Demopaths and their Dupes: PACBI on NATFHE

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has a congratulatory piece on NATFHE‘s decision to boycott Israeli academics. It illustrates nicely the way the demopaths (PACBI) appeal to the most disoriented moral sensibilities of their dupes.

NATFHE Leads the Way in Moral Responsibility
British Academics Vote for Boycotting Israeli Apartheid

29 May 2006

Today, British academics proved once again that they are up to the challenge of meeting injustice with the powerful message of civil resistance that boycott represents. The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted for an academic boycott of Israel in response to its “apartheid policies.”

This is a significant accomplishment considering the campaign of intimidation and bullying waged against proponents of the NATFHE academic boycott initiative by Israeli networks and powerful Zionist lobbies in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Note how they designate opposition as intimidation. I’d be interested to hear from them what they think the Muslim reaction to the Danish Cartoons represented. The photo below is from a London demonstration, so something that the members of NATFHE would know about.

london demo against danoons

At this stage of the international boycott movement, Palestinian boycott advocates, including PACBI, aim first and foremost to keep alive an open and principled debate on the need for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it fully complies with international law and universal human rights. The other side primarily works on achieving the exact opposite result by suppressing all opportunities for debate and education on this issue in order to maintain the distorted and deceptive image of the conflict constructed through systematic misinformation and biased reporting in a largely compliant western media.

Being among those opposed to the boycott, precisely because it is a political invasion of an arena (academia) where politics should not drive the agenda, I don’t find this description recognizable. As an inversion of who wants debate and who wants to rant and demonize, it makes sense. As for their characterization of a “largely compliant western press,” it seems that the slightest resistance to Pallywood is unacceptable and nothing short of complete acquiescence will satisfy their need for support. The very fact that they feel the press is pro-Zionist illustrates the ways in which they cannot tolerate any dissent, and why banning Israeli scholars — most of whom have nothing to do with political issues — makes sense to them. These are issues about which they see no debate. They are right, innocent, justified; Israel is wrong, guilty, to be banished.

The NATFHE vote proves once again that despite all the obstacles, boycotting Israeli academic institutions due to their complicity in maintaining Israel’s special form of apartheid against the Palestinians remains prominent on the agenda of western progressives and human rights activists.

It’s excellent evidence that Western progressives and human rights activists are still deeply mired in what Charles Jacobs has called the Human Rights Complex, in which the issue is neither the victim nor how badly that victim suffers, but who the perpetrator is: if white (a fortiori if Jewish) then the indignation is boundless; if “of color”, as in the case of Sudanese perpetrators of genocide, they look the other way or, in the case of Palestinian terrorists, then cheer. To get a sense of how skewed the scales, here is another NATFHE proposal, this time about Hamas:

Conference notes the victory of HAMAS in the recent Palestine Authority elections.

Conference condemns the hysterical reporting of the result by most of the British news media and the outrageous bias shown by UK Government statements against the outcome of a democratic process

NATFHE resolves:

1. to continue to help protect and support Palestinian colleges and universities in the face of the continual attacks by Israel’s government.

2. to contact the Palestinian Authority Government to re-affirm that support.

Now we have a sense of the moral universe in which the Israeli boycott pronouncements carry weight: a genocidal, demonizing, irredentist movement which not only targets Israeli civilians, but recklessly endangers and sacrifices Palestinian children, receives support. And protection and support to an academic scene in Palestine which bears almost no resemblance to the world of free speech and impartial inquiry that supposedly animates the Western academic world. What kind of suicidal alliance with a world of hatred and propaganda can the activists in NATFHE be working towards?

The persistence of academic boycott efforts proves that many academics in the UK and beyond do not buy the disingenuous claim that boycott of Israeli academic institutions conflicts with “academic freedom” or inadvertently promotes anti-Semitism in any way. The first claim is at best hypocritical as it is based on the premise that only Israeli academic freedom counts. The fact that Israeli academic institutions themselves collude in various ways in their government’s grave violations of Palestinian human and political rights, which include the right to education, is lost on those making this claim.

This is interesting, and reminds me of when I was a graduate student in 1982 at the time of the Lebanese incursion (which led to Sabra and Shatilla). The campus where I was working had an organization called CAFIOT: Committee for Academic Freedom in the Israeli Occupied Territories. When I asked about academic freedom anywhere else in the Arab world, and pointed out that every institution of higher education on the West Bank and Gaza Strip first arose under Israeli control since the Jordanians and Egyptians would never allow such a thing to occur, they told me not to change the subject. Apparently the obsession is still at work: Israel is responsible for the lack of academic freedom in the Palestinian territories, and probably for the rest of the Arab world as well.

