Stephen Walt at Foreign Policy magazine writes:
Last week, the Los Angeles Times published a courageous and moving op-ed entitled “Boycott Israel” by Israeli political scientist Neve Gordon, in which he reluctantly endorsed the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) campaign against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Gordon is a tenured lecturer and department head at Ben Gurion University, and the author of several important scholarly works, including the recent book Israel’s Occupation (2008). He is a committed Zionist who was wounded during his military service in an elite IDF paratroop unit. He is also a long-time member of the peace camp in Israel.
As one would expect, his article has provoked a firestorm of controversy. Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles wrote a letter to the president of Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Rivka Carmi, warning that Gordon’s remarks could undermine fund-raising efforts. He suggested that the university create a Center for Zionist studies to “help dispel the lies disseminated by Gordon in the name of your university.” But instead of defending the core principle of academic freedom, President Carmi said that Gordon’s views were “destructive,” “morally reprehensible,” and an “abuse [of] the freedom of speech prevailing in Israel and at BGU.” Even more disturbingly, she went on to say that “academics who entertain such resentment toward their country are welcome to consider another professional and personal home.” A spokesman for the university added “We’re proud to have a full range of political views at the university, and I want to live in a country that protects freedom of speech, but Gordonâ€™s remarks are beyond the pale.â€
Sounds like attempts at censorship to me. Like Mr Walt I’m not a supporter of the boycott campaign, for the reasons he gives. He lists three points, of which the second one is:
Any and all criticisms of Israel’s conduct get attributed to either enduring anti-Semitism (when made by gentiles) or labeled as treason or “self-hatred” (when made by Jews).
Hmm, now where have I seen that before? But actually, any intelligent observer should be able to tell that this is common in any group that feels constantly under attack.
I don’t buy it but I can see where it arises from. Most don’t want to. So you have this case where Muslims are constantly asked to denounce religious extremists within their midst by newspapers that constantly run lies about them. And then you get the Israel / Palestine discussions where both sides feel under attack and prefer to want the opposition to denounce their extremists while playing down extremism on their side. It’s worth pointing this out continually.
(As a sidenote, I’ve not seen any firestorm of controversy over attempts to muzzle Neve Gordon. I thought people believed in free speech?)
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Filed in: Current affairs,Media,Middle East