AUT boycott overturned

by Chris Bertram on May 26, 2005

The AUT boycott of Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities in Israel was overturned at today’s special meeting of AUT council. BBC report here.

{ 49 comments }

1

Michael Mouse 05.26.05 at 12:49 pm

Well, there was a proper debate about it this time, thankfully. Anyone who wasn’t informed about the import of the decision was, IMO, wilfully ignorant.

And this time when the chair started stumbling down the same stupid vote-without-debate path she was stopped!

2

abb1 05.26.05 at 12:59 pm

Alleluia! Finally a victory for all mankind. Triumph of Good over Evil. Praise the Lord, brother, praise the Lord.

3

Kieran Healy 05.26.05 at 1:11 pm

I liked this bit:

Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer at Birmingham University and a leading pro-boycott activist, had predicted a “stitch-up” by opponents. She said: “The struggle goes on. This is the end of the beginning.

“We are not surprised. We saw people who did not come to earlier meetings there and we knew what the outcome would be. We won the moral argument. They just won the vote.”

Yes, that is the trouble with voting, eh? “People who did not come to the earlier meetings.” Like they wandered in off the street or something.

This also reminds me of two relevant quotes: (1) Irish rugby coach Mick Doyle’s classic remark, “Well, we won the first half.” (2) An old cartoon from Latin America where the revolutionary guerilla leader says “We have the support of the silent majority.” A bystander says “Why all the threatening behavior then?” “That is to keep the majority silent,” he replies.

4

Michael Mouse 05.26.05 at 1:24 pm

Sue Blackwell also said – on Radio 4 at about 6.20 BST – that overturning the boycott was the result of a “well-funded Jewish lobby”.

5

Chris 05.26.05 at 2:04 pm

Yes, I’m upset about that. I was offered a large sum of money for proposing the anti-boycott motion to my AUT local association, and the cheque has still not arrived ….

6

Luc 05.26.05 at 2:25 pm

You should send your invoice to:

AJC Anti-Boycott Fund, 165 East 56th Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10022.

They had $10.000, so there should be a bit left for a poor UK professor.

http://www.ajc.org/InTheMedia/PressReleases.asp?did=1612

No reason to get upset so soon.

7

abb1 05.26.05 at 2:27 pm

Well, Chris, IIRC, in your very first post on this subject – weren’t you predicting (correctly) a massive campaign to smear British academics as anti-Semites? Wasn’t it originally one of your arguments against the boycott? And isn’t it true that well-funded pro-right-wing-Israeli groups like the ADL (‘Jewish lobby’ is a poor choice of words, of course) organize these campaigns? Q.E.D.

8

ab 05.26.05 at 3:10 pm

It’s that rare thing: the AUT has done something sensible (and be it just to overturn their earlier stupidity).

But seriously, there are so many problems in UK higher education and the only thing that happens at the AUT (and gets the press going) is this stupid boycott business.

It’s further proof that a PhD doesn’t make you any wiser.

9

Chris Williams 05.26.05 at 3:59 pm

I’m happy – I had a tenner on it.

On the other hand, last time I checked I was as goy as you get (save only that I support Spurs). But now Sue Blackwell has decided I’m Jewish. Shome mishtake shurely.

If you’ve not yet done so, I suggest you read the Engage article:
http://liberoblog.com/2005/05/22/sue-blackwell-explains-her-defeat-with-antisemitic-narrative/
which explains precisely the relationship between Engage and the ‘well-funded Zionist lobby’.

As for AUT and higher education, there’s quite a lot going on, it’s just hardly any of it makes the press.

10

Jonathan Edelstein 05.26.05 at 4:01 pm

And isn’t it true that well-funded pro-right-wing-Israeli groups like the ADL (‘Jewish lobby’ is a poor choice of words, of course) organize these campaigns?

Well, at least one of the people who organized the anti-boycott effort has complained about the failure of Jewish organizations to get involved (scroll down to the bottom of the post; I do not endorse the author’s statements re antisemitism).

Chris, your check is in the mail, but the Elders of Zion just made some budget cuts, so it might not be what you hoped. Please address all inquiries to the court of rabbinical arbitration in Gush Katif.

