The hypocrisy of those who seek to boycott Israel
January 24, 2020
(JNS)—The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions zealots targeted yet another academic institution to promote their hate-filled agenda against the Jewish state.
It began in August 2019, when a group of professors within the “Foundations of Political Theory” section of the American Political Science Association proposed a resolution for an academic boycott and censoring of Israel. Just a few weeks later, the resolution was struck down at the APSA’s annual conference.
In fact, it never made it to a vote and was deemed a “colossal defeat.” Social-media reports claimed that more than 120 conference attendees participated in a discussion on the resolution, with a majority opposed to it.
The self-proclaimed “academics” behind the boycott described their proposal as a righteous defense of academic freedom, yet the resolution proposed ending the freedoms of academics from Israel. These professors attempted to justify this hypocrisy with an FAQ sheet arguing that “the Israeli state consistently and brutally denies academic freedom to Palestinians,” and that “the colonization of Palestine is the silencing of Palestinian scholarly contributions to knowledge.”
The Academic Engagement Network, an organization dedicated to promoting free expression on campus and combating anti-Israel bias, rebutted this claim in a letter opposing the resolution. The letter argued that the BDS supporters ignored “how the Palestinian Authority and Hamas routinely infringe upon the academic rights of students and scholars on Palestinian campuses.” They called out the resolution’s failure to mention that “academic inquiry on Gazan and West Bank campuses is severely restricted by intimidation, harassment and even violence perpetrated by activists and groups linked to terrorist organizations that are often allowed to operate with impunity on campuses.”
AEN executive director Miriam Elman helped draft the letter, arguing that the resolution “inequitably discriminates against and punishes individual Israeli scholars and students on the basis of their nationality and the policies of their government.” Elman is one of the only professors I have had so far at Syracuse University who has not conflated her politics with her teaching. And she is the only faculty member at our school with enough chutzpah to stand up for Jewish students and call out campus bias whenever the administration fails to do so.
Elman has experienced firsthand the hypocrisy of BDS “academics.” In the name of free speech, a confederacy of leftist professors demanded a retraction of a special journal issue she contributed to that questioned the anti-Israel orthodoxies corrupting Middle Eastern studies in modern academia. The professors launched a smear campaign against Elman and her co-contributors, even demanding that the journal editors resign.
The proponents of the APSA resolution repeatedly emphasized that their boycott would only target “institutions, not individuals,” adding that they do not intend to harm anybody’s “individual career.” However, a tweetstorm by the leader of the effort, McGill Professor William Clare Roberts, shows otherwise.
“Making it harder to have a normal academic career at an Israeli university seems like a good thing,” he tweeted. “It *should* be hard for a lawyer to have a normal career in Trump’s Justice Department. Same goes for an academic in the Israeli system.”
Roberts tries to justify destroying lives and careers with twisted rhetoric that paints his cause as an undeniable social good. He equates APSA boycotting Israel to African-Americans boycotting Southern white merchants during the civil-rights movement. The analogy was also used in the BDS resolution’s FAQ sheet, equating Israeli academics harmed by an academic boycott to “bus drivers in Montgomery, Alabama” who felt “alienated or upset by black folks boycotting their segregated buses.”
The APSA resolution ratchets up the rhetoric—going from targeting academics to justifying violence against Israelis, calling it “the exercise of the internationally recognized right of self-defense by a people facing eliminatory colonial and military violence.” It also suggests that the internationally recognized terrorist organization, Hamas, has a right to fire rockets at Israel.
To bolster the call for violence, the resolution accuses Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians. This outrageous, inflammatory claim completely ignores demographic data showing a rapid increase in the Palestinian population in Gaza and in the West Bank, coupled with a declining mortality rate. Also contradicting the “genocide” claim are U.N. reports that demonstrate the increase of youth population in the Palestinian territories during the past 20 years. In fact, this “reflects the highest increase in the Arab countries,” and Palestinian fertility rate remains “one of the highest in the Arab region.”
The “BS” in the BDS movement is that it cares anything about furthering academic freedom and nonviolence. The mental gymnastics of this agenda is simply Orwellian: Censorship is free speech, and violence is justified. Perhaps the BDS movement should change its motto to “Ignorance is strength.”
CAMERA Fellow Justine Murray is a sophomore at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Heritage Florida Jewish News.