Winston Churchill understood the enduring power of Jewish values February 5, 2015
Last week saw a moving recreation of Sir Winston Churchill’s 1965 state funeral. In the years since his passing, the great man’s legacy remains undiminished.
As a war leader, statesman, orator and writer, he still reigns supreme in the affections of the British nation and throughout much of the free world.
What is less well known is the affinity he showed with Jewish causes throughout his political career. Reflecting on the Jews in 1920, he penned these words: ‘No thoughtful man can doubt that they are the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.’
Churchill’s philosemitism was based partly on his veneration of Jewish ethics which he regarded as, ‘the most precious possession of mankind’ and worth ‘the fruits of all other wisdom and learning together’. He believed in the supremacy of Judaeo-Christian ideals and in his essay on Moses, lauded the great prophet and his monotheism. Though not religious, Churchill understood the enduring power of Jewish values in a turbulent world. Throughout his career, Churchill consistently opposed anti-Semitism.
As a young MP, he denounced the Aliens Act as an unfair and discriminatory piece of legislation that would be harmful to immigrant Jews. During the Russian Civil War, he expressed his unqualified horror at an ongoing series of horrific pogroms, urging General Anton Denikin to prevent ‘the ill treatment of the innocent Jewish population’.Throughout the 1930s, he decried the virulent anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany just as forcefully as he opposed the policy of appeasement.
It is true that, on one occasion, his fierce anti-Communism led him to indulge in harmful conspiracy thinking. Noting the presence of Jews in the Bolshevik movement, he warned of a ‘tyrannic government of Jew commissars’ in Moscow and referred to Russia as ‘a world wide communistic state under Jewish domination.’
But it is worth noting that in the same article, Churchill contrasted these ‘revolutionary’ Jews with their patriotic co-religionists and the Zionist pioneers in Palestine.
His interest in Zionism, a matter of conviction and astute political calculation, showed itself early on. In 1908, he wrote: ‘The restoration to (the Jews) of a centre of racial and political integrity would be a tremendous event in the history of the world.’ He rejected arguments for a Jewish home outside Palestine, declaring ‘Jerusalem must be the only goal’.
He then added a note of certainty about a Jewish state that would have pleased Theodore Herzl: ‘That it will some day be achieved is one of the few certainties of the future’.
As a post-war Colonial Secretary, he made decisions that were crucial for the future of the Middle East. This included removing three quarters of the original Palestine mandate to create the state of Transjordan, an act condemned by Zionist leaders.
Yet his White Paper stated that Jews were in Palestine ‘as of right and not by sufferance’ and went on to defend the Zionist enterprise amid a cacophony of Arab opposition.
During the war, Churchill intervened several times to help Europe’s beleaguered Jews. In 1943, he insisted with success on the repeal of the anti-Semitic Vichy laws in Algeria.
He agreed an operation to bomb Auschwitz in 1944, only to be overruled by the Air Ministry.
Despite not overturning the provisions of the 1939 White Paper, he showed sympathy with Jewish refugees who had travelled to Palestine to seek refuge from Axis-controlled Europe.Against the advice of others in the War Cabinet, he successfully championed the creation of a Jewish brigade, arguing that he liked ‘the idea of the Jews trying to get at the murderers of their fellow countrymen in Central Europe’.
During the war, he also backed the creation of a Jewish state as part of a post-war settlement.
Though his faith in Zionism was shaken by the Irgun’s post war militancy, he continued to support Israel once it had been established. He even argued for the country’s inclusion in the Commonwealth.
Churchill deserves to be remembered for his supreme statesmanship and courage at a critical moment in Western history. But as Jews, we have yet another reason to honour this titanic figure.
BIBI'S WARNING WILL BE IGNORED< WITH DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES March 12, 2015
In his speech to Congress last week, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his most withering rebuke yet to Barack Obama over Iran. He spoke with devastating clarity about the flaws in the US led diplomatic initiative and what was at stake for the free world if Tehran acquired the bomb.
