Message from the Editor
Some of our grandparents who once lived in Eastern Europe used to tell how Holy Week, the week before Easter became a time of fear. When Holy Week began, particularly in the countryside, they shut themselves up in their homes in fear of their physical safety. This was a time of incitement against the Jews and the season of the blood libel. Today, Jews who live in free and democratic societies would prefer not to relive these memories.
Unfortunately, Jewish students on American university campuses are being confronted with a new annual ritual which bears some similarity to the oppression which their ancestors experienced during Holy Week. Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) involves intimidation and fear, not the least because of confrontations which take place at symbolic campus “roadblocks.” Despite all disclaimers, IAW possesses a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism passing under the guise of a progressive humanitarian objection to the alleged racism of Israeli society.
This year, the annual IAW takes place in March in over 200 cities. So far, one of its most successful accomplishments was the success of Palestinian advocates to get the University of California San Diego to adopt a “socially responsible” resolution in favor of divestment of the University’s assets from Israel. IAW was also observed at McGill University in Montréal, and San Francisco State University. In Cambridge, MA, the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee posted mock eviction notices on the doors of Jewish students as well as some others.
Incitement to hatred and, potentially, violence is objectionable and represents a new challenge to which all citizens of good faith should respond. There are several aspects of this problem. For the most part, university administrators have been passive. Their acquiescence has brought criticism particularly in the cases of Brooklyn College and Harvard University. At the same time, the American Jewish community has yet to respond with a coherent strategy.
Israel’s adversaries are well organized, decentralized, and use the methods of an underground movement. These are the findings of Alex Joffe whom we have invited to submit a special report for the Faculty Forum. Separately, we are running a report on UCSD which board member and UCSD professor , Shlomo Dubnov, and Asaf Romirowsky, our Acting Executive Director, recently published.
We also make special mention of an essay, “Sitting beside a BDS Leader,” which our good friend, Eran Shayshon, the director of the Reut Institute of Tel Aviv wrote for The Daily Beast. By chance, Eran found himself sitting next to a BDS leader on a long flight. At first, their conversation was not so pleasant, but after while they began a meaningful exchange. During this discussion, Eran asked, at what point would the BDS advocates be satisfied and willing to end their campaign against Israel. He then recounted the unsettling reply he received, “I never got a clear answer from her, or from other BDS supporters I have spoken with, regarding the circumstances under which they would stop advocating for BDS. What would need to happen? My flight companion claimed that the boycott campaign targeted the ‘occupation,’ while acknowledging that she and others don’t believe in the two-state solution. So which occupation was she referring to? Is it only the West Bank that is occupied, or also Tel Aviv? Is it about the occupation or about the State of Israel?”
There is a serious disconnect here, because we are repeatedly confronted with the intransigent Palestinian objection to the existence of the State of Israel, the state of the Jewish People. During the 1970s, Yehoshefat Harkabi, who wrote the pioneering studies of Arab attitudes toward Israel, observed that “The Arabs can present their case in simplistic slogans. At most they have to try to conceal that their grievance, the redress of which in their version would be a matter of justice, is an unlimited grievance, which the opponent cannot redress to their liking and yet stay alive. Thus Israel’s reluctance to abide by their demands is represented by them as only capricious, whereas actually it is an existential imperative.” [Arab Strategies and Israel’s Response (New York: Free Press, 1977), 101.]
There are several corollaries to this position. “Justice” from the Arab point of view means the destruction of Israel, and because the “injustice” of the birth of Israel was of such a scale, all means can be used in order to undo it. According to their logic, the end justifies the means. For them, all means fair and foul, — including terror, — are acceptable.
Since the 1960s, and even before the founding of the PLO, this has been the Arab position. Now, the Palestinians and their advocates have given it new packaging, this time in the form of Israel Apartheid Week. After the failure of the Second Intifada [The Second Armed Uprising] and with Durban Conference which followed (2001), they have resorted to a sustained, global propaganda offensive. One consequence has been the spread of anti-Semitism and an assault on the civil rights of Jewish students on the American campus. They have opened a political war, but we must neutralize this challenge and prevail. We must study their tactics and defeat their strategy.
I wish all our readers good holidays, a happy Passover & Easter.
Faculty Forum 2013-03-28
- By SPME
- March 28, 2013
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.