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University of Haifa
Avraham Oz finds Racism in Israeli Football

Avraham Oz

A Middle East Update: Racism in Israeli Football

by Avraham Oz
distributed by email on
6 April 2005


Following some of my updates, some friends send me messages reminding me the worrying phenomena of growing anti-semitism in today's world. It is worrying indeed, even beyond the erroneous identification made between anti-Israeli policies, or even anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism. Imagine a crowd somewhere in a European football stadium, shouting anti-semitic slogans, waving flags of hatred, and cursing a Jewish player, or an Israeli team. Imagine the waves of protest, from Jewish circles over the world and official protest from Israel.

Well, in my country, in my town, last night, such scenes of hatred were seen big time: scenes which would not have put to shame the most radical assemblies of Neo-Nazis and other racist groups. Except that the targeted group was not Jewish, but Arab. The fans of Israeli football club Betar Jerusalem are known for their lively conduct during games and around them. Scenes of violence frequently occur when they have grievances against the score of their team every day of the year. now imagine what happens when a league game against one of the two Arab clubs – Sakhnin and Nazareth – in the Israeli Premier League take place.

Last week the national team had two important games here in Israel against two of its international rivals at group 4 of the world cup 2006 qualifying games: Ireland and France. Both teams were considered to have advantage over the Israeli team, and the two draws were considered a fair achievement for the Israeli team. The goal which brought the Israeli team the draw against Ireland was scored by Arab Sakhnin player Abbas Suan; against France, the other Israeli Arab player in the national team, Walid Badir, headed a late equaliser to grab a point just seven minutes from time and got Israel the coveted draw.

Last night, in Tel Aviv, in the same stadium where those two international games last week took place, at the scheduled league meeting between Betar Jerusalem and Suan's club, Sakhnin, Suan was supposed to be received by everyone as the star of the national team. The organizers, from the hosting Betar club, wasted no effort in trying to impose a sporting nature on the charged clash, with the announcer congratulating, "in the name of the tens of thousands of Betar supporters," Israeli international Abbas Suan for his equalizer against Ireland slightly more than a week ago. "Welcome him," enthused the announcer, but the applause was drowned out by a huge chorus of boos from the Betar stands. Suan may be a national team star; but in Jerusalem, he is just another Arab soccer player. The score this season between the two clubs, both currently struggling at the bottom of the league, is in favour of the Arab team. It's bad enough for a Jewish club to beat the most patriotic team that represents the eternal capital of the state; but for an Arab club to do so twice in a single season is just too much. At least 400 among the 5000 Betar supporters were shouting: "Let the town of Sakhnin be burnt down," "We hate all Arabs," and worse; to the cameras of the various Israeli TV channels, Betar fans shouted: "we'd rather lose 0:10 to Ireland rather than have an Arab score a goal in our name! He doesn't represent us!"

Some apologetics were sounded in talk shows this morning. We are asked to understand football hooliganism is a known phenomena. 400, said one Betar supporter on TV this morning, are less than 10 percent. I am not sure such arguments would have satisfied Jewish protests against anti-semitic riots elsewhere. Yet just as we are asked to regard anti-semitism as a unique form of racism, so we should pay attention to growing Israeli xenophobia and particularly to Arab-hatred against the Jewish population. It becomes a growing phenomenon not to be underestimated. Violence grows among youth; people are stabbed to death during daily raws over a parking space or the behaviour of neighbour's dogs. Yesterday a teenager who came to Israel from France two years ago was hospitalized after being battered by her classmates, boys and girls, following a raw over a cellphone. She told TV interviewer she was considering going back to France: "there is prominent anti-semitism growing there," she said, "But at least I wasn't battered like this."

The sport portfolio in the Israeli government is placed in the hands of famous Mini-Stress of Education and Culture Limor Livnat, who has recently ordered the "legacy of [assassinated Israeli Minister of Tourism] Rehav'am Zeevi," who founded his radical nationalistic party on a platform of "transfer" (in plain terms "ethnic cleansing") of the Arab population of Israel, to be part of the official school curriculum. Stand-up comedians on stage and TV in Israel are still ridiculing her enthusiastic jump -to the point of harassment – all over Israeli sportsmen who gained medals for Israel in the recent Athens Olympic games. What, would you think, did she have to say about last night's riots against Arabs? You have guessed right. Nothing. She, like all her other fellow Ministers, suddenly lost their voice. Small wonder: they must save it for crying their protest against the next anti-semitic incident somewhere in the world. In the meantime they are engaged in other activities, one of which you may read about in Haaretz report below.