It was hard not to be impressed with his grasp of logic and strategy, as well as his superb oratorical skills. Like Churchill in his Iron Curtain speech of 1946, Netanyahu was accused of warmongering and belligerence, of stoking up the fires of conflict instead of “giving peace a chance”. But Netanyahu was not calling for an immediate war with Iran or slamming the idea of a peace initiative. He was merely condemning this proposed deal on the grounds that it was unworkable and would only embolden Iran.
The contours of an agreement have emerged from recent leaks and give genuine reasons for concern. It seems certain that Iran is set to become a nuclear threshold state. In effect, its nuclear architecture will be frozen, possibly with a partial rollback on the quantity of enriched uranium in the country. Judging by recent announcements, it is inconceivable that Iran would agree to dismantle all its centrifuges and have them shipped out of the country. Leaving Iran with the ability to enrich uranium is dangerous, with no guarantee that the material will not be used to breakout to the nuclear weapons stage.
What is critical is the amount of time the West could respond in the event that Iran breaches the agreement. Many Israelis fear that this time is inadequate and, understandably, do not wish to entrust their security to a foreign power. In addition, not much is much being said about Iran’s ballistic missiles. Only a fool would believe that these weapons are somehow peripheral to the country’s plans. They are designed to eventually carry nuclear warheads and that puts Israel and Europe within its sights. In years to come, these weapons will point at America too.
The next problem is the so-called sunset clause. Any deal signed with the Islamic Republic is time limited, with the suggestion that it will end after 10 years. As Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has put it, once that clause has expired, there will be ‘no legal limits on Iran’s nuclear ambition’. It could theoretically build up its nuclear infrastructure and if it achieves ‘threshold nuclear status’, there would be ‘no verification regime that is guaranteed to detect a sprint to a bomb’.
Some argue that this is a standard feature of arms limitation agreements, and indeed it is. But to argue that Iranian violations will be met by the swift re-imposition of sanctions is presumptuous to say the least. With so many powers investing in Iran right now, is it really likely that a new and more powerful sanctions regime can be quickly re-established by the international community, and then not undermined by Russia or China? One would hardly bet the house on it.
For a more reliable guide to Western behaviour, one could cite the rather hesitant and weak willed response to North Korea’s nuclear activities. A deal like this must rely on a degree of trust regarding Iran’s intentions. But it is not through any change of heart that the ayatollahs have come to the negotiating table. It is only tough sanctions and a declining economy that have brought about more conciliatory noises.
Iran remains a militant rogue state, a fascist theocracy with a mission to export violent Shi’ite extremism throughout the Muslim world. It has stirred terrorism in Lebanon, supported mass murder in Syria and armed Palestinian extremists in Gaza. A nuclear capability would enhance its power enormously and threaten every pro-western interest in the region, as well as leaving the non-proliferation treaty in tatters. In any case, Tehran’s past behaviour reveals a long history of concealment, evasion and outright deceit, giving further cause for concern. This Middle Eastern leopard is not likely to change its spots.
That was why Netanyahu spoke so forcefully in the most powerful legislature in the world. But with a US administration desperate not to put all options on the table, his words will surely be ignored, and with disastrous consequences.
GROWING UP WITH A MONSTER FOR A FATHER 16 April 2015
What must it feel like to have a parent responsible for truly hideous crimes? Such a question has been challenging 75 year old Niklas Frank his entire life. His father, Hans Frank, served as Hitler's legal advisor and was in charge of Poland's 'General Government' throughout the Second World War. He thus bore considerable responsibility for the murder of millions of Polish Jews, resulting in his execution at Nuremberg in 1946.
Niklas has never made a secret of how he feels about his father. In the eyes of his son, Hans Frank was a criminal because he "knew exactly what was going on in Sobibor, Madjanek, Belzec and Treblinka" yet was very happy when Hitler refused his resignation requests.
In 1987 Niklas, by then an established journalist, wrote a book called The Father – a Revenge (Der Vater – eine Abrechnung) which stunned Germany. In provocative and sometimes highly graphic detail, he confronted his father with the terrible legacy of his crimes. The book was laced with invective and foul language, with Niklas effectively killing his father for a second time.
