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IAM Friday Special - Israeli Academia: The Rot Spreads / PFUUPE Boycott / Israel Apartheid Week / Toronto U: Israel-haters



Israeli Academia: The Rot Spreads

The new year has produced yet another boycott of Israelis by Israeli illuminati. In this case 150-plus academics signed a petition calling for a boycott of the Ariel University Center of Samaria (formerly the College of Judea and Samaria).

This latest boycott petition by Israeli academics is, however, different in one respect. According to its initiator, Nir Gov, a scientist at the Weizmann Institute, over a third of the signatories are drawn from natural and physical science faculties, moving beyond the humanities and social science departments that have traditionally been the major source of slanted, defamatory attacks on the Jewish state.

Gov noted this with apparent pride. But the fact that successful scientists, who almost invariably have taken exquisite care to assure the accuracy of their experimental results before publishing them, would sign onto a distorted, biased assault on Israel, actually represents a further slippage in the moral integrity of significant elements of Israeli academia.

Gov’s petition includes invocation of the smear of Israeli “apartheid”; specifically, a declaration that Ariel reflects a “policy of apartheid.” Of course, apartheid in South Africa was a race-based system aimed at keeping all of the territory on which black South Africans lived under control of the white government while withholding from blacks genuine citizenship rights. In contrast, Israelis, while wanting to negotiate new, defensible borders as called for by the authors of UN Security Council resolution 242 in the wake of the 1967 war, overwhelmingly support an agreement which would entail the vast majority of Palestinians pursuing their own political course in lands ceded by Israel. In fact, proposals for such an arrangement, and even for ceding more territory than is consistent with Israel’s preserving defensible borders, have repeatedly been made by Israeli governments and invariably rejected by Palestinian leaders.

The petition, again parroting standard anti-Israel tropes, characterizes Ariel as an “illegal settlement” and its existence a violation of “international law and the Geneva Convention.”

While states and international bodies generally hostile to Israel have embraced such characterizations of Ariel and other Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines, various experts on international law, and groups referencing expert opinion, have refuted these claims. 

For example, Eugene Rostow, a former dean of Yale Law School, a leading interpreter of international law, an undersecretary of state for political affairs in the American State Department, and an author of Resolution 242, argued that, under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and under article 80 (the so-called “Palestine article”) of the United Nations Charter, Jews have a right to settle in any of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The settlements are therefore neither illegal nor a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Only when there is an agreement in which Israel explicitly cedes territory and foregoes the presence of Israeli communities in that territory will parts of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean be legally closed to Israeli settlement. Indeed, Israel has foregone settlement in areas A and B as defined by the September, 1995, Oslo II interim agreement, the former area ceded to full Palestinian control, the latter to Palestinian civilian and Israeli security control. Israel has done so even as the Palestinians have violated their own obligations under Oslo II.

Rostow wrote more specifically some years after the 1967 war, “Israel has an unassailable right to establish settlements in the West Bank.”

Other experts have pointed out that the Geneva Convention refers to forced transfer of civilian populations and, as the settlements entail voluntary movement, the Convention is irrelevant for this reason as well.

Based on the relevant international documents and expert legal opinion, the U.S. State Department, for example, does not view the Geneva Convention as applicable to Israeli settlements. In addition, U.S. administrations, with the exception of that of Jimmy Carter, have consistently regarded settlements as legal even as some have criticized them as complicating the search for peace.

The academic signatories of the recent anti-Ariel petition once more mimic Israel’s critics by suggesting that settlements such as Ariel are rendering peace impossible. But the claim that border issues and settlements are obstacles to peace flies in the face of repeated experience over the decades, and not least in the last decade, with Israel’s Arab interlocutors. The Palestinian leadership has consistently declared and demonstrated that no territorial concessions could induce it to sign onto an “end of conflict” agreement, give up demands for a “right of return” intended to transform Israel into yet another Arab entity, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or indeed recognize the legitimacy of any Jewish sovereignty in the area. Moreover, it has consistently used its media, mosques and schools to indoctrinate Palestinians into believing that all Jewish claims are illegitimate, a falsification of history, a violation of international law, and a usurpation of Arab and Muslim rights, and that it is the obligation of Palestinians to dedicate themselves to Israel’s annihilation.