As for the Palestinian “right to education,” when one realizes how the PA (before Hamas took over as well as after) was used to brainwash a generation to hatred and violence, one wonders just what idea of academic or educational freedom operates in these pro-boycott circles.

As to the ubiquitous anti-Semitism charge, it is now clearer than ever that it is mendaciously being used merely to stifle opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation and horrific human rights record and to abort attempts at effectively resisting this decades-old injustice. The Palestinian Call for Boycott [1] is categorically not directed at Jews or even Israelis as Jews; rather, it targets Israel’s oppression and racism with no consideration to ethnicity or religion.

Where to begin? Let’s paraphrase. Any effort to suggest that the virulence and one-sidedness of this campaign with it’s relentless vilification of Israel and its alliance with open sympathizers with the nazis, might have links to anti-semitism, is just a dishonest effort to escape condemnation. Sounds like a Catch-22 to me.

Let it suffice to remark that no effort has been made to get Arab Muslim academics to condemn the genocide committed by their fellow Arabs and c0-religionists in Darfur and southern Sudan. Why? Because the people behind this petitition live in a world obsessed by Israeli “crimes against humanity” no matter how they pale in comparison with what other nations around the world engage in. That such an obsession has no relationship to the fact the Israel is the only Jewish state in the world seems highly unlikely.

The Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is supported by a growing current of social movements, unions, academics, intellectuals and human rights activists across the world. For instance, it is endorsed by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the Coalition of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and by hundreds of South African political and academic figures, including Ronnie Kasrils, Dennis Brutus, John Pampallis and Steven Friedman.

All obfuscation notwithstanding, the truth about Israel’s denial of Palestinian refugee rights, its illegal military occupation and its system of racial discrimination remains the fundamental motive behind the expanding BDS initiatives around the world. Israel’s colonial Wall, its ever expanding settlements, its indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, its house demolitions, its relentless land and water theft and its abuse of Palestinian human rights are all too real to be ignored by the international community.

What a terrifying list of abuses might one come up with for three dozen other countries under one tenth the provocation! How interesting that Israel, which grants its Arabs rights no other Arab country grants their Arabs (much less their Jews and Christians), should be called apartheid. There is no current form of apartheid more widespread and dangerous in the world today than that of the legal discrimination against non-Muslims built into Sharia. And here is a Western organization, condemning Israeli “apartheid” while congratulating the “democratically elected” Hamas who have stated their desire to inaugurate Sharia. It’s as if these words don’t really have meaning beyond their designated target, Israel. And this is invoked as “justice”?

Just as in the South African case, a comprehensive regime of sanctions and boycotts remains not only the most politically effective but also the most morally sound strategy in bringing about Israel’s compliance with international law and universal principles of human rights. Only through such effective pressures will there be hope for a just peace in our region, based on equality and dignity for all.

Now I’m curious as to who actually believes this. Who really thinks that by bringing Israel down (whether “to size” or eliminating her), we will find either peace or equality in the Middle East? The same people who here insist that getting rid of Israel (the only country with a working democracy, which even its own Arabs, resentful as they might be, nonetheless concede), will bring peace and equality, turn around and with equal confidence assure us that Arab culture is not ready for democracy when it gives them a chance to heap contempt on Bush.

All told, this document, short as it is, contains most of the elements of demopathic discourse: the constant invocation of human rights, justice, equality, and peace, combined with a relentless agenda of aggression and hatred. That a Palestinian organization should embrace such rhetoric is not really surprising: the “victim narrative” is their bread and butter. But that a Western organization of highly intelligent and educated individuals could fall for this kind of demopathy, and for so long… that remains one of the great (and suicidal) mysteries of our day.

7 Responses to Demopaths and their Dupes: PACBI on NATFHE

  1. trophyb says:

    Thank you for an excellent article!

  2. Al Tira says:

    I think that the NATFHE boycott deserves its own independent article, as it is a fundamental and
    unrepetent violation of academic freedom. The academic
    world does not actively and vocally defend itself against
    such behavior, it will simply admit that it has no
    means of protecting its principles.

    As we learned from the League of Nations fiasco, an
    entity that cannot defend its principles … does not
    have any to defend.

  3. Al Tira says:

    A friend suggested a search for “Israel” on the NATFHE
    web site:

    It was quite educational.

  4. RL says:

    i checked it out. what did you learn?

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  6. […] e. 3) the Jews, via anti-Zionism play a key role in the culture conflict at work now. The British boycott illustrates the phenomenon: like some mafia […]

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