Such a savage treatment had a decidedly cathartic effect. "It was very healthy for my own soul to tell him everything I had found out and to confront him with graphic writing". He adds: "I enjoyed it very much to curse him." The book shocked Germans and caused a minor scandal, with Niklas receiving a volume of hate mail from readers. There is one letter he will never forget. It read simply: "I would like to see Niklas himself hanged beside his father".
For the son, breaking the taboo against condemning one's parents was not particularly hard. "It was not a big event for me because I had done it already inside. Privately, I made up this decision when I was a 7 year old". As a child, he remembered seeing photos of corpses piled up in concentration camps and these haunted him. He was under no illusion about the appalling crimes for which his father bore ultimate responsibility and for which he was rightly executed.
Hans Frank is often referred to as a "monster" but Niklas insists that is incorrect. The word 'monster' would excuse him, he says, suggesting perhaps that he was "out of his brain". "He was fully aware of what he was doing all his lifetime" and was a highly forceful character: "It takes a strong will to destroy a whole people". But at the same time, what is so disturbing about criminals like Hans is precisely their ordinariness. Far from being extraordinary ideological fanatics, Nazis, like his father, "were human beings like you and me". "The killing was just a profession", he adds.
Yet Hans Frank was also a serial liar for he would tell falsehoods "almost anytime he opened his mouth". At Nuremberg, Frank's claim that he knew nothing about the death camps was found to be untrue, based on a careful reading of his voluminous diaries. He also expressed remorse for his crimes while suggesting that the Allies were equally guilty of atrocities against the Germans. It was a classic example of doublespeak.
So if Niklas could have just one last meeting with his lying father, he "wouldn't kill him personally". Instead he would confront him with all the files in his possession and "then hand him over to justice". This would be the son's revenge.
Niklas has also talked about the difficult relationship he had with his mother, a figure for whom he expresses a marked ambivalence. "She was the strongest woman I ever came across". Though she was a greedy person who "enjoyed being the queen of Poland", he says that he "loved her in a desperate way". Perhaps one reason is that she "never glorified the name of the Frank family". He goes on: "She never told me or our siblings that her husband was an innocent man being hanged."
For many years, Niklas has spoken out against the evils of Nazism, Holocaust denial and antisemitism. He has addressed German audiences many times and offers a slightly gloomy perspective. "The majority of Germans don't want to hear anymore. They should acknowledge what the Germans have done" but they are "looking for the slightest thing to escape".
One form of escape is to believe that the Jewish state has itself turned Nazi. In a poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, nearly half the German respondents agreed with the statement that Israel was conducting a 'war of extermination' against the Palestinians, perhaps an attempt to assuage a guilty collective conscience by demonising the victims. Despite this, Niklas is pleased that younger audiences listen to him and are touched by what he has to say. Learning about the Third Reich remains an important part of Germany's history curriculum.
Niklas is worried by the resurgent hatred of Jews in Europe, and despite the legacy of the Holocaust, Germany is no exception. He fears that if Germans once again experience years of devastating economic problems, as they did in the 1930s, they may point accusing fingers at the Jews and say "They're guilty, they are the ones who are strangling our German nation". It's a sobering thought, given that antisemitic attacks show no sign of abating across the Continent. History may not repeat itself but as Mark Twain famously observed, it does rhyme.
A TALE OF TWO GAZA REPORTS - ONE VALID, THE OTHER DISMALLY FLAWED 25 June 2015
On 12th June, a high level international military group that was tasked to examine Israel's conduct in last summer's war in Gaza released their preliminary findings. The group, sponsored by the Friends of Israel initiative, consisted of former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers and political leaders from across Europe, America and Australia. Their conclusion was that the slew of allegations made against Israel last summer had virtually no merit. Israel's actions were permissible and justified within the laws and principles of belligerent conflict.
The group acknowledged that this was not a war that Israel sought. The Jewish state had acted with restraint in the preceding months when Israeli civilians were being targeted UN rockets from Gaza. Israel sought a ceasefire with Hamas and when this was rebuffed, acted in a legitimate way to deal with the threat from beyond her borders.
