Monday, December 30, 2013

Wrong on Both Counts: Academic Boycotts and Israel. By A. Jay Adler.

Wrong on Both Counts: Academic Boycotts and Israel. By A. Jay Adler. The Algemeiner, December 30, 2013.


In all these considerations we find the grounds for opposition in principle, with a clear and circumscribed exception, to academic boycotts. If one has no great interest in Israel, is even highly critical of Israel as a political actor, but retains a clear understanding of what academic freedom most profoundly means, then the argument in principle will serve and satisfy. But from the perspective of all who recognize the historicity of the Jewish people in Israel, who know the full history of Jewish willingness to compromise and accommodate competing claims, and who know, too, the contrary history of Arab rejectionism and rank anti-Semitism, who are not blinded by animus to Israel’s vibrant democracy, in contrast to the utter illiberalism surrounding it – for all such people, an argument in principle alone cannot be sufficient, is even a dereliction.
A boycott against Israeli academics and institutions is wrong not just because academic boycotts are very nearly always wrong, but because the argument for such a boycott applied to Israel is a moral outrage. While none actually argued in defense of South African apartheid – supported the philosophy or policy and upheld the moral character of the regime – free, good, and honest peoples all over the world recognize the nature of the Israeli state and the circumstances of its history and creation, and offer moral support against its foes. But it is in the nature now of those swept along by the kinds of political currents that so often rush over the intellectually fashionable not to recognize what it must mean that Israel, even beleaguered, has its true defenders among the democratic and free.
It is no matter of happenstance that Israel’s traducers have adopted, among a variety of slanderously false epithets, that of  “apartheid state.” They seek with characteristic dishonesty to tie Israel linguistically to that sole justifying historical precedent. Among the many deceptions embedded in the lie is the analogously false suggestion of any institutional nature to the separate treatment of Palestinians. It is, to the contrary, otherwise well known that the twenty percent minority Arab population of Israel is the freest Arab population in the Middle East, as free as any people in the world – free, too, to emigrate if they feel themselves persecuted.  In contrast, in the years after Israel’s re-establishment, nearly eight hundred thousand Jews fled Arab lands, leaving those lands, now, nearly absent of Jews, and it is the expressed intention of Palestinian Authority leadership – in contradistinction to another great lie, demographically refutable, of ethnic cleansing by Israel – that a Palestinian state would be, as the Nazi’s called it, Judenfrei.
The boldness of these lies, the magnitude of their departure from the truth and demonstrable reality, both stuns the imagination of Israelis, Jews, and all honest and informed people and serves, remarkably, as only the foundation for a swarm of monstrous lies. That where Palestinians do confront impediments to full autonomy, it is not within Israel, as an institutionally separated and oppressed population as was present in South Africa, but as a belligerent foreign population on disputed territories that has refused, amid a near century of anti-Jewish massacres, wars, and campaigns of terror, ever to make peace, by agreeing to the compromise and accommodation to competing claims that Israel has, for its part, numerous times offered. That the organized campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, with whose U.S. arm the ASA now allies in mutual support, has as its most well known founder Omar Barghouti, who is equally well known – in light of the ASA’s declaration to act in “solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom” – to have earned a masters degree in philosophy from Tel Aviv University. That Barghouti, far from seeking resolution to conflict, opposes a negotiated settlement to conflict and supports the elimination of Israel as a state.
The campaign of lies to which the American Studies Association has now allied itself in support still only begins with these examples. As the world’s current prevailing example of the infamous “big lie,” its provenance is the same, and now three American academic associations, of which the ASA is the largest, serve as purveyors of it. Influenced, in part, by theoretical constructs that have become, in application, completely untethered from reality, these academics add now not their scholarly contributions, but their measure of ill to the world. To counter this foolish contribution, this signal misguidance, it is no longer adequate to argue only from principle, however great we think that principle to be, that academic boycotts are wrong. It is necessary to argue firmly and clearly that an academic boycott of Israel is wrong. It is important to know and to state, without faltering, why.