11

Jonathan Edelstein 05.26.05 at 4:11 pm

BTW, when I said “Chris” in the comment above, I meant Bertram and not Williams. My forfeit to the latter will be paid in full forthwith.

12

Chris Williams 05.26.05 at 4:20 pm

NB – all confused readers, and those seething at the venality of British trade unionists, might wish to know that Jonathan’s cheque regarding the bet isn’t actually going to be paid to me, but to a charity called Salt of the Earth. Had the boycott stood, my tenner would have gone to Oxfam.

13

Luc 05.26.05 at 9:51 pm

After this bit of smuggness of gleeful winners and sore loosers, I thought let’s read what the poor mans MEMRI aka haaretz has to say about it.
They stayed rather factual.

But to this –
An old cartoon from Latin America where the revolutionary guerilla leader says “We have the support of the silent majority.” A bystander says “Why all the threatening behavior then?” “That is to keep the majority silent,” he replies.

There is this rather telling article:
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/581092.html

About how those educated and democratic law students grow up to use the law to keep the majority in the occupied territories silent.

A true apartheid system of two systems of law for two different people. The ugly one nicely studied, and the result published in bookform by the University of California Press so it is kosher for this audience.

You can argue all you want about whether a boycott is effective or counter productive.

But I’ll assert here that you can’t build a system of law without the cooperation and complicity of academia.

Anyway, water under the bridge and all of that.
But the issue won’t go away.

14

Hektor Bim 05.26.05 at 10:15 pm

Well, it’s nice to see it overturned. And it is also nice to see the true colors of the supporters too: moral posturing and the “Jewish lobby”. How nice.

15

Noah 05.26.05 at 11:34 pm

Phew, finally it is over and I can get a good night’s sleep. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Anything going on in Darfur or Tibet, or Chechnya, lately?

16

bi 05.27.05 at 1:53 am

Naoh: Wow, you lose sleep over _this_? Anyway, I was going to ask about Gitmo and Uzbekistan, but sleep is more important.

Chris: What’s this Salt of the Earth and what does it do? :)

17

Chris Williams 05.27.05 at 3:09 am

18

lakelobos 05.27.05 at 4:39 am

Luc,
I don’t mind disagreeing with you, but I am sick and tired of being called a Nazi and an Apartheid practitioner by Europeans and other well-behaved Honkeys.

People such as Sue Blackwell were once called George Wallace, Jerry Falwell, Oswald Mosley and Pieter Botha. Such people should scare us rather than entertain us.

How about finding somebody new to hate? For a millennium hating Jews was in vogue – now you should start a new hate trend; it will do you a lot of good. I am sure your merry soul will find many worthy targets. After all, we do have a long list of candidates: Gays, very popular with your friend Frist, Gypsies, always popular with Sue’s continental friends, everyday Muslims, again popular with Sue’s friends as long as they are not Palestinians, etc.

19

Chris Williams 05.27.05 at 5:04 am

This isn’t driven primarily by hate.

In fact, the current fad for Palestinian nationalism is the latest in a long line of enthusiasms by the British left for the ‘progressive nationalism’ of the underdog. Poland, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Palestine . . .

Utter blind alleys, the lot of them. But that’s the pattern it fits into.

20

Ray 05.27.05 at 5:48 am

“I am sick and tired of being called a Nazi … People such as Sue Blackwell were once called … Oswald Mosley”

21

abb1 05.27.05 at 6:34 am

…enthusiasms by the British left for the ‘progressive nationalism’ of the underdog. Poland, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Palestine . . .

C’mon, how’s Palestinian nationalism ‘progressive’? Ever heard of Hamas?

Do we really need to psychoanalyze this. How come 38-year-long military occupation and ethnic cleasning isn’t a good enough explanation for empathy here – from the left, right, center; any normal human being for that matter?

Maybe you should try psychoanalyzing lakelobos&Co instead.