They were in no doubt that Hamas' actions before and during the conflict were war crimes. This included the firing of rockets at population centres, the targeting of Ben Gurion airport and the construction of tunnels designed for the probable abduction, murder and maiming of Israelis. In addition, Hamas used its own civilians as human shields, compelling citizens to remain in their homes in contravention of international law, while also using UN facilities to store weapons.
The group noted that while armies are generally required to avoid non-combatant deaths in wartime, they were not aware of any army taking 'such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population'. The protective measures taken included phone calls, text messages, leaflet drops and the detonation of harmless warning explosive charges (the “knock on the roof”). These exceeded any requirement in the laws of armed conflict, and, at times, placed Israeli lives at risk. The pauses in fighting that Israel agreed to also allowed Hamas to regroup and replenish their supplies.
The military group does not ignore the difficult question of why so many civilians, over 1,000, died in the war. Some Palestinians were murdered by Hamas, according to Amnesty, while other deaths were caused by simple human error. But the majority resulted from Israel 'defending against an enemy that deliberately carries out attacks from within the civilian population'. They conclude that the 'overwhelming majority' of deaths were therefore the responsibility of the terrorists and their backers, not Israel.
It is hard to believe that a single one of the 11 figures in this group had the wool pulled over their eyes. All have decades of experience in fighting war and understand the laws of armed conflict. Far from being gung-ho about military matters, their principal concern is how military forces can fight effectively when operations are conducted in densely packed civilian environments. Frankly, it strains credulity to think that they have exonerated Israel because of simple bias.
While their conclusions will come as little surprise to most of us, they drive a coach and horses through the conventional wisdom about last summer's conflict. In effect, they represent a pre-emptive strike for truth and justice in the face of the expected onslaught against Israel from the imminent McGowan Davis (formerly Schabas) report on the Gaza war.
Any reasonable observer knows this will be a kangaroo court without judicial merit. Firstly, the resolution that gave birth to the inquiry presupposed Israeli guilt as it condemned “the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory.” Hamas was not mentioned once in the resolution. In the Orwellian world of UN justice, it will be a case of conviction first, investigation second. This is obviously no coincidence, given that the UNHRC, which sponsored this report, has a long history of anti Israel prejudice and routinely singles out the Jewish state for special criticism. It is also no coincidence that the Commission initially selected William Schabas, despite his history of making incendiary anti-Israel comments. It is scarcely credible that this report will be anything other than a travesty, a Goldstone II if you will.
Therefore as soon as the UN releases its report, it is essential to promote the more credible findings of the high level international military group.
WHO's REALLY TO BLAME: BOOK REVIEW OF EPHRAIM KARSH's THE TAIL THAT WAGS THE DOG 9 July 2015
It is a common assumption amongst leftist intellectuals that the Middle East’s woes are primarily the fault of the West. The region is in turmoil, they argue, because of the long standing meddling by European powers and the USA. It is a pictured as a hapless pawn in the West’s imperialist agenda rather than the driver of its own misfortune.
Such a picture is hopelessly misguided, according to Professor Ephraim Karsh in his new book The Tail Wags the Dog. He argues that this troubled region’s long standing turmoil stems more from indigenous forces, trends and passions than any external intervention. Arab peoples are ultimately the authors of their own malaise.
Karsh starts by looking at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Far from being ‘a hapless victim of European imperialism’, the Empire tottered to collapse because of self inflicted wounds. The Ottomans entered World War I intending to shore up their empire in the face of resurgent nationalism and to restore lost glories. The post war creation of the modern Middle East owed more to the devious machinations of Sherif Hussein (who promised a largely nonexistent Arab revolt) and his sons, Faisal and Abdullah, than to British tinkering. These local actors were the tail wagging the imperial dog.