For better days,

A. Oz
Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature
University of Haifa
2105 Eshkol Tower
Mount Carmel
31905 Haifa
Israel

University of Haifa holds conference on "The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel"

by Avraham Oz
distributed by email on 12 April 2005

In the discourse of the Israeli occupation, one of the frequent worries emerging is the "demographic problem," namely, the changing balance between the Jewish and non-Jewish population of the Jewish state. Attached to this problem is often the suggested solution of "transfer," a relatively clean euphemism for ethnic cleansing. The Ministress of Education, Livnat, has recently ordered the "legacy" of assassinated Minister Ze'evi, who preached for transfer, to be studied in schools as part of the official curriculum. With the diminishing shame whereby concepts related to apartheid and ethnic cleansing infiltrate the legitimacy of Zionist discourse, some think the academic platform may be mobilized to the polemics involved, within the generous, if usually one-sided, auspices of academic freedom..

Like all other members of my university, I thus received an official invitation yesterday on the University circuit to attend, on May 17, a conference entitled: "The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel". It is organized by the Hertl Institute for the Study of Zionism, The Reuven Hecht Estate, and the Chair for Geo-Strategy. For your better judgments, I have provided below some links as to the identity of the carefully selective list of speakers in that conference.

Speakers are:

Professor Yoav Gelber, Head of the Herzl Institute, University of Haifa
Please look up the following:
Professor Arnon Sofer
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.bintjbeil.com/articles/en/020628_galili.html
  • http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/10/18/181802.shtml
  • http://www.palestinetimes.net/issue122/articles.html
Mr Harry Zesler, representative of the Hecht Estate, o
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.iruim.net/bnaibrith/page.htm
Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, Rector, University of Haifa
Please look up the following:
  • http://stop-us-military-aid-to-israel.net/b2/index.php?p=74&more=1
General (res.) Uzi Dayan, Head of the Zionist Council, initiator of the "Apartheid Wall"
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/
  • http://www.countercurrents.org/pa-rappaport100703.htm
General (res.) Herzl Gedge, Head of the Population Administration, Ministry of the Interior:
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.kavlaoved.org.il/katava_main.asp?news_id=1023&sivug_id=4
Dr Yitzhak Ravid
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.dontknowitfromadam.com/Blog_Archives/000109.html
Professor Sergio della Pergola, Head of Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.jafi.org.il/papers/2004/june/june24hz.htm
  • http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/The_Real_Threat_to_Europes_Jews.asp
Dr Yuval Steinitz, Head of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee (Likud), one of Likud MKs who opposed Sharon's "disengagement" plan.
Please look up the following:
  • http://www.isracast.com/Transcripts/240504c_trans.htm
  • http://www.freeman.org/m_online/sep01/steinitz.htm
  • http://info.jpost.com/C002/Supplements/Intifada/str_04.html

Surprisingly, some controversy has risen among those who deem "Demography" in this context to be academic newspeak for ethnic cleansing. Please read below some immediate responses from faculty members. I have also provided below a reminder of a typical posting from the chief organiser of the conference, Professor Yoav Gelber, last year, when the University closed down the University Theatre. How privileged are we to work in such an exciting academic atmosphere!

For better days,
A. Oz


From Dr Ilan Pappe (Political Science):

"On May 17, 2005 my university, Haifa University that prevented me from convening conferences on Palestinian historiography is proudly hosting a conference on the Demographic Problem in Israel with known professors such as Gelber and Sofer, who support transfer of Palestinians from Israel, Government officials such as Mr. Getz, who harasses the Palestinian population in the north in the ministry of interior and General Uzi Dayan, who initiated the Apartheid wall built between the West Bank and Israel.

"Food for Thought

"Ps. Of course our illustrious Rector, Ben Artzi will be there as well! Indeed Academic Friends of Israel send your donations and support transfer and ethnic cleansing disguised as academic research in the name of freedom of speech."

From Professor Micah Leshem (Psychology):

"this racist meeting should not be allowed to take place without strenuous objection and exposure. This is not academic meeting, and it should not be allowed to take place unchallenged. It is not an academic meeting, because it is a party political platform for state sponsored Zionism. There is no representative of alternate views as far as I can make out (I admit I do not know the speakers) but my suspicions are strongly aroused by the absence of any Arab speakers, and I do know that there are such that have strong views on the 'demographic problem'. "

From Professor Yoav Gelber, January 2004:

"What happens or not in the Theater dept. is not the only problem and even not the most important one. The issue in this case, I'm afraid, is not "peace" (which means letting 'Oz to continue to do what he wants and turning a blind eye to his scandalous and uncollegial behaviour) but rather taking the proper attitude towards him by the faculty and the necessary disciplinary action by the university's authorities.