22

Mark Engleson 05.27.05 at 7:30 am

As for the Jewish lobby in England: I read a report about the rise of Star Wars and culture, and England has has about 50% more adherents of the fictional Jedi religion than it does Jews. You have a country of 70 million or so, and about 200,000 Jews. Roughly .003% of your population. And Jewish identity is much less prominent among that population, than in, say, America – Jews in England have taken on, in great numbers, Anglicized surnames.

23

Anthony 05.27.05 at 8:17 am

As someone who donated a small amount of money to Engage to help fund their website, I’m surprised to find I am part of a large well-funded Zionist lobby. Do I get a T-shirt or a certificate?

I’m a secular atheist, ex C of E, who wants Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders and who wants Palestine to become a democratic state with peaceful relations with all of its neighbours.

If that qualifies me as a Zionist then, so be it.

24

Chris Williams 05.27.05 at 8:39 am

Personally, I don’t think that _any_ nationalism is progressive. I know that this puts me in a very small minoriry at this time, but I think that what’s left of history will prove me right one day.

Palestinian nationalism isn’t progressive – but nor was Hungarian nationalism in 1850, or Italian nationalism in 1858, or Israel nationalism in 1948, and the British left saw them all as fine things to support. Oh, the irony.

25

SoCalJustice 05.27.05 at 8:59 am

abb1,

C’mon, how’s Palestinian nationalism ‘progressive’? Ever heard of Hamas?

I think that’s the best question I’ve ever seen you pose. (Not that you’ll take any solace.)

Now, if you would be so kind, tell that to Sue Blackwell who’s labo(u)ring under that very illusion.

How come 38-year-long military occupation and ethnic cleasning isn’t a good enough explanation for empathy here – from the left, right, center; any normal human being for that matter?

So being against the boycott, in your mind, means someone is not empathetic? Right. I think most (if not all) anti-boycott people who’ve posted on this website, at least, are generally against the occupation and looking forward to the day it ends.

But since you brought up Hamas, perhaps they’re the chief reason there’s not as much empathy as you’d prefer.

Here’s the leader of Hamas just yesterday:

“Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal has said that the Palestinian resistance group will not lay down its arms and renounce its fight against Israel until Israel withdraws from occupied Palestinian lands.”

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/2D23A694-B0FE-41B2-8BF3-46F9823BC70B.htm

Hmm, I wonder what Mr. Mashaal’s thoughts are on the “’67 Borders” …

26

Robert McDougall 05.27.05 at 9:16 am

. . . how’s Palestinian nationalism ‘progressive’? Ever heard of Hamas?

Officially, Hamas are not Palestinian nationalists. As good Islamists, they abjure nationalism as shirk.

27

SoCalJustice 05.27.05 at 9:27 am

Here’s what Hamas has to say about nationalism:

Article Twelve: Hamas in Palestine, Its Views on Homeland and Nationalism
Hamas regards Nationalism (Wataniyya) as part and parcel of the religious faith. Nothing is loftier or deeper in Nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims. And this becomes an individual duty binding on every Muslim man and woman; a woman must go out and fight the enemy even without her husband’s authorization, and a slave without his masters’ permission. This [principle] does not exist under any other regime, and it is a truth not to be questioned. While other nationalisms consist of material, human and territorial considerations, the nationality of Hamas also carries, in addition to all those, the all important divine factors which lend to it its spirit and life; so much so that it connects with the origin of the spirit and the source of life and raises in the skies of the Homeland the Banner of the Lord, thus inexorably connecting earth with Heaven. When Moses came and threw his baton, sorcery and sorcerers became futile.

http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html

28

Russkie 05.27.05 at 9:40 am

How come 38-year-long military occupation and ethnic cleasning isn’t a good enough explanation for empathy here – from the left, right, center; any normal human being for that matter?

Maybe because people like you refuse to discuss it in a manner that doesn’t assume all of your most extreme anti-zionist prejudices.

29

abb1 05.27.05 at 10:06 am

I think most (if not all) anti-boycott people who’ve posted on this website, at least, are generally against the occupation and looking forward to the day it ends.

I don’t doubt it for a second. I was responding to specific lakelobos/Chris Williams exchange. You can find it on this page.