The same is true regarding America’s relationship with pre-revolutionary Iran. America’s courtship of Tehran centred around the figure of the Shah, an autocrat who manipulated Washington with threats to seek Soviet military support. So dependent was the US on this oil rich, non-Arab power, that it allowed Iran to dictate the terms of their bilateral relationship. The US failed to prevent the Shah’s fall in 1979 or the Iran-Iraq war.
One major theme in the book is of the inability of outside powers to force their blueprint on the Middle East. Obama’s foreign policy is a case in point. The administration’s relentless appeasement on the nuclear issue has only emboldened Iran’s ayatollah regime and made the prospect of reaching an agreement harder.
Courting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has also backfired spectacularly while the outreach to Turkey has barely softened the language or outlook of the hostile Erdogan. Meanwhile, for all Washington’s hopes of a democratic transformation, the Arab Spring has yielded little more than a renewed push for jihadist supremacy.
The international community has been similarly impotent in solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a topic that dominates this book. The basis of this century long conflict remains violent rejectionism by Arab and Islamist forces. Karsh implies that no amount of foreign meddling can change that. When a breakthrough peace did occur between Israel and Egypt, this resulted from both countries’ domestic agendas, not from Western pressure.
Of course there have been decisive interventions, such as the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But here Western powers have fallen victim to jihadist forces which even today are wreaking havoc across the region.
Like his books Palestine Betrayed and Islamic Imperialism, Karsh’s latest volume overturns the conventional wisdom on the Middle East and will certainly merit a close read.
CORBYN'S FRIENDSHIP WITH TERRORISTS IS A DEBASEMENT OF OUR DEMOCRACY 20 August 2015
Much has been written about Jeremy Corbyn's dubious association with extremists. He has cosied up to genocidal, Jew hating terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah (his ‘friends’), and called for an arms boycott against Israel to prevent the country defending itself. He has described Raed Salah as an ‘honoured citizen’ despite this hate preacher advocating the blood libel.
Equally shocking is Corbyn’s support for Stephen Sizer, the cleric banned by the Church of England from using social media after posting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Furthermore, until a week ago, Corbyn was scheduled to speak at a London conference featuring a vicious cast of Israel haters and anti-Zionist bigots, including Hamas supporter Carlos Latuff. Perhaps only Ken Livingstone and George Galloway have outdone Corbyn in embracing such a discreditable number of bigots.
For a man who wishes to become leader of the opposition, and perhaps lead the nation, this is nothing short of scandalous. Corbyn has whitewashed terror groups and given wholehearted support to individuals with a proven record of racist behaviour. This is not just misguided, it is a debasement of democracy.
But an even greater scandal is the lack of reaction from Corbyn’s political rivals. Certainly, they have taken apart his economic policies, claiming that they will lead Labour into long term political oblivion. All too understandable, many would argue. But they have barely touched on his foreign policy agenda and all too amicable embrace of terror groups. So why the curious silence?
Of course, foreign policy issues have rarely been a priority in British political debate. Given the recent convulsions in the global economy, and the deep divisions caused by austerity, it is understandable that domestic questions have taken centre stage. This naturally mirrors a wider apathy towards foreign policy among the British electorate. Unless a war erupts that sucks in British troops, the political turmoil in the Middle East is often too remote for many to care.
For those not attuned to its complexity, the Middle East might seem rather like the Balkans did in 1914, a mysterious and exotic region from which nothing but trouble can be expected. Corbyn's dubious associations are therefore not impactful enough to register much comment.
Others might argue that simple questions of demography are to blame. Anglo-Jewish voters are heavily outweighed by their Muslim counterparts. As only the former community will be expressing any deep concern over Corbyn’s attitudes, there appears to be little electoral benefit from making a huge issue of them. All of this might be true, but it doesn’t point to the core problem.
One must also factor in the labour movement's troubled attitude towards anti-Semitism. The left is supposed to have a visceral antipathy to all forms of racism, including the world’s oldest hatred. In reality, today's left opposes one type of anti-Semitism and is either indifferent to or more frequently excuses another. When Jew hatred comes dressed in swastikas, jackboots and flick knives, and when it is voiced by white, tattooed skinheads and self confessed Nazis, it is easy to recognise and condemn. The prejudices of the BNP and Golden Dawn are thus held up as the hatred par excellence that society must confront and destroy.