We have enough evidence to see where all this is going to lead us. In the last 5-6 years we have had the precedences of the political science dept., Zvi Sobel's ignored complaints on violations of academic discipline in the section of international relations, Pappe's slanderous messages abroad during the Teddy Katz scandal and now 'Oz following in his footsteps. In all the former cases no serious disciplinary or administrative action was taken against the offenders. The outcome was not industrial peace, but further deterioration of norms and more scandals. Ignoring Oz's spitting and imagining it rains will not save the university from the next scandal, only the next time the potential offender will threaten it with The Hague court of some kind. One should not be surprised if after all, the university will decide to compensate 'Oz with a School of Theater in the manner of the solution to the IR [International Relations] affair.

Yoav Gelber

[Don't worry. The university did NOT adopt Professor Gelber's recommendation. The University Theatre is closed].

A Middle East Update, 23 Apr 2005 by Avraham Ozdistributed by email on 23 April 2005Dear friends,An update written on a date where professional and personal concernsconverge may require a special issue to be addressed. Today's datetraditionally mark both Shakespeare's date of birth and death, It isalso the Eve of Jewish Passover, known as the holiday of Liberation. Asthe old Chinese curse would has it, the Middle East will never fail toprovide interesting occasions to furnish a special update.The British AUT has voted a couple of days ago in favor of a motion toboycott two Israeli Universities, one of which is the one I am employedin. Since, I have been asked by many friends for my reaction to this,and I gather I owe you my response.Whenever asked, over the last few years I expressed my opinion thateven though the repressive policies of my country against thePalestinian population, especially in the territories occupied in 1967,is appalling, racist, sometimes horrifying in its cruelty, and oftenhaving crossed the boundaries of war crimes, academic boycott wasneither morally justified nor effective. It does not distinguishbetween university administrations and faculty; nor am I sure that aproper mechanism was devised to distinguish between faculty members whothink they can live in the ivory tower of academia in times of grossinjustice and such =96 and there are many in Israeli academia who risk their position for actively participating in acts of protest againstofficial policies of repression and cooperation with the victims ofinjustice.However, while I still adhere to my opinion regarding this matter, bothmy government and my university hardly have a cause for complaint: theydid whatever they could to provoke the responses leading to this, to mymind, erroneous move. The Mini-stress of Education and Culture, whowill probably soon cry havoc on that boycott, is the same person whothreatened to deny Daniel Barenboim a prestigious prize, and goes ondemanding the firing of academics whom she blacklisted as traitors tothe national cause. An academic community which didn't shout itsprotest when an eminent academic and moral figure such as the lateProfessor Yeshayahu Leibowitz was forced to withdraw the Israel prizefollowing an ugly wave of political bigotry; which kept quiet whenacademic freedom in the Occupied Territories was constantly curbed byclosures and harassments; which is even now piling on my friend andcolleague Ilan Pappe as responsible for the move, while having cheeredand elected the person who demanded his firing as their academicleader, but never seriously questioned the "academic privilege"overriding transparency when a formerly cum-laude awarded thesis wassuddenly disqualified by an anonymous group of readers following apolitical controversy surrounding its conclusions; such an academiccommunity should first question its own standards, before proclaimingitself the victim of an anti-Semitic campaign. No equivalent to the AUTwas ever created in Israel, to become a body where not only localproblems are tackled in the face of a system which made highereducation in Israel approach total crumbling, but also take a stand inmatters which transcend local issues, and protect the rights of thoseindividuals within academy who face injustice perpetrated by theadministrations for protesting against the abuse of justice.As many of you know, on a personal level, I have many reasons toendorse the allegations directed against my university: I will notelaborate on matters which are still subject to a court litigation.However, while still believing the AUT measure to have beencounterproductive, I would advise my colleagues to look deeper into thecircumstances which have led a majority of members of the AUT councilto go along with such an extreme motion. Hiding our heads in the oldarguments of Jew-baiting will not answer many viable questions directedat us, which we often fail to address. Justification for boycott aside,can we really, in all honesty, brush aside the issues directed not onlyagainst Israeli policies, but against the general functioning ofacademia in Israel? I wish all of us will take a moment, whilecelebrating tonight the holiday of Liberation, to ponder on "theoppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely... the law's delay, theinsolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th'unworthytakes," rather than exonerate ourselves of any wrongdoing by assumingthe role of the eternal victims.For better days,A. Oz
 
Dear friends,

First, a warning, derived from TV news reports I watched with the
years: those with weak stomachs, please refrain from reading this
update.

What would you say if in a university, say, in New York, would hold an
academic conference called "The Demographic Problem in New York", and,
perusing the list of presentations you will realize that the "problem"
dealt with refers exclusively to the scary proliferation of Jews in New
York?