Within humanities and social science departments of Israeli universities, the all-too-common abandonment of education and its replacement with anti-Zionist and “post-Zionist” indoctrination built on false and defamatory claims, is well documented and widely recognized. An incident such as Teddy Katz receiving a grade of 97 from Haifa University’s history department for his masters thesis, submitted in 1998, falsely claiming that Israeli soldiers massacred Arabs in the village of Tantura during the 1947-1949 war, is just one of the more notorious examples of this phenomenon.

But the involvement of large numbers of natural and physical science faculty members in the recent petition - their categorical endorsement of claims against Israel that are either bogus or, at best, dubious and open to incisive counter-argument - represents more than simply a numerical expansion of those Israeli university departments touched by a debauching of academic integrity.

Petition organizer Gov is a member of Weizmann’s Chemical Physics department and appears to have enjoyed quite a successful career. Another petition signatory and fellow department member Itamar Procaccia has won particular prominence in his field, having been honored with the Israel Prize for his professional achievements.

But success in a field such as theirs requires an academic rigor far beyond that expected in humanities and social science departments, even those that still adhere to basic standards of integrity. No serious scholar involved in research in chemical physics would allow a paper to go out with his name on it unless the experimental results being reported upon - whether his own or those of graduate students or post-docs working in his laboratory - were checked and rechecked, the experiments repeated and the resulting data vetted again and again. In addition, papers reporting on the scholar’s research would claim nothing beyond what the confirmed experiments demonstrate. If the scholar chose to include in a publication possible implications of his experimental results, or to speculate more widely on the significance of his data, he would clearly label such inclusions simply possibilities and speculations.

Yet here in this recent petition we have individuals like Gov and Procaccia, who almost certainly take rigorous care in the research with which they associate their names, signing on to categorical claims that are factually shoddy and demonstrably biased regarding such matters as the legality of settlements, the relevance of the Geneva Conventions, the possibilities of genuine peace and the place of settlements in the quest for peace. In addition, the research about which they are so meticulous is likely abstruse and hardly applicable to people’s immediate well-being, while the petition claims about which they are so cavalier are exploited by Israel’s enemies and have very practical, deleterious consequences for the state and its people.

And so, as reflected in this recent petition, the defamation of Israel by Israeli academics has not only won new faculty recruits but has engaged those whose training and professional practices ought to render them more immune to endorsing biased and defamatory claims. The rot not only widens but deepens.



PFUUPE wishes to reiterate its firm opposition to any relationships between Palestinian and Israeli academic institutions


PFUUPE | 19 January 2011

Statement of Position

Occupied Palestine, 19 January 2011

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) wishes to reiterate its firm opposition to any bilateral or multilateral relationships between Palestinian and Israeli academic institutions. In reference to the decision by the University of Johannesburg Senate in September 2010 to review the University's Memorandum of Understanding with Ben-Gurion University, and particularly regarding the condition of partnering with a Palestinian university, PFUUPE, representing Palestinian academics at virtually all Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip stands firmly behind the position of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE) rejecting cooperation with Israeli universities.  The CHE, representing all higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), has rejected, since the early 1990s, any form of cooperation by Palestinian institutions of higher education with Israeli academic institutions until the Israeli occupation ends.[1] This position was reiterated again with particular reference to the Memorandum of Understanding between Ben-Gurion and Johannesburg Universities during one of its meetings  in October 2010. Members of the CHE reaffirmed their rejection to any form of cooperation with Israeli universities, be it direct cooperation, or through third parties.   

PFUUPE fully endorses the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fulfils its obligations under international law [2] and, as part of it, the Call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).[3] Within the framework of this non-violent form of resistance to the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians, the boycott must be applied to Israeli institutions, including all universities that are complicit in the state's violations of international law and human rights until they end their direct and indirect collusion in the state's colonial and apartheid policies.[4] 

It is widely acknowledged and well documented now that Israeli academic institutions are deeply embedded in the system of oppression and domination practiced by the Israeli state. Israeli universities and research institutions cooperate closely with the security-military establishment through research and teaching activities. They have never dissociated themselves from – let alone condemned -- the occupation regime, despite the more than four decades of the systematic stifling of Palestinian education, even when the Israeli occupation shut down Palestinian universities and schools for long periods – reaching four years in the case of Birzeit University. Israeli universities have also never condemned the entrenched and institutionalized system of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel within the Israeli polity, society and even the academy.

