The boycott and Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome

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Let us revel this morning in our own righteousness, our self-evident immunity from reproach, our moral stain-repellence, our unerring instinct for the just, our irresistible compulsion to right wrongs and raise the downtrodden.

Let’s, just for the moment, be British leftists.

Where it comes to the Palestine issue, the prevailing wind from the British left is particularly hard to take – even for those who, in fact, agree with most of what they believe.

The reason has to do with the approach. It’s the unstated snort of a notion that they can succeed where the Palestinians have failed, in winning an end to the occupation and establishing an independent Palestine.

There’s something quietly Kipling about this, something understatedly White Man’s Burden about this, something subtly racist about this.

Oh, yes, there it is again. Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome.

Who, after all, is the real hero of the struggle for Palestinian rights?

Paul Mackney, apparently. Mackney is secretary-general of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), the largest university and college lecturers’ union in Britain.

On Monday, NATFHE approved a resolution recommending that its 67,000 members personally boycott all Israeli professors, lecturers, universities and colleges, unless they publicly forswear Israel’s “apartheid policies” in the territories.

Mackney complained at the weekend that he had received a floodtide of e-mails seeking “to ‘educate’ me on the foolishness of our stance in support of the rights of Palestinians.”

But Mackney vowed not to bend to pleas for academic freedom for Israelis, stating that “academic freedom in Palestine is a hollow joke,” and noting that more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed since September 2000, the unemployment rate was higher among Palestinians and 185 Palestinian schools have been shelled or fired at, compared to one Israeli school.

“In the face of such injustice,” he said, “Palestinian civil society, including the universities, needs support and solidarity as never before, and I will not be bullied into silence.”

Meanwhile, the struggle for the rights of certain Israelis also has a Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome ring to it. Take a recent Amnesty U.K. appeal to protest over reports that Microsoft aided Israel in investigating whether Vanunu may have violated the terms of his parole.

Kate Allen, U.K. director of Amnesty International, writing in the British Observer on Sunday, said that “Amnesty is concerned about its co-operation with the Israeli authorities in prosecuting the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for communicating with foreign journalists.”

Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, served more than 18 years in prison for divulging secrets of the nuclear weaponry program to the British news media. He was released on condition that he remain in Israel and refrain from speaking to foreigners.

“Microsoft is reported to have complied with government demands for his computer records, which could lead to him being sent back to prison,” Allen wrote.

Save us, Britons. Save us from ourselves.

The Mandate never dies. It only changes uniform.

The boycott and Lawrence of Arabia Syndrome

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