Unimaginable, right?

Well, please note the date of this update. In my (currently boycotted
by the AUT) university, a conference was held today, entitled "The
Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel," organized by
the Herzl Institute for the Study of Zionism, The Reuven Hecht Estate,
and the Chair for Geo-Strategy. In my update from April 12th, I have
provided some links as to the identity of the carefully selective list
of speakers in that conference:

Professor Yoav Gelber, Head of the Herzl Institute, University of Haifa
(Please look up the following:
http://www.freeman.org/m_online/mar05/gelber.php
http://list.haifa.ac.il/pipermail/alef/2004-January/000172.html=A0 )

Professor Arnon Sofer
(Please look up the following:
http://www.bintjbeil.com/articles/en/020628_galili.html
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/10/18/181802.shtml
http://www.palestinetimes.net/issue122/articles.html=A0 )

Mr Harry Zesler, representative of the Hecht Estate, o
(Please look up the following:
http://www.iruim.net/bnaibrith/page.htm)

Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi, Rector, University of Haifa
(Please look up the following:
http://stop-us-military-aid-to-israel.net/b2/index.php?p=3D74&more=3D1)

General (res.) Uzi Dayan, Head of the Zionist Council, initiator of the

"Apartheid Wall"
(Please look up the following:
http://www.gush-shalom.org/thewall/
http://www.countercurrents.org/pa-rappaport100703.htm)

General (res.) Herzl Gedge, Head of the Population Administration,
Ministry of the Interior:
Please look up the following:
http://www.kavlaoved.org.il/katava_main.asp?news_id=3D1023&sivug_id=3D4)

Dr Yitzhak Ravid
(Please look up the following:
http://www.dontknowitfromadam.com/Blog_Archives/000109.html)

Professor Sergio della Pergola, Head of Institute of Contemporary
Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
(Please look up the following:
http://www.jafi.org.il/papers/2004/june/june24hz.htm
http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/
The_Real_Threat_to_Europes_Jews.asp =A0)

Dr Yuval Steinitz, Head of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security
Committee (Likud), one of Likud MKs who opposed Sharon's
"disengagement" plan.
(Please look up the following:
http://www.isracast.com/Transcripts/240504c_trans.htm
http://www.freeman.org/m_online/sep01/steinitz.htm
http://info.jpost.com/C002/Supplements/Intifada/str_04.html )

Needless to say, no speaker who might express a contrary view.

Needless to say, no Arab speaker: after all, are the patients taking
part in medical conferences? Read again the title of the conference:
they are "the problem!" When a reporter of an Israeli TV news channel
reported the event (which developed into a major scandal, as you will
read below), interviewed on the spot my colleague Professor Arnon
Sofer, the chief organizer of the conference, what would he do to a
Bedouine who has ten children, he answered on record, facing the
camera: "If it were up to me, I would have arrested him, for he is a
criminal." He did not refer to an ultra-religious Jew, who in many
cases is bound to have a similar number of children, or sometimes more.

After they are all Jewish, and thus, do not constitute "a problem."

Since I try to set some limits to the degree of stomach convulsion my
job description at the University of Haifa obliges me to contract, I
did not volunteer to show up on campus on a day where my attendance is
not required for performing my teaching duties. But several of my
friends, colleagues and students, went there, to protest. The event is
described below, in an Ha'aretz report, and a more detailed account
provided by my colleague Dr Ilan Pappe of the despicable event, which
represents the way my university interprets academic freedom. Yes, I
said my university, not a few right wing extremists who happen to be
employed or invited by the university. The guest of honour at the
conference was the Rector of the University, Professor Yossi Ben-Artzi,
who thought it wise to confer a prestigious prize under the auspices of
that conference. This, then, is not a marginal conference tolerated by
the university in the name of academic freedom: the well advertised
attendance of the highest academic figure of the university (no matter
who occupies that capacity at this time) voids any future claim by the
university (when their PR consultants will advise them to do so) that
it had no part in organizing it.

But before you move to the reports, a few words about the boycott. Some
of you would say all this justifies it even further. Two major pretexts
advanced by the initiators and supporters of the move were that it may
prove effective: perhaps change some minds in Israel, and definitely
make noise to bring the Palestinian issue to the forefront. Now, almost
a month since it was launched, as an experimental balloon (and before
it may well be retracted next week), let's account for its
effectiveness according to those parameters: Indeed the boycott
decision made a lot of noise in my university, as well as in Israel and
the world. During this month, some atrocities were made by the Israeli
security forces, a Palestinian teenager shot by the security forces
died in a Palestinian ambulance rushing him to hospital when the
ambulance was detained for 15 critical minutes by an IDF watch barrier;

Injuring demonstrators against the construction of the evil wall;
Allegations of anti-semitism were flaunted to each direction.; Pappe
was attacked by the Mini-stress of Education at her speech at the
ceremony awarding the Israel prize to scientists, academics and
artists; The Israeli cabinet voted 13-7 to confer university status on
Judea and Samaria College in the West Bank settlement Ariel (a
political move, since the Ariel College is rated one of the lowest
ranking in quality among the Israeli colleges, and no academic
criterion justifies such a promotion).

