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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Israeli University Lecturer calls for a Boycott of Israel

The article below was printed as an Op-Ed in the LA Times. It has caused a furore. Neve Gordon, a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, has come to the conclusion that only a boycott of Israel will be effective in putting pressure.

Neve Gordon supports, wrongly in my opinion, the 2 States solution. It is a non-starter. ‘Facts on the ground’ have ensured that. In any case a 2 State solution would have concretised apartheid, not eliminated it.


But Neve Gordon is not a supporter of Apartheid and his support of 2 States, like that of Norman Finkelstein, is on the grounds of practicality. He doesn’t support a Jewish state in order that Jews can have privileges but in order that they can get out of the hair of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.


In the article below from Ha'aretz, it would seem that Neve Gordon’s support for BDS has thrown Los Angele’s Zionists into a panic. Indeed it would seem that some have lost their marbles (or what there was anyway!). Ha'aretz carries the following article in which the LA Zionists are mulling over whether to retaliate against Gordon’s call for a Boycott of Israel by Boycotting the University in which he teaches!! Someone should tell them that’s exactly what they should do!!


The final article is from Jewish Voices for Peace and asks you to write letters in support of Neve Gordon, who is coming under immense pressure as a ‘traitor’ etc. All the usual Nazi-type slurs that one expects in fact. Like Ilan Pappe, it is probably only a matter of time before Neve Gordon, like many other Israeli academics, finds that the Jewish State is an inhospitable climate for Jewish dissidents.


Tony Greenstein


An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it's the only way to save his country.

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.


Not surprisingly, many Israelis -- even peaceniks -- aren't signing on. A global boycott can't help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one's own nation.


It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.


I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country's future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews -- whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel -- are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.


There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.


The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel's withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.


Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, "on the ground," the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?


I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren't citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.


I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a "gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity." For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians -- my two boys included -- does not grow up in an apartheid regime.


Neve Gordon is the author of "Israel's Occupation" and teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.


Defend academic freedom. Defend the right to talk about boycott, divestment, and sanctions
On Thursday, August 20 the LA Times published an op-ed in which Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon, a prominent political scientist and long-time peace activist, wrote that the question that kept him up at night, both as a parent and as an Israeli citizen, was how to ensure that his two children as well as the children of his Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime. His pained conclusion is that the only strategy left is "massive international pressure" in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). He therefore endorses the Palestinian BDS campaign proposed by a wide swath of Palestinian civil society.(1)

Following the publication of the article there has been a vehement and aggressive attack against Gordon in Israel that calls into serious question Israel's committment to academic freedom and the democratic right to free speech.

We now believe that "massive international pressure" will be needed to keep him from being fired from his job.

Tell Ben Gurion University and the Israeli Minister of Education to defend academic freedom.

Prof. Gordon's endorsement of economic pressure offers what Naomi Klein termed "the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal" to address the Israeli occupation (2).

And yet, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the President of Ben Gurion University, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that the "university may no longer be interested in his services." She added that "Academics who feel this way about their country, are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere." (3)

Is Prof. Carmi really calling on Prof. Gordon to leave his country?

Several Knesset members from the right called upon Carmi and the Minister of Education to sack Neve Gordon, while Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar called the article "repugnant and deplorable."(4) In the thousands of talkbacks generated by articles in Israel, hundreds of angry readers have called Gordon a traitor, a virus, cancerous, and have threatened to expel him from Israel and some have even called for his execution. Unsurprisingly Israeli rights-abusive policies, the occupation and how one might resolve the conflict are side-stepped, and the central issue becomes how to do away with the messenger.

In Prof. Gordon' words: "From the responses to the article it seems most people don't have the courage to discuss the main issues: Is Israel an apartheid state? How can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved? Is the settlement project good for Israel or will it cause the state's destruction? It's easy to criticize me while evading the tough and important questions." (5)

The dismaying response to Prof. Gordon's article is but the latest manifestation of attempts to silence dissent within Israel. In only the last six months, activists from New Profile have been arrested and investigated, Ezra Nawi is in danger of going to jail for non-violently defending the destruction of a Palestinian home, and just last week the Vice Prime Minister called Peace Now "a virus." Are these the actions of a democracy?

BDS is a legitimate non-violent strategy with a storied history, most famously in South Africa. It deserves honest, thoughtful appraisal, such as Dr. Gordon offered in his recent article. By supporting Professor Gordon, we are protecting the ability to talk openly about the Israeli occupation and about nonviolent options to address it, including boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

Write a letter to the President of Ben Gurion University and to the Ministry of Education in Israel to defend Dr. Neve Gordon's, and every Israeli's, ability to discuss political issues without fear of losing their jobs.

Sydney Levy
Jewish Voice for Peace


(1) http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gordon20-2009aug20,0,1126906.story
(2) http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/01/israel-boycott-divest-sanction
(3) http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418674692&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
(4) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1109492.html
(5) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3765612,00.html


L.A. Jews mull boycott of Israel university over 'apartheid' op-ed

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community have threatened to withhold donations to an Israeli university in protest of an op-ed published by a prominent Israeli academic in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, in which he called to boycott Israel economically, culturally and politically.

Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, a veteran peace activist, branded Israel as an apartheid state and said that a boycott was "the only way to save it from itself."

Gordon, a political scientist, said that "apartheid state" is the most accurate way to describe Israel today.

"3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967," Gordon wrote, "and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews - whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel - are citizens of the state of Israel."


"It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call to suspend cooperation with Israel,"
he further wrote. "The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories."

Gordon was in the public spotlight in 2002, during Israel's assault on the Palestinian Authority, as one of the Israelis who stayed with Yasser Arafat in his compound. In 2003, he was a vocal critic of Paratroopers Brigadier Col. Aviv Kochavi.


In the wake of the publication of the article, Israel's Consul-General in Los Angeles, Yaakov (Yaki) Dayan sent a letter to the president of Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Rivka Carmi, in which he said that such statements may be detrimental to the university.

"Since the article was published I've been contacted by people who care for Israel; some of them are benefactors of Ben-Gurion University," Dayan wrote. "They were unanimous in threatening to withhold their donations to your institution. My attempt to explain that one bad apple would affect hundreds of researchers turned out to be futile."


"I believe that the definitive answer to anti-Zionist lecturers like Gordon is to set up a center for Zionist studies, which unfortunately does not exist in Israeli academia," he continued. "This center would help dispel the lies disseminated by Gordon in the name of your university."

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