Saturday, September 05, 2009
Jerusalem Post Columnist calls for Sanctions against Ben Gurion University as answer to its Academic Fifth Column
Think Again: Aiding the destroyers among us
Sep. 3, 2009
Jonathan Rosenblum , THE JERUSALEM POST
The Swedish government refused to condemn a totally unsupported
article in the country's largest-circulation newspaper alleging that
Israel routinely kidnaps and murders Palestinians to harvest their
organs. To comment, said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, would
be a violation of the country's principles of free speech.
Those who called for donors to withhold giving to Ben-Gurion
University after BGU Professor Neve Gordon penned an op-ed in the Los
Angeles Times, in which he advocated an international boycott of
Israel, were accused of violating academic freedom.
Those responses share a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning
of freedom of speech and academic freedom. Just because the content
of speech is legal does not make it proper or immunize it from
criticism. I have the right to express my thoughts. But I do not have
a right to have The Jerusalem Post publish them, or to demand that it
not publish letters ridiculing its "haredi apologist."
Freedom of the press and speech protect Aftonbladet from sanctions by
the Swedish government. But the Swedish government has its own
interests - or so one would have hoped - in disassociating Sweden
from ancient anti-Semitic stereotypes, as the Swedish ambassador to
Israel rightly recognized. Had a major Swedish paper printed anything
offensive to Muslims of a violent bent, the government would have
fallen over itself to express its regrets. And while an academic has
the right to his opinions, private donors who find his views or
research repugnant are equally entitled not to support that research.
Given the fungibility of money, that might mean withholding support
from the university that employs them.
Nor do professors' statements become immune to criticism because they
are uttered in a classroom. Professors, like everyone else, should
expect to have their work evaluated. Just as parents and students
have an interest in knowing which professors have a tendency to get
too friendly with female students, so do they have a right to form
judgments about which professors are using their classrooms for
political indoctrination, not education.
GROUPS LIKE Campus Watch and IsraCampus.org.il foster such informed
judgments by publicizing both the published utterances and classroom
statements of university lecturers.
In general, it would be foolish to refrain from contributing to a
university based on the views of one faculty member. Doing so would
eliminate every potential recipient.
But Neve Gordon is not a solitary rogue professor on the BGU campus.
The BGU Department of Politics and Government, which he chairs, fits
the description of former Minister of Education Amnon Rubinstein of
academic departments in Israel in which no traditional Zionist could
be appointed. Before he published his Los Angeles Times piece, Gordon
shared his message with his department colleagues. According to
Professor Fred Lazin, there was a "unanimous decision not to let him
step down [as chairman]."
BGU President Rikva Carmi professed to be "shocked" by Gordon's
boycott call. But she has in the past defended him as a "serious and
distinguished researcher into human rights," and lashed out at
academic monitors of his output, which appears regularly on
anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial sites and Aljazeera.com, as "Kahanists."
Nor did Gordon's boycott call come out of the blue. For years he has
described Israel as an "apartheid state." He once joined 250
International Solidarity Movement members serving as a human shield
in Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound, where he was photographed
holding hands aloft with Arafat and quoted expressing doubts about
the latter's involvement in terrorism.
Gordon is the last person entitled to hide behind the cover of free
speech and academic freedom. He once labeled his former army
commander Aviv Kochavi a "war criminal," forcing Kochavi to forgo
graduate studies in England for fear of prosecution. Gordon filed a
libel suit against Haifa University Professor Steven Plaut over the
latter's sharp criticism of his ISM escapades and of Ha'aretz's
choice of Gordon to write an effusive review of Norman Finkelstein's
The Holocaust Industry, which alleges, inter alia, that the number of
those murdered in the Holocaust is greatly exaggerated. Before
filing, Gordon then went forum-shopping to Nazareth, where neither he
nor Plaut live, in search of a suitably sympathetic Arab judge.
ISRAELI AND Jewish Israel-bashers constitute a major, perhaps
insuperable, obstacle to any attempt to defend Israel in the court of
world opinion. Anyone attempting to defend Israel abroad will
inevitably be confronted with some statement characterizing Israel as
a racist, apartheid state, perpetrating war crimes against the
Palestinians, from the mouth of an Israeli academic or journalist.
The fact that the source is Jewish or Israeli is assumed to provide
Sadly, many Jews who care deeply about Israel's existence help fund
its delegitimization. The New Israel Fund raises millions of dollars
annually from American Jews. Donors are told that New Israel Fund
supports Israel as a Jewish state and opposes the "right of return"
for Palestinian refugees, and that the NIF does not fund
organizations that engage in propaganda or support boycotts of Israel.
None of these claims are true, as two recent studies of NIF grantees
prepared by the Center for Near East Policy Research demonstrate. The
Coalition of Women for Peace recently sponsored a speech by Naomi
Klein in support of the movement for boycott, divestment and
sanctions (BSD) against Israel. Six NIF grant recipients - including
CPW, Mossawa, and Machsom Watch - petitioned the Norwegian government
for sanctions against Israel.
Ittijah, an umbrella group of Israel Arab NGO's, issued a statement
prior to its attendance at Durban II in Geneva in which it charged
that "the Jewish character of the state of Israel contradicts
international law" and referred to the "racist character" of the
State. The draft constitution prepared for Israel by Adalah, the
Legal Center for Minority Arab Rights in Israel, another NIF grantee,
calls for Israel to recognize responsibility for the Nakba of its
creation and to recognize "the right of return." Adalah participated
actively in the preparations for the UN sponsored Israel-bashing fest
in Durban and in the drafting of the conference resolutions.
The director until recently of I'lam - the Media Center for Arab
Palestinians in Israel, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi was one of the
signatories of the Haifa Declaration calling for the negation of
Israel's Jewish character. She supports Iran's quest for nuclear
weapons and has participated in Israel Apartheid week activities in
the United States. The organization's Empowerment Coordinator calls
for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and its
director of International Relations describes Hamas as "a genuinely
emancipatory liberation and resistance movement."
Perhaps the best indicator of the NIF's real agenda was unwittingly
supplied by a 2001 letter to The Jerusalem Post. Evalyn Segal
recounted how she was a "devout Zionist" until she made the "haj" to
Israel on a 1989 NIF study tour and had her eyes opened to the
"racist contempt of the Israel government . . . towards the
Palestinians [and] how the founders of Zionism schemed from the start
to take over, by any means necessary, the whole of Palestine and to
cleanse it of Palestinians."
The prophet Isaiah (49:17) long ago foresaw that "your ruiners and
destroyers will come from amongst you." But generous American Jews,
committed to Israel's existence, should not be supporting the