The strangest thing about the concerted anti-Israeli terror assault that began in fall 2000 is that rather than leading Europeans to rethink their assumptions about Israel and the Palestinians, it touched off a bizarre orgy of Blaming the Victim that must be unique in history. The sight of babies being blown up in their strollers, teenagers being blown up while waiting in line at a disco, off-duty soldiers having their eyes gouged out and being dragged burning through a street by a mob, a pregnant mother and her four children being machine-gunned to death in a car—and so on and so on—none of this led the citizens of this enlightened continent to ponder whether their sympathy for the Palestinians had perhaps been exaggerated, their condemnation of Israel perhaps too automatic. Instead it somehow became the excuse and reopened the floodgates for a roiling, long-suppressed Jew-hatred.
Friday’s vote by Britain’s Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two Israeli universities is the latest installment. Once again the new anti-Semitism cloaked itself in high dudgeon and moral concern, with Birmingham University lecturers Sue Blackwell and Shereen Benjamin voicing their indignation at Israel as a “colonial apartheid state, more insidious than South Africa,” its universities as “repressing” academic freedom.
By now, though, the veneer of high-minded righteousness is starting to crack, the real face of the anti-Israeli campaign beginning to leer through. Just three years having passed since the Passover suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya that killed thirty, the 40,000-member AUT chose similar timing to convey its message. Its conference on Friday, held on the eve of Passover, rushed through the two motions for boycotts of Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University in a lightning “procedure” aimed at excluding Jewish members from participating.
And when its executive president Angela Roger cut short the session and denied opponents the right to reply, the AUT revealed as well the ugly totalitarian mindset that is never far behind when anti-Semitism starts to smirk.
The proceedings would not have been complete without a contribution by a classically complicitous Jew, Haifa University’s Dr. Ilan Pappe, who shows his appreciation for the country whose taxpayers employ him and grant him a platform by regularly calling for its dissolution into a “binational” entity where Jews would join the Kurds, Copts, Berbers, Sudanese blacks, and other beneficiaries of Muslim Arab benevolence. In a message that was distributed to all the members of the AUT executive, Pappe called on the organization to boycott his own university and said he was a victim of “restriction” and “harassment.”
Israel and Jewish groups responded to the AUT vote in rather generic terms. The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned its “deal[ing] with Israel, the only state in the Middle East where there is complete academic freedom for all segments of the population and political streams,” while observing that the AUT moralists don’t seem to find any notable academic abuses in such beacons of propriety as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Anti-Defamation League called the vote “a direct assault on academic freedom,” and Jonathan Spyer of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya accurately remarked that “the boycott should be seen as part of a broader strategy toward the delegitimization of Israel.” Danny Stone of the Union of Jewish Students alluded to the mob violence just beneath the surface of the AUT’s thinly veiled “proceeding,” noting that “whenever there have been boycott motions on campus, they’ve been accompanied by anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish students.”
The statements, however, could have focused more on the absurdity of the AUT’s specific charges. Its allegation that Haifa University restricts the freedom of staff members who are critical of the government should come as a surprise to its staff members—who include numerous Arab academics—of both the Left and Right who are rather vigorously critical of Israeli policies from various perspectives in ways that, if they were academics in any of Israel’s neighboring countries, would earn them a date with the torturer in rat-infested prisons. The accusation seems to have been hastily concocted from the plaints of Pappe, who was caught in a controversy a few years ago when Haifa U. disqualified on grounds of “substantive defects” an MA thesis by his student, Teddy Katz, alleging an Israeli massacre in 1948—a claim Katz later fully retracted in court.
As for Bar-Ilan University, the gripe seems to be that this institution has a campus in the town of Ariel in Samaria. A part of the original Palestine Mandate that was recaptured by Israel in a war of survival in 1967, Samaria has a status as “administered”—i.e., its ultimate disposition to be worked out in negotiations—with no stipulation by any responsible body that it needs to be eternally Judenrein as the Jew-unfriendly AUT would so fervently wish.
Indeed, Blackwell, one of the main initiators of the boycott, was not shy about her true sympathies—never impaired by any deed of Palestinian savagery no matter how horrific—when before the session she stood outside the conference building in Eastbourne draped in a Palestine flag. “She was joined,” the Jerusalem Post reports, “by keffiyeh-clad activists from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who handed out leaflets branding Zionism as a ‘racist ideology’ and accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’”—and whose organization calls for a boycott of Israeli goods, the freeing of convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti, and the realization of the Israel-dissolving “right of return.”
Asked by the Post for her position on Palestinian terror, Blackwell replied: “I dispute the premises of that question. I’m for free debate and free information, and what I find sad is that when you try to talk about Palestine, you come up against a barrage of disinformation and lies.” The implication of this postmodern doublespeak seems to be that the deaths of 1400 real Israelis in real terror attacks are just a subjective construct, strictly in the eye of the beholder.
Putting it all together with the timing of the AUT vote on the eve of a Jewish holiday and the denial of a right of reply to opponents, it starts to smell like bloodlust.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem whose work has appeared in many Israeli, Jewish, and political publications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.