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General Articles
posted by Bernice Lipkin
January 20, 2003

Late in 2000, soon after the start of the Second Intifada, some Israeli academics became very excited -- they had at last found peace partners among the Palestinians. They claimed these Palestinians were a "secular, civic, sane Palestinian peace movement". Danny Rabinowitz, a professor of anthropology at Tel Aviv University, described it this way:

" Last Friday, a group of 110 Palestinian academics and public figures from the territories published a petition that was, in effect, an urgent appeal to the Israeli public (Ha'aretz, Nov. 10, 2000). A settlement capable of bringing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to an end once and for all, they argue, must be based on four principles: an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines; the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine alongside West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; Israel's recognition of its responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 as a precondition for the formulation of a just solution to the plight of those refugees; and mutual recognition that each side has a connection to the holy sites that are under its jurisdiction."

The Israeli Leftists thought this was great. They conceded that Arafat's rejection of Barak's concessions was popular among the Palestinians and could lead to war, but they felt that subscribing to the Palestinian Peace Group's demands would work towards a peaceful solution:

" .... a broad-based Israeli response to this direct appeal is vital because it could promote an important component in Palestinian society that aspires to a peace that will not force the Palestinians to concede fundamental national principles. Furthermore, such an Israeli response could also eventually create a wide foundation for dialogue between two solid secular, sane, leftist blocs."

In other words, peace meant the Palestinians could take whatever they regarded as theirs. Israel -- apparently not having any fundamental national principles -- would give up Yesha and East Jerusalem and, abiding by a one-sided interpretation of various UN resolutions, would let the 1948 Arab refugees flood into Israel. I don't understand the fourth principle of peace; but I suspect that these sane secularists didn't much care about the religious aspects anyways.

Actually, Israel's agreement would not make for immediate peace. Israel would also have to make unstated concessions to the Palestinian Arabs who were Israeli citizens.

"We [the Palestinian Peace Group] contend that peace between the two peoples is also contingent on achieving full equality between Palestinian-Arab and Jewish citizens in a democratic Israeli state."

Oren Yiftachel, Head of the Department of Geography at Ben Gurion University was one of the Israeli organizers who solicited support from the Israeli public. Nothing happened. The Palestinian version of a peace-seeking group faded into the background. Yiftachel blamed the Americans and Israelis when the Arabs intensified doing what they do best: bombing, shooting, maiming.

Yiftachel's subsequent history is unremarkable -- he did what those on the Israeli Academic Left do. He signed a letter encouraging Israeli academics to refuse to "serve as soldiers in the occupied territories." He and Asad Ghanem, an Arab political scientist, wrote "an op-ed piece in Haaretz proposing that Jews join Palestinians in celebrating 'Land Day', a day at the end of March when Israeli Arabs march against Israel and denounce Zionism" (Solomon Socrates, Israel's Academic Extremists, soc.culture.israel, December 26, 2001). He denounced a proposal that Jews move to the Galilee as racist, even though the Galilee is an undisputed part of Israel. With his Siamese twin, Professor of Women's Studies Rema Hammami of Birzeit University, he lectured on Israel and Palestine at the University of California Berkeley, Tufts, Boston College, Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago. He continued to insist that "[t]he past few months of violent Israeli-Palestinian clashes were triggered by a poorly timed visit by hard-line Lukid party member Ariel Sharon to a contested Jerusalem site" (www.csls.org.za). He urged that an international force come into Israel, specifically to protect the Palestinian people. (Nothing was said about protecting Israelis from Arab suicide bombers and shooters.) Clearly, his credentials as a worthy member of the pro-Palestinian Academic Left can not be denied.

Meantimes, Marxists and Arab sympathizers in Europe, but especially in England, were busy, busy, busy helping the hapless Palestinians. As I described in The Unenviable Fate of Israeli Leftists in the July-August 2002 Think-Israel: Steven Rose sparked a campaign to deny Israeli academics travel funds and access to their European colleagues. One academic who declared herself inspired by this crusade was Mona Baker of the University of Manchester, who promptly fired two Israelis who served on the editorial boards of journals she controlled. In a move that outsiders who don't understand the dedication of the Israeli academic leftists to the Arab cause might think was stupid, some Israeli academics signed the petition to isolate Israeli academics. I speculated that the selfless efforts of these Israelis might work to their own detriment.

This has happened to that tireless worker for the Arabs, Oren Yiftachel.

The two interlinked groups -- Israeli leftists and their British buddies -- collided when Yiftachel and Ghanem coauthored an article and submitted it to David Slater, editor of an appropriate British journal. As Steven E. Plaut of the University of Haifa describes it:

" .. Yifatchel himself got hoisted on his own petard. You see, he was trying to place one of his Israel-bashing `academic' articles in a periodical named `Political Geography', a piece devoted to proving that Israel was a worse country than South Africa under white apartheid. But the article got rejected by the British journal, despite its favorable position on Israel's destruction, because the journal is boycotting Israeli academics in total."

Edward Alexander of the University of Washington in Seattle ("The Academic Rejection of Israel", J. Post, 3 jan 2003) explains what makes the rejection so ludicrous:

"Here was a case to test the mettle of a boycotter - a mischling article, half-Jewish, half-Arab, wholly the product of people carrying Israeli passports and working for Israeli institutions, yet expressing opinions on Israel as the devil's own experiment station indistinguishable from Slater's. Poor Slater, apparently unable to amputate the Jewish part of the article from the Arab part and (to quote him) `not sure to what extent [the authors] had been critical of Israel,' rejected the submission in its entirety. Or so it seemed - for after half a year of wrangling, it emerged that Slater might accept the paper if only its authors would insert some more paragraphs likening Israel to apartheid South Africa. In other words, the Englishman might relax his boycotting principles if his ideological prejudices could be satisfied.

Exactly what happened at this point is not easy to discover. Since Yiftachel is one of those academics who adheres to the motto `the other country, right or wrong,' it is hard to believe he would balk at describing Israel as an apartheid state. He had in the past denounced Israeli governments as racist or dictatorial and had co-authored with Ghanem a piece in Ha'aretz urging Jews to participate in `Land Day.' But now he had become the classic instance of somebody `hoist with his own petard,' caught in his own trap. At one point he complained to Slater `that rejecting a person because of his [national] origin, from an academic point of view, is very problematic.' Not only did it interfere with the progress of Yiftachel's career, it hurt the anti-Israel cause.

`From a political and practical point of view, the boycott actually weakens the sources of opposition to the Israeli occupation in universities,' he admitted."

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, 16 December 2002, Amnon Lord labeled those academic Leftists around the world -- and their collaborators in Israeli universities -- who libel Israel spiritually and intellectually as "spiritual marauders". "These people are responsible for the spread of the terrorism war against the Jews to every city in the world ..." He used Yiftachel's story to illustrate how Israeli academics were toadying up to British academic institutions.

"I admit there was something ironic about the story that caused a lot of gloating, because Yiftachel is a researcher who has advanced his career through slanted anti-Zionist research.

But the main question here is how Israeli-born intellectuals -- sabras -- have become so morally spineless that they are willing to turn their backs on their society and their people.

If this were a unique story, we could not generalize from it. But knowing Israeli intellectuals, this story tells us about both British academe and its Israeli clients."

Too true.

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