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Tireless Enemies of Israel: America’s Academic Boycotters

1:02 PM, Dec 23, 2013 • By EDWARD ALEXANDER
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In January 2014 the same MLA, an organization whose 30,000 members dwarf the membership  of the American Studies Association, will devote a panel of its annual meeting to a “debate” of the boycott, perhaps the prelude to a resolution proposing an MLA variant. One of the pro-boycott panelists is Barbara Harlow of University of Texas, who has been a busy virtuoso of anti-Israel activity since at least 1989, when she sprang to the defense of Said for having insisted on the “right” of the PLO, supposedly guaranteed by the UN Charter itself, “to punish collaborators during periods of military occupation.” The other four MLA panelists, in a remarkable display of what progressives mean by “diversity,” also favor the BDS movement, though not all have any connection with literature or philology, the ostensible business of the MLA.

Many of Said’s disciples would go on to concoct a heady brew of postmodernist theorizing, infatuation with terror against Israel and America, and stupefyingly opaque prose. Here, for example, is Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, as heavily petted by Columbia University today as Said was years ago by that noble institution, in a lecture of 2002: “Suicide bombing—and the planes of 9/11 were living bombs—is a purposive self-annihilation, a confrontation between oneself and oneself, the extreme end of auto-eroticism, killing oneself as other, in the process killing others. … Suicidal resistance is a message inscribed on the body when no other means will get through.  It is both execution and mourning … you die with me for the same cause, no matter which side you are on. Because no matter who you are there are no designated killees [sic] in suicide bombing…It is a response…to the state terrorism practiced outside of its own ambit by the United States and in the Palestinian case additionally to an absolute failure of hospitality.” On such ingredients, which Lionel Trilling used to call “the language of nonthought,” does our professorial avant-garde nourish itself.

The allegations against Israel brought by the assorted academic boycotters are countless, and make the tiny country—that “shitty little country,” as a French diplomat who unzipped his mouth in public said a few years ago—guilty of virtually every evil on the planet with the (possible) exception of global warming. But let us examine the favorite one: Israel is an “apartheid” state. According to the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, “All academic exchanges with Israeli academics … have the effect of normalizing Israel and its politics of occupation and apartheid.” On practically every American campus that deems itself “progressive” there is an Israel Apartheid Week every spring. For days on end the self-declared friends of the human species spew fire and vitriol at the Jewish state and call for its elimination from the family of nations, so that the globe may be Judenstaatrein (purified of a Jewish state).

There have never been apartheid laws in Israel.  Jews and Arabs use the same buses, clinics, government offices, universities, theatres, restaurants, soccer fields, and beaches. All citizens of Israel, regardless of religion or ethnic origin, are equal before the law. That law accords full political, civil, and human rights to all its people, including the more than one million Arab citizens, some of whom serve in the Israeli parliament and cabinet. Israel is also the only country in