My university's administration had a lively activity during these
weeks: do you think that following the boycott they have reconsidered
the refusal to put signs in Arabic, in addition to Hebrew and English,
on campus? to employ some Arab students in the library or elsewhere at
the university? Reconsider the closure of the University theatre closed
for mounting plays in Arabic? Reconsider forbidding a Christmas tree
installed in Christmas a the university's main building, the same place
were a Jewish Menora was put during Hannuka? Did they raise a voice of
protest against the incessant undermining by the Israeli security
forces of Palestinian higher education in the Occupied Territories? No,
none of these. Instead, they were busy defaming Ilan Pappe; spread
officially (via the university's official spokesperson, a misleading
account of the disqualifying, by an alleged anonymous committee, of
Teddy Katz's formerly cum-laude-approved MA theasis; hired a British
lawyer to send a letter to the AUT threatening them that if the boycott
was not revoked, the university will file a libel suit at a British
court; and passing in the Senate a regulation empowering the University
use the Appointments and Promotions committee (headed by the Rector) to
appoint adjunct lecturers, suggested by members of faculty and endorsed
by the Deans, as a declarative statement of support (a colleague of
mine suggested parodically Sue Blackwell, the initiator of the boycott,
as such an adjunct, and Sue, with a good sense of humour, wrote she
would accept the offer once the boycott was revoked, but expressed her
doubts whether the Israeli authorities will let her into Israel, or
deny her entry, as it did to a group of women having come last week
from the UK to support the Palestinians on the West Bank).

In short, the boycott indeed made noise, but not about the Palestinian
issue, but... about the boycott. I would advise our International
colleagues to learn this lesson and reconsider their decision: if you
wish to put pressure on Israel, do it where it hurts, not where it
serves just to enhance the feeling of persecution by most Israelis -
including those who oppose the occupation. Protest against the persons
directly asking for reproach. Or, better still, do something positive
about helping and supporting the Palestinians in every way possible.

For better days,
A. Oz

Professor Avraham Oz
Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of Haifa
2105 Eshkol Tower, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel
Office Tel +972-4-8240672 Office Fax +972-4-8249713
Home Tel +972-3-5609627 Home Fax +972-1533-5609627
Mobile +972-50-7220783 Email: avitaloz@research.haifa.ac.il

1. Ha'aretz, 17 May 2005:
Haifa University students protest against 'racist' conference on demography
By David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent
Last Update: 17/05/2005 16:31

Several dozen Jewish and Arab students protested Tuesday morning at
Haifa University against an academic conference titled "The Demographic
Problem and Israel's Demographic Policies" that they described as
racist.

The students, prevented by campus security personnel from entering the
auditorium where the conference was being held, sat down outside and
refused to be evacuated.

Conference participants are slated to discuss the forecasts that Arabs
will constitute the majority of Israel's population with several
decades.

The student protestors maintain the conference is racist and anti-Arab.

They attempted to distributed to conference participants certificates
reading "licensed racist" and "the bearer of this certificate completed
with honors an advanced course in racism at Haifa University."

Conference participants include demographic experts Professor Sergio
della Pergola of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Professor Arnon
Sofer of Haifa University.


2. From Ilan Pappe, this evening:
This morning a group of Palestinian and Jewish students demonstrated
outside the hall of the conference in the university of Haifa titled
'The demographic problem and the Demographic policy of Israel' the
euphemism used for talking about the Arab Demographic threat and the
need to encounter it; by transfer even, if need be. The posters against
the conference were brutally torn and taken away by the security guards
of the university, bruising and beating some of the students on the
way. The students were unable to go into the hall as a wall what -- else --
of tables and chairs blocked their way into the seats. Cameras were
working overtime, taking photos of the Arab students, so that they
could be charged with violating public order and brought in front of a
disciplinary committee.