As was the case in the South African struggle against apartheid, and in light of the multifaceted oppression Israel exercises against the Palestinian people, we believe that the most effective form of solidarity with Palestinian academics and institutions of higher education is direct civil action aimed at bringing an end to the Israeli occupation and regime of apartheid in Palestine.  Isolating Israel in the international arena through various forms of boycott and sanctions, and thus forcing it to obey international law and respect Palestinian rights, is one of the most important and morally sound strategies open to the international academy.  As a first, urgent step, PFUUPE expects and urges international academic institutions to at least end all cooperation with complicit Israeli institutions.

We hence salute the University of Johannesburg faculty who have challenged the current relationship with Ben-Gurion University. We also salute the more than 250 South African academics who signed a petition calling for severing ties with Israeli universities, [5] and we particularly appreciate the moral leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who wrote: 'South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of 'purely scholarly’ or 'scientific work’.” It can never be business as usual.’ [6]

Finally, on behalf of Palestinian academics, we urge our South African colleagues to support our struggle for justice and peace through severing all links with Israeli universities until Israel fulfills its obligations under international law. We hope that South Africans, in particular, can appreciate the urgency of fulfilling this moral obligation to end injustice and achieve freedom and equality for all.

Dr. Amjad Barham

President, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees



[1] The Palestinian Council for Higher Education, composed of heads of Palestinian universities and representatives from the community, has, since the 1990’s, adhered to its principled position of rejecting "technical and scientific cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli universities" until Israel ends its occupation.


[2] http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52

[3] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[4] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[5] www.UJpetition.com

Posted on 19-01-2011



New Socialist : Events


TORONTO: Israeli Apartheid Week
07.03.2011 - 13.03.2011


The 7th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week
featuring keynote speakers Judith Butler and Ali Abunimah
Toronto: March 7 - 13, 2011

Mark your calendars - the Seventh Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will take place in Toronto from March 7 - 13, 2011!

First launched in Toronto in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year was incredibly successful with over 55 cities worldwide participating in the week's activities. In Toronto, IAW 2010 featured a full week of events celebrating 5 years of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) successes. 
IAW 2011 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the BDS movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of these successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. Confirmed speakers in Toronto include world-renowned philosopher Judith Butler and Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah!

All speakers and full programme available soon at: http://apartheidweek.org/

Join our facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Israeli-Apartheid-Week-Toronto/46324309566


National Post, Canada


University of Toronto: Among the Israel-haters

  January 19, 2011 – 2:50 pm

Last night, I went to the University of Toronto’s George Ignatieff Theatre, plunked down my $5, and, along with about 130 other interested observers, walked into a 2-hour panel discussion called “Exposing Israeli Apartheid and the Violation of Palestinian Rights: A public forum on the second anniversary of the Gaza massacre.”

Speakers included Khaled Mouammar (head of the defunded and marginalized Canadian Arab Federation); gay activist Tim McCaskell; and Jenny Peto, who, by this point, really needs no introduction. The Toronto Star‘s Antonia Zerbisias was originally on the speaker’s list, but withdrew for mysterious reasons, and was replaced by an earnest U of T undergrad named Vivien Douglas from “Students Against Israeli Apartheid” (not to be confused with McCaskell’s group, “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid”; or Peto’s “Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid”).

As someone who’s familiar with both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate, I didn’t expect to hear any new arguments. But it is always interesting to see activists in their native habitat, as it were — preaching to their own.

Mouammar started off the proceedings with a speech about the evils of Canada, not Israel — dwelling at great length about all the ways that his CAF had been mistreated by Stephen Harper’s government.

Then came McCaskell, who focused on the controversy surrounding the 2010 Pride march. A lot of what he said was new to me, because he resisted the opportunity to simply bash Zionists, and spoke more broadly to the dysfunctionality of the Pride organizers, whom he described as “weak, politically immature, incompetent opportunists.” He also spoke at some length — though often cryptically — about tensions between Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and an allied faction known as “The Pride Coalition for Free Speech,” which marched separately in the parade. (McCaskell complained that the “big yellow signs” of the Free Speech contingent somewhat overshadowed QAIA.)

In general, McCaskell comes across as articulate and humane — even if his politics are quite radical. His motivations, I believe, mirror those of a lot of older anti-Israel activists trying to recreate the sense of tilting against evil windmills that lent energy and meaning to their younger years. His experience as an anti-South-African-Apartheid campaigner, in particular, seems to have seeped deeply into his political DNA. (In fact, he lapsed into mini-speeches about South Africa at several points during the eventing). The campaign against Israel allows him to recycle the same slogans and sense of moral righteousness.