Russkie, I am neither anti-Zionist nor pro-Zionist. There are many forms of Zionism. Most of them don’t entail expansionism via occupation and ethnic cleansing. Some of them don’t even entail the state of Israel.

30

Jonathan Edelstein 05.27.05 at 10:21 am

Luc:

But I’ll assert here that you can’t build a system of law without the cooperation and complicity of academia.

Or, more precisely, without the cooperation of lawyers trained by academics – who, in Israel’s case, also trained every civil rights lawyer in the country. If academe is to take the blame for the one, it must also receive credit for the other.

Of course, I’d argue that academia deserves neither blame nor credit. Education is a tool given by the educator to the student, but its use is under the student’s control. Sometimes individual professors might inspire their students ideologically, but educational systems or universities as such rarely do. Many of my law professors would no doubt be dismayed if they were held responsible for my opinions on the law or the uses to which I’ve put my legal training.

I think you’re seriously overstating the role of academia as an institution, as opposed to particular academics – who, of course, may be held fully responsible for their own virtues or sins.

Abb1:

How come 38-year-long military occupation and ethnic cleasning isn’t a good enough explanation for empathy

If I wanted to be pissy, I could say the same thing about attempted genocide and suicide bombings. What I’ll say instead is that empathy for group X isn’t the same thing as unconditional support for X’s goals or the tactics it chooses to use.

I like to think I have empathy for Palestinians. I’ve known many of them personally, heard their stories over coffee and sympathize with their goal of freedom and statehood. That doesn’t mean that I’ll support everything they do or everything done in their name, or that I agree with their most extreme positions. Needless to say, the same goes for Israelis, for whom I also have empathy.

31

Robert McDougall 05.27.05 at 10:26 am

socaljustice:

Good find, and a nice piece of doubletalk (by Hamas of course not you). Hamas has found a way to embrace the word wataniyya (nationalism); but when you look at the content, it’s the good old jihad for the Umma, i.e. not nationalism at all.

And then again whatever they say, in practical terms their political standing in Palestine depends very much on their serving as a vehicle for Palestinian nationalism.

32

Jonathan Edelstein 05.27.05 at 10:44 am

Hamas has found a way to embrace the word wataniyya (nationalism); but when you look at the content, it’s the good old jihad for the Umma, i.e. not nationalism at all.

Their most recent statement of Palestinian goals also somewhat conflates the two – Hamas describes Palestinians as part of the umma, but endorses separate statehood as a national objective (compare items 1 and 2 of the “fixed points” with items 6 and 8).

33

abb1 05.27.05 at 11:20 am

Well, Jonathan, with all other things being equal, I think it would be fair to cut some slack to one side for being oppressed indigenous population and impugn the other for being, well, kinda the opposite.

I know, there are many good sophisms in circulation to blur this distinction, but for less sophisticated souls (like this Sue Blackwell person) they just don’t do much, I am afraid. Well, I take it back: they do do something: they annoy and inflame.

34

JB 05.27.05 at 11:40 am

I assume by “oppressed indigenous population” you meant the Israelis being blown up?

35

Jonathan Edelstein 05.27.05 at 11:44 am

Well, Jonathan, with all other things being equal, I think it would be fair to cut some slack to one side for being oppressed indigenous population and impugn the other for being, well, kinda the opposite.

Agreed. But again, “cutting some slack” doesn’t mean unconditional support for the goals and tactics of the first group, or unconditional rejection for those of the second. It’s possible to sympathize with the Palestinians and oppose the boycott, or to sympathize with Israel and condemn the occupation. I do both.

I know, there are many good sophisms in circulation to blur this distinction, but for less sophisticated souls (like this Sue Blackwell person) they just don’t do much, I am afraid. Well, I take it back: they do do something: they annoy and inflame.

As opposed to calling Israel an “illegitimate state,” comparing it to Nazi Germany and complaining about the Jewish lobby, which I suppose are merely intended to educate and inform.

36

abb1 05.27.05 at 11:53 am

Jonathan, agreed.