But what if that same prejudice is mouthed by Muslims, themselves held up as members of a victim group? What if the people who express hostility to Jews also claim that they are oppressed by Zionists or that they are critics of Israeli militarism and occupation? Given what many leftists believe about the Jewish state, namely that it is a classic violator of international law and an outpost of colonialism, it becomes still harder to see this form of anti-Semitism for what it truly is, namely a toxic prejudice rather than a reaction to Israeli wrongs.
While some on the left understand all this, and even speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism, others do not. They don’t see how Islamic fascists hate Israel and Zionism because of a pre-existing, deeply seated hatred of Jews, rather the other way round.
That is why Corbyn feels no problem befriending individuals who dress up their prejudices in an anti-Zionist cloak. And that is why his rivals have been so shamefully silent.
WESTERN INACTION HAS SPURNED RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IN SYRIA 8 October 2015
In recent weeks, we have been transfixed by haunting images of the refugee crisis. Vast numbers of people have been crossing Europe's borders on a daily basis, desperate to escape the ravages of war and tyranny.
A majority of refugees have been fleeing Syria's bloody and protracted civil war, a conflict that has claimed up to 250,000 lives. This crisis raises a deep and troubling question, namely why western leaders, who are now so concerned with the movement of desperate Syrians, have turned a blind eye to Assad's butchery for so long
The story of Western inaction is truly appalling. From 2011, President Obama condemned the atrocities perpetrated by Assad and, more recently, the genocidal jihadism of the Islamic State. He called for Assad to 'step aside' and even issued a red line on the use of chemical weapons. Yet no meaningful intervention was forthcoming.
The idea of creating safe havens was discussed, and then promptly dismissed. Attacks with chemical weapons breached Obama's red lines but he ruled out using force, with Russia taking full diplomatic advantage. The resulting deal for 'disarming' Assad was deeply flawed. According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, there is credible evidence that such lethal munitions have continued to be used.
The effort has been as half hearted in relation to the war against IS. In 2014, the President promised to train 5,000 US backed fighters who would target the jihadis, with Congress approving a $500 million budget. A little later, according to Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, the number of available fighters was a mere 60, and it has since dwindled further.
Meanwhile, the limited air strikes against Islamic State are merely containing the march of the jihadis, rather than overturning their gains. According to distinguished political analyst Bruce Hoffman, IS is winning. Little wonder then that Frederic Hof, a former special advisor for transition in Syria, has described US policy towards that country as a 'pantomime of outrage'.
The UK is hardly immune from criticism on this score. In what must count as one of its more inglorious moments, Parliament, spurred on by Labour, voted not to intervene in the Syrian conflict in August 2013. Afterwards, Ed Miliband offered a vacuous statement, decrying "a rush to war" and demanding that the UK work "with the international community".
This might well have satisfied the tormented consciences of his MPs, no doubt stricken by post Iraq war guilt. However, it did little to help beleaguered Syrians fleeing their shattered country. Even today, some on the left (such as Jeremy Corbyn) demand humanitarian responses to the current crisis, while rejecting military intervention as 'imperialist'.
The West has indirectly helped Assad in other ways. Under the terms of the nuclear deal with Tehran, billions of dollars of Iranian assets will soon be released. It is highly likely that some of this money will be used to prop up Assad's regime and further entrench the position of Iranian units operating in the country. In other words, the West will be funding the very conditions that make further refugee outflows from Syria inevitable.
Of course, the Syrian mess isn't primarily the fault of the West. President Assad, the genocidal butcher in chief, must take the lion's share of the blame for tearing his country apart. Even before Islamic State started to behead and ethnically cleanse every minority in sight, Assad's war machine was decimating villages and cities in his native country.
In this, he was aided and abetted by his Iranian ally. For years, Tehran has been pouring petrol on the flames, sending in a steady supply of military aid and generals to Assad, while its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah has sent hardened fighters to the country.