My student, L. H., a fragile young Palestine woman, succeeded in
getting in: "they thought I was Jewish", she told me later. She managed
to stay calm when one demographer elaborated on the dangers of loosing
a Jewish majority, and even when Professor Arnon Sofer, claimed that it
was me who sent the students to demonstrate as part of my alliance with
'contemptible' Europe and 'despicable' Britain. She even sat through
when he explained that he will not allow Tel-Aviv to become Cairo. The
kind of rhetoric one hears in the meetings of the national fronts
meetings across Europe and in the neo-Nazi rallies in Berlin. Here it
was in an academic conference sponsored and honoured by the Rector.

But she had enough when Yoav Gleber claimed that any numbers of
Palestinians living before 1948 were fabricated for political reasons,

and in any case if he had to choose between a Jewish State and a
Democracy, he prefers the former. She stood up and condemned him and
was silenced by the crowed as being stupid and later ushered out of the
meeting by the security people.

L.H. is afraid to go into classes today if this is the university she
studies in. But she will overcome her fear and continue to demand what
is hers by right and virtue. The important question what does it tell
us of the University of Haifa. The speakers in the conference came
from among its top professors, but also the demonstrators came from
that university. The former threw out the latter: oppressed and
silenced them. Another question is how best can we help the Palestinian
and Jewish students who demonstrated bravely and will be probably
charged? I have answered these questions in the past and suggested that
only outside pressure can help, but far more important is the question
of what will happen if nothing is done? Can you, like me, conjecture
the titles of next year's conferences: 'The Meaning and Objective of
Transfer'; 'Encouraging Abortion Among Palestinian Women' etc.
Sometimes you feel that the authorities of this university deserve
every bit of the trouble that came its way recently.


Conclusion:

So far Ilan Pappe. And now, a comic relief: In accordance with the
somewhat hysterical behaviour of my university's administration, an
official - this time Dean of Students Professor Ron Robin - was sent to
express the official view of the administration. After bashing Ilan
Pappe as a liar, a common practice of my university's official
publications since the AUT boycott was announced, Ron wrote on the
university email circuit:
"There was no confrontation of any kind, and the sheer nonsense
reported by Ilan does not deserve a response. But for the benefit of
those interested in the facts: no violence of any kind, no ripping of
posters, and as for the bruising of participants, please...I expect a
bit more imagination!! But please don't believe me: Turn on your TV
news this evening (all channels were represented at this
demonstration). Or better still: why don't you ask some of the members
of Forum Smul who were present (David Blanc, Kobi Pertrozil, Micha
Leshem and others)."
[Forum Smol is the tiny gathering of Left-wing
faculty at the University of Haifa, founded by Ilan, myself, and a
handful of others about six years ago - A. O.].

This came about 15 minutes BEFORE the 8pm news came on our screens.
Come the news, and lo and behold, as another member of faculty reported
to the circuit:
"Ron, Just now on chanel 10 they showed ripping of posters by security
guards and plenty of shoving. Perhaps your message was premature."

And a bit later, two of the left-wing "witnesses" referred to by the
Dean of Students to corroborate his defamation of Ilan's account,
responded indeed:
"Dear Ron, Sorry to disagree, you should have checked with the security
people first.

In the first few minutes of the demonstration, before you arrived (as
you recall you were not there from the start), there was indeed some
heavy pushing and shoving by the security people (one in particular
stands in mind). Some posters were indeed torn, and at least one
student was slightly bruised, as far as I could see. He was very shaken
by the whole thing and had to be calmed down. It is true that very soon
after that, someone was wise enough to intsruct Security to calm down
and there was no violence, as far as I could see, by the time you
arrived and from then on. I am sure that the security will confirm
that.
Kobi"


"I came after teaching at 11h. A line of security guards were stopping
the students from getting in. I asked Micha Rav (our Head of Security)
why they were not allowing the students in. He told me they had made
trouble, and if he let them in they would make trouble inside. I asked
how he knew which had made trouble and which had not - he told me they
had all of them on tape. So I suggested, and he concurred, that any
students who had not made trouble would be allowed in - and I told that
to the students. In the meantime the guards had made a barrier of
tables, as Ilan reported. Then I went and had a pee.
Then I went into the hall, and listened to Prof.
Yoav Gelber. Yoav was telling us that the numbers of refugees were
overestimates by UNRWA and Arabs, but there were some fair Israeli
estimates. For example only 80 were killed in Tantura, and only 40% of
the Ezel figure were killed in Dir Yassin. from the number of those
that "ran away" (that was the term he repeatedly used. He did not use
the term "expelled" even once), we need to deduct 15,000 that were
killed, 80,000 who weren't even Palestinians, many who weren't
refugees, eg in Tulkarm they were receiving UNRWA aid although they had
run away, but their land, and therefore income, had been taken away.
Yoav was quite a Hevreman - he used his military experience to make the
point that as Company Commander he too inflated figures to obtain more
food rations for his company, and deflated the figures to reduce their
guard rota. The audience thought this was an amusing analogy, and laughed.
Toward the end of his presentation, when I could take no more, we had
gotten down from 700,000 plus who "ran away" to ~520,000 who "ran
away". I found this quite difficult to hear, and left before having to
listen to Prof. Sofer. I am sorry I left before Ilan's student LH spoke
out, I would at least have been able to give her some support that might also have
restored some of my self respect. The audience were rapt, and clapped
at the end of the talks. I can report to you that it was not a pleasant
experience. The videos will be on the Herzl Center website in a few
weeks time.
Micah
PS in no way am I writing this to corroborate what Ilan wrote. It is
none of my business what he wrote, and I do not understand why if Ilan
writes something, someone else needs to corroborate it. I find that quite
offensive."