37

Jonathan Edelstein 05.27.05 at 7:39 pm

BTW, for those interested in pursuing political-economic activism in a way that expresses support rather than delegitimization, here’s a site where you can buy Palestinian products online.

38

Noah 05.27.05 at 11:23 pm

“It’s possible to sympathize with the Palestinians and oppose the boycott, or to sympathize with Israel and condemn the occupation. I do both.”

Jonathon, respectfully, please don’t present yourself as being neutral, re. the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. You are an advocate for Israel.

39

Chris 05.28.05 at 3:00 am

The truth or falsity of Jonathan’s statement as quoted by Noah is, of course, quite independent of whether Jonathan is properly described as neutral or not. And, in fact, I think that what is said in that statement is both true and important.

40

Jonathan Edelstein 05.28.05 at 7:36 am

I don’t recall ever claiming to be “neutral” with respect to this issue. Seeing some merit in both causes isn’t the same thing.

41

Chris Williams 05.28.05 at 9:03 am

If you’re in Blighty, you can buy fine olive oil from these people:
http://zaytoun.org/
Alas for the eliminationists on both sides, it’s imported with the co-operation of Israeli and Palestinian fair-trade organistions.

42

Noah 05.28.05 at 5:04 pm

“I don’t recall ever claiming to be “neutral” with respect to this issue. Seeing some merit in both causes isn’t the same thing.”

Well this is exactly what I mean. Clearly you see MORE merit in the Israeli side of things or you wouldn’t spend so much time and effort defending Isreal on various blogs. Still you write neutrally, “Seeing some merit in both causes isn’t the same thing.”

43

lakelobos 05.29.05 at 4:55 am

Abb1,
Clarification: with respect to “ethnic cleansing:” Israel is not the Hebrew word for Rwanda and Palestinians is not Arabic for American Natives.

Tell your doctor to lower your Hatium dosage from 100mg to just 50mg a day. The foaming at the mouth will still be nice and visible.

44

abb1 05.29.05 at 5:44 am

Oh, btw,
…comparing it to Nazi Germany…

what’s the problem with comparing Israel (or anything else for that matter) to to Nazi Germany? This is just silly. Read this, for example: Revisionist Zionism, from Wikipedia:

Comparing Revisionist Zionism to “Nazi and fascist parties”, the letter, signed by individuals including Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook began:

Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections… (source: NY Times, December 4, 1948).

If Albert Einstein could compare the philosophy of what later became known as ‘Likud’ with Nazism in 1948, why should it be taboo for Sue Blackwell or anyone else in 2005?

45

russkie 05.29.05 at 10:43 am

abb1, if the Einstein quote turned out to be fabricated bs, would you do some rethinking maybe?

46

j 05.29.05 at 11:01 am

“If Albert Einstein could compare the philosophy of what later became known as ‘Likud’ with Nazism in 1948, why should it be taboo for Sue Blackwell or anyone else in 2005?”

Because they were referring to a right wing splinter group at the time that was excoriated and disacowed by the democratic government of Israel and the Zionist establishment both within Israel and without. Indeed if you recall Ben Gurion ordered Rabin to fire on and sink the Altalena to ensure the extremists did not succeed. It took another 25 years in the wilderness before they did a Sinn Fein and then ironically Begin conceded far more to the Arab world than any Left Wing Mapai walla ever did!!

47

Jonathan Edelstein 05.29.05 at 11:07 am

Abb1:

If Albert Einstein could compare the philosophy of what later became known as ‘Likud’ with Nazism in 1948, why should it be taboo for Sue Blackwell or anyone else in 2005?

To begin with, few of the Nazi comparisons I’ve noticed lately (and certainly not this one) are specifically directed at Likud.

Second, the Herut of 1948 and the Likud of today are two different parties. Describing Herut as “what later became known as ‘Likud’” is a bit like calling the Republicans “the party of Lincoln.” Herut was one of the parties that joined together to form the Likud, but the modern party’s electoral success was built on Mizrahi social grievances rather than Revisionist principles. Today, the old-guard Herutniks are a relatively minor presence within the Likud, with most of the leadership being made up of Mizrahim, Druze and “princes” (sons of former party leaders). Some of the “princes,” like Olmert, have moved toward the center; the Mizrahim and Druze tend to be right-wing but not Revisionist. Not to mention that the party’s platforms and practical policies are different from those of the classic Herut (which, if I recall correctly, wanted to expel all Arab citizens and annex the entire Transjordan).