Meanwhile, Russia has given Damascus a staunch level of diplomatic and military support. Syria is Russia's key client state in the region and it has an important naval base at Tartus. For Moscow, the removal of Assad was never on the cards.
But while Iran and Russia are quite brazen in defending their national interests in Syria, the West has at least feigned concern for the plight of innocents in that country. That makes the half hearted responses of Western nations all the more baffling, and frankly inexcusable.
ACADEMICS BY NAME, IGNORANT AND ONE EYED FOOLS BY NATURE 5 November 2015
Last week, a group of 343 UK academics signed a statement in The Guardian in which they said they would terminate any links with Israeli universities. Explaining this action, the LSE’s professor Jonathan Rosenhead said these universities were at “the heart of Israel’s violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinians”.
What Rosenhead fails to see is that such an egregious action violates the cardinal principle of academic freedom. Universities thrive on the ability to pursue learning, research and critical engagement with others, regardless of their political affiliations and viewpoints.
Denying universities an international platform diminishes such relationships and prevents the free exchange of ideas. Moreover, as the author JK Rowling recently pointed out, many Israeli academics are among their country’s most vocal critics, galvanising debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
These boycotters claim to be concerned for Palestinians living under occupation (which they wrongly describe as “illegal”). But for all their condemnation of Israeli policy, the boycotters fail to mention the threat from Palestinian terror and incitement, the very factors that necessitate a continuing military presence in the territories.
No context is ever given for the security barrier, the checkpoints or road closures, measures which have everything to do with the country’s legitimate security concerns. They are viewed instead through a warped perspective in which a racist and colonial state oppresses and dominates Arabs.
Thus in the statement supporting the boycott, the recent stabbings of Israelis are described as “street protests provoked by Israel’s 48 year and ever tightening occupation” with the perpetrators “driven to desperation”. Palestinian terrorists are thus given a free pass for their murderous actions.
The boycotters fail to mention Hamas and its racist charter or Fatah’s hateful discourse. They similarly ignore how successive Israeli prime ministers offered to create a viable Palestinian state, only for their peacemaking to be rebuffed.
Fundamentally, these boycotters’ apparent concern for human rights is never universalised. Rosenhead and his fellow academics have little to say about tackling the perpetrators of genocide in North Korea and Darfur, the occupation of Tibet, the human rights abuses in Iran and Cuba and a host of crimes elsewhere. The assumption is that Israeli crimes sit in a unique category of evil that alone merits a boycott.
Of course, Israel must be held to higher standards of behavior as a fully functioning democracy. Yet even here, Israel’s record of human rights, while not perfect, compares favourably to other democracies facing a protracted war of terror. There has been no Israeli Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, no experience similar to the Russian onslaught on Chechnya. Israel has achieved a lower ratio of non-combatant to combatant deaths in asymmetric warfare compared with other Western countries. Yet only the Jewish state is selected for punishment.
Even more galling is the boycotters’ silence when Palestinians suffer at the hands of Arab regimes. In 1991, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait as punishment for the PLO’s support for Saddam Hussein.
The protest in the West was conspicuous by its absence, allowing Kuwait to get away with ethnic cleansing. An equal silence could be felt on the streets of London as thousands of Palestinians were being slaughtered by Assad and IS in Syria.
In Lebanon, Palestinians have faced institutionalised and non-institutionalised discrimination for several decades, with dozens of professions barred to them. According to Amnesty, this contributes to “high levels of unemployment, low wages and poor working conditions”. In Jordan, Palestinians also suffer political discrimination, being vastly under-represented in the Chamber of Deputies.
If these academics were really motivated by concern for the Palestinians, they would condemn Middle East regimes that made them second class citizens. They would demand a full academic boycott of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Kuwait. The fact that the boycotters target Israel alone reveals that it is not Palestinian suffering per se that motivates them.
Ultimately, these boycotts are not about creating a fair and lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians, laudable as that is. They are about demonising, denigrating and ultimately dismantling Israel as a Jewish state. In effect, if not in intent, this amounts to a wholly malodorous and transparent form of anti-Semitism.