 

A Middle East Update, 26 May 2005: Nakba Commemoration; the AUT boycott

Last Saturday I attended a very sad demonstration by a women's group called ZOCHROT (remembering [fem.]), which has organized, on the lawn of Rabin square in Tel Aviv, an installation representing the whole country from north to south. Each of us was asked to select a card bearing the name of a former Palestinian village destroyed or converted in 1948 (with a data of population numbers, and what happened to the village at that time and since) and place it on the "map" according to the coordinates marked on the sides of the lawn, thus creating together a chart of all the abandoned/ruined/obliterated villages. This was their very sad, but very powerful way of commemorating the Naqba. A quiet, sombre, and appropriate memorial service to a dispersed community, following weeks devoted to the commemoration of the holocaust of European Jewry, 60 years to the end of WWII, and the too many Israelis killed during the lasting war in the Middle East. None, I suppose, will see much point in dismantling the flourishing campus of my alma mater, Tel Aviv University, and reconstruct on its ruins the former Palestinian village of Sheikh Muaneis, on the lands of which it was built. But the persistent efforts by official Israeli ideology to make the sad memory of the former village totally obliterated is an evil practice. In that demonstration, Arabs and Jews joined together in remembering the injustice done to the Palestinian people, while trying to secure a national home for another persecuted nation. In attempting to find the sentiments uniting us, it never occurred to any of us present we should shun or boycott each other as part of our campaign for just and lasting peace, even though many of us in that gathering had different views regarding the strategy or tactics this campaign should take.

The AUT boycott was revoked today. My university will no doubt celebrate the glowing triumph of the angels of light over the forces of evil, and its current administration, after gloating over what they deem to be their victory over that anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli conspiracy (as the Rector of Bar-Ilan University said on the news, and the President of the University of Haifa implicitly suggested in a letter distributed on the faculty circuit), will go on organizing academic conferences about THE Demographic Problem, namely, what's to be done about the proliferation in the Jewish state of Arab citizens (offering that bedouins bringing ten children be arrested as criminals, and implicitly suggesting that Jewish religious zealots bringing the same number of children should be probably applauded). It will continue spending its financial resources on expensive lawyers threatening the enemy, namely the British academics, with libel suits; preparing the legal background for defending their decision not to put signs in Arabic on campus (while patting themselves on the shoulder for their alleged admirable liberality in treating its twenty percent Arab students); or legally defending their practice of firing faculty for not accepting their political dictates. This expenditure will come at the expense of accepting a plan offered them by the university's faculty association to divert a small fraction of the budget to save a collapsing pension fund before retired faculty will find themselves broke (the sole occasion on which that association called upon its members this week to come out and protest). The universities administrations will now gather behind the flag raised by the champion of academic freedom: our Minister of Finance Netanyahoo, the real villain behind the financial collapse of higher eduction in Israel, who just yesterday has appointed himself chair of a new authority fighting the discrimination of Israeli universities.

To be sure, I wholeheartedly believe that only a strong and effective pressure on Israel from the outside will make clear to its leaders and citizens alike that the road we hit is leading to total disaster, both morally and pragmatically. Indeed, my compatriots should know Israel cannot go on ignoring international law, stick by its expansionist and repressive policies, and become progressively a look-alike of apartheid South Africa, without eventually alienating the state among the nations. And yet effective is the key term here. Was that the lesson of this short-lived boycott? Not gladly, and at the peril of being accused of self-serving motives, I must reiterate my opinion that this boycott was redundant and pointless. For about a month now, I hardly heard around anything but a discussion of that boycott: whether it upheld or infringed with academic freedom; whether it gave vent to anti-Semitic feelings or was motivated by the policies of Israeli governments; whether it represented the hypocrisy of those who were too afraid to admit that their own institutions or governments deserved a similar sanction; whether it was going to make Israeli academics reconsider their usual practice of conducting business as usual while the atrocities of the occupation were going on, or just enhance this practice by corroborating the feeling that "the entire world is against us." At least this latter point was answered during the period the AUT boycott was on: in the flood of arguments prized by colleagues during the last month, only a handful suggested that we stop and think whether at least part of the fault for that declarative gesture adopted by the AUT lay indeed with us; and those happy few voices were those of ones who, to begin with, were in agreement with the arguments which brought about the boycott, if not necessarily endorsed the boycott itself. And these calls, on the whole, fell on deaf ears.