Describing the Likud of 2005 as a Revisionist party is no more accurate than describing Avoda as a Labor Zionist party. The last real Labor Zionist party was Am Ehad, which has merged with Avoda but seems likely to fail in its bid to take over the party from within. Likewise, the hard-core Revisionist faction of the Likud – Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit (“Jewish Leadership”) movement – has had very little success in winning seats in the Knesset or in party institutions. If you want to find “real” Revisionist parties in Israel, the place to look is the National Union or Michael Kleiner’s modern Herut. Those parties, which I would not hesitate to describe as fascist, are the analogues to the Herut of 1948; the modern Likud isn’t.

Third, the analogy between Revisionism and Nazism exists mainly in a philosophical sense, in that both were outgrowths of Volkist thought in the late 19th-century German-speaking world. (The roots of Zionism as such are as much in Habsburg liberal nationalism as in Volkism, but I’d certainly agree that Revisionism is Volkist.) One could argue in the same sense, however, that Maoism and social democracy are both outgrowths of Marxist thought, and I think it’s fairly obvious that the excesses of the one have little bearing on the merits of the other.

And besides, the term “Nazi” today is rarely used in a philosophical sense; instead, it is used to describe a certain type of official policy. If “Nazi” were shorthand for Volkist nationalism, it would be applied to a great many countries that are governed by such ideology. In practice, however, it has been applied to genocidal regimes, some of which were not ethnonationalist and therefore not remotely “Nazi” in philosophical terms. Given that “Nazi” has acquired these connotations, use of the term in connection with Israel will be taken as an accusation of genocide whether or not it was meant as such. Moreover, given that “Nazi” has also become a shorthand (whether rightly or wrongly) for the ultimate in human evil, I wouldn’t make Nazi analogies lightly with respect to any country.

Noah:

Clearly you see MORE merit in the Israeli side of things or you wouldn’t spend so much time and effort defending Isreal on various blogs.

Sure. I’m a self-declared Zionist (declared on CT among other places), I have a self-declared ideological and emotional identification with Israel, and I don’t like seeing it unfairly maligned. (I suppose arguing that Israel isn’t Nazi Germany is “defending” it in a sense.)

At the same time, I oppose many policies of the Israeli state, including the occupation, and I have sympathy for Palestinian nationhood. None of these things make me “neutral” either in the sense of indifference or ideological balance, and when I say so, I’m saying what I mean rather than “writing neutrally” or trying to present a front of “neutrality.” Not to mention that my comments in this thread re the Palestinians were a specific response to Abb1’s comment on empathy rather than a gratuitous remark.

BTW, you’ll find that on some forums, including comment threads on my own site, I’ve spent a fair amount of energy opposing certain Israeli policies and their defenders. That doesn’t make me “neutral” either – just somewhere on the pro-Israeli side of a very wide middle.

48

russkie 05.29.05 at 11:21 am

There’s various material around the internet about Einstein’s and Arendt’s attitudes to Zionism (including one by Benny Morris) but they don’t mention the supposed letter. Moreover, there seems to be no mention anywhere of Begin visiting the US in 1948, which would be quite an unusual trip as the war of independence was not over.

49

SoCalJustice 05.29.05 at 1:59 pm

why should it be taboo for Sue Blackwell or anyone else in 2005?

You and Sue Blackwell can do whatever you want. No one’s stopping you.

what’s the problem with comparing Israel (or anything else for that matter) to to Nazi Germany? This is just silly.

When you’re right, you’re right. (/Sarcasm/) After all, Hitler was a vegetarian!

You’ll never understand – no big deal. I know you’ve seen it explained a hundred times before, and you clearly don’t buy the reasoning – so no real point in me trying again.

Anyway – off too a Memorial Day bbq. See you around. Keep up the hard work.

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