, when such people were labelled as “liberals”, that they were the sort of person who would hang you from a low branch.

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