During that month of boycott fury, the Israeli security forces went on killing Palestinians, some armed, some innocent; just last night, a Palestinian family has complained, a group of soldiers took over their living room for watching, on their TV set, the final football game between Milan and Liverpool (The IDF investigates); While Palestinians in the village Silwan, near Jerusalem, are not given permissions to build necessary extensions to their houses because the site is assigned for archaeological excavations, it forms part of the plans to expand nearby settlements; the IDF provoked the Hizbulla in the north, causing injuries among civilians, admitting more or less it had done so to gauge the level or response the Hizbulla was committed to at this time; the government went on talking about "disengagement," but at the same time pumped more money into strengthening the settlement project; Israeli soldiers continued to stop Palestinians at road-blocks, making their life misery; and making it almost an impossible task for the Palestinian students to attend their colleges and universities. The latter is the primal sin for which Israeli academe should have been reproached, first and foremost, rather than placing a blanket accusation which does not distinguish between those risking their academic positions for raising their voice against wrongs and those who use their positions to perpetrate them. If at all, it is the total silence of Israeli academic institutions (apart from some individual academics) in the face of this regular practice of barring students and faculty from pursuing their study and research should have been the primal cause for sanctioning Israeli academe. Intimidating members of faculty and students who dare express views which are out of line with the university administration is grave enough; maintaining business as usual while academic freedom is downtrodden daily by the occupation forces (while offering to upgrade a third rate college in a settlement into a university as a pure political statement untainted by any academic consideration) is a betrayal of any value reflecting academic conscience. On the last day in which the AUT boycott was still on, my country has symbolically demonstrated its respect for academic freedom: it has prevented the deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, from taking part in a conference on the right of return, which is scheduled to take place in London this weekend (see article below -- [PIWP editorial comment: Oz refers to a "breaking news" version of this article which appeared in Ha'aretz next day]). How many colleagues protested against this liberal move? Any word about it from my university's authorities? You have guessed right.

Back in 1982, I went on a coast-to-coast mission, sponsored by the Association of Arab Students of America and the late Edward Said, with my friend, Dr Salim Tamari of Bir-Zeit University, to jointly campaign against the frequent closure of academic institutions of higher education in the occupied territories. For three weeks we toured the US from San Francisco to New York, sharing platforms in public meetings, press conferences, TV shows, radio programs. I bear one crucial memory of that campaign: the sight of two academics, one Palestinian, one Israeli, campaigning together for the cause of peace, was the main factor which has opened the hearts and the minds of those who listened to us. My lesson was, and still is, that joint efforts by academics, artists, and intellectuals of both parties are much more effective than a division enforced by a council vote. I will not complain if a Palestinian academic might feel too outraged at my country's often criminal policies against her/his nation to converse with me, even though I share the same feelings against my government's policies. There are some academics I know with whom I will never collaborate. And I would like to see some hypocrites donning a progressive These reactions are based on my personal feelings. But I think a dictate by vote to boycott a faceless multitude is not helping a bit to the cause of peace.

Let us forget those petty arguments about the justification or erroneous nature of academic boycotts, which divide the camp of those desiring peace in this part of the world. Let us join forces to eradicate the injustice, evil and atrocities perpetrated by my country in the name of security, while persisting the occupation of another nation and thwarting its justified aspiration for self-determination as a free, equal and prosperous one among the family of nations. Let us all work together to stop the misery inflicted on the Palestinians and corruption spread among the Israelis as a direct result of this bloody occupation which lasts for almost four decades. Let us teach ourselves, as well as our young students, through joint research, experiment, and artistic creation, to coexist peacefully, to strive together for a better world, while courageously commemorating and investigating past evils in order to learn how not to repeat them. Let us join our efforts, leaving rift, separation, "disengagement," and alienation to those evil and corrupt forces whom we all wish to overcome. Let us preserve our fighting energies for bringing down the ideological lies which have become a substitute for humanist values in our society, whose living symbol is an occupation zone, irrationaly defended and upheld by corrupt, greedy financial imperialists and their political lackeys.

For better days,
A. Oz

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