Vivien Douglas then took the floor. Like a lot of young campus activists, she speaks in the code phrases with which she’s been programmed — referring casually to the Gaza War as a “slaughter” and “massacre.” She also attacked the University of Toronto for cozying up to Israel and for making life difficult for Israel Apartheid Week activists. She reached her state of highest dudgeon when she recited how U of T president David Naylor had travelled to the hated Zionist state where he’s reached out a hand of friendship to Israeli universities. Several cheeky Israel supporters who’d snuck into the back of the room clapped wildly at this — making it clear that they were applauding Naylor, not Douglas. This earned them a “warning” from the event moderator, who told us that anyone who received three warnings would be asked to leave.

Then came Jennifer Peto. Give the woman credit: She is a tough nut who has not at all been intimidated by criticism from this newspaper, from the Ontario legislature, or even from her own brother (whom she referred to, by the way, as a “pro-Israel racist fanatic”). She said a few ludicrous things (such as that “[Palestinian] violence is a result of apartheid — when Apartheid ends, the violence ends,” which completely ignores the half-century of Arab violence against Jews that preceded the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza). But overall, like McCaskell, she came across as a highly intelligent (if misguided) activist who could effectively communicate her dogma, and think on her feet, in any debate about the Middle East.

Perhaps more interesting than the speakers themselves was the crowd — which was disproportionately female, almost entirely white, and (by my casual observation of whose arm was wrapped around whom) heavily populated by lesbians.

This was not entirely surprising to me: Anti-Israeli activism has attained a sort of cult following among Toronto gay activists, who otherwise would be twiddling their activists thumbs in a country where gay marriage is legal and uncontroversial. But it is an interesting phenomenon nonetheless: anti-Israel types like to make a very big deal of the broad “community” and “coalition” they are forming. McCaskell, in particular, spoke (naively, I thought) about how queer anti-Israeli activism was allowing gays to forge links with Arabs and Muslims (He can prove this point to my satisfaction by holding a Gay Anti-Israel rally in any Arab or Muslim country of his choosing). Yet when it came time to hold an anti-Israel meeting in downtown Toronto last night, just about the only people who came out were seven or eight dozen campus rainbow-flag types.

In fact, self-delusion is a pronounced strain among radical anti-Israel types more generally. Every speaker last night spoke of the anti-Israel BDS movement — “boycott, divestment and sanctions” — as a sort of tidal wave that was gaining strength every day, and which would ultimately destroy Zionist apartheid. Vivien Douglas in particular spoke of the “huge progressions and successes” of the movement — then added that she did “not have enough time to list them.”

Actually, she did have time — because the movement has been a complete failure. Not a single major Canadian institution of any type has boycotted Israel. In fact, BDS supporters can’t even successfully sanction a single Israeli store or product because (as happened in Toronto last year in response to an attempted Israeli wine boycott), pro-Israel types flood in and buy up the product in question. The Israeli economy is booming compared to those of other nations, and every mainstream Canadian politician has declared himself Israel’s friend.

Only in the somewhat pathetic shadow world of BDS activism is the opposite true. That’s what makes these meetings kind of sad, more than anger-inducing.

One more thing to add: The most bizarre part of last night’s meeting was when the moderator announced that in the Q&A session, she would be enforcing an “equity policy” in her selection of who was permitted to ask questions — with preference given to women, visible minorities and gays (which was kind of ironic given the composition of the room). Sure enough, when the Q&A began, a white man aged about 60 was first to the microphone. But the moderator made a great show of instead picking a black man sitting in one of the back rows and asked him to come to the mic. So we all waited while this affirmative action pick ambled over to the microphone to toss Peto a softball “question” about how she had “inspired” other academics.

Then a woman said she wanted to ask a question, and the mortifying process was repeated. Finally, the man at the mic — who had been patient thus far — shouted out “Am I invisible?” Even some members of the crowd declared “Let him speak!” and the moderator looked unsure of what to do — before (naturally!) threatening the man with expulsion from the room for his impudence. (Eventually, he was allowed to ask his question.)

The fact that this man had to wait there at the mic, merely because of the colour of the skin, while others got to speak before him — why it reminded me of that thing they once had in South Africa … Apar… Aparth …

What’s that word I’m looking for?

National Post  - jkay@nationalpost.com

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