Friday, September 12, 2014

Oh the Shame!

Grad students at the City University of New York (CUNY) are voting on boycotting Israeli universities. The vote is scheduled for the start of Shabbat, because of course it is (update: it has now been rescheduled). And what did Israeli universities do to deserve such unique sanction? To quote from the resolution:
"Israeli professors and students at Israeli universities who speak out against discriminatory or criminal policies against Palestinians are ostracized and ridiculed if not publicly shamed, or worse."
Ostracized? Ridiculed? Shamed? Say it ain't so! Put aside the complete lack of citation, or notation of the quite robust debate over Israeli policies that occurs regularly in Israeli universities -- with the possible exception of being "ostracized", depending on what that means, how is this different from run of the mill academic disagreement? As Liel Leibovitz observes, the resolution seems intent on constructing a monolithic Palestinian and Israeli civil society -- the former uniformly favoring boycotts, the latter parroting the Israeli governmental line in mindless lockstep. Perhaps they should reread their Said.

3 comments:

Kevin Jon Heller said...

I can only assume you are referring to this when you laud the robust debate about Israel's policies in Israel:

http://972mag.com/how-freedom-of-speech-was-crushed-during-protective-edge/96179/

Kevin Jon Heller said...

Or perhaps you were referring to the censure of Hanoch Sheinman at Bar-Ilan University for having the temerity to express sympathy for the war dead on both sides?

David Schraub said...

The examples you provide are indeed repulsive, and a product of the growing (and alarming) influence of far-right thugs in Israeli society (though I may be slightly less sympathetic to the employee who was "wishing for another holocaust", I chalk that up to the authors' desire to ensure that every possible instance of suppression is included in the column).

I could of course respond with examples of vibrant Israeli debate over Gaza (a staple whenever someone wants to claim that "Israelis are so much freer to debate Israeli policy than are Americans). Or I could point you to various examples of the BDS movement turning its reticle to the Jewish community writ large (as we're seeing in South Africa, where a top official basically just threatened to launch a pogrom against the local Jewish community for its putative support of Israel).

But that sort of debate strikes me as cliched and in any event far beside the point. Nobody -- not BDS supporters, and certainly not Israeli academics (leftist or not) -- seriously sees boycotting Israeli universities as a way of expressing solidarity with Israeli left-wingers or beleaguered Israeli academics. Why would it -- the BDS movement holds the Israeli left in more contempt than it does the right. The goal here isn't to strengthen positive elements of Israeli society; the premise is that Israeli society is so diseased root-and-branch that it needs to be removed from the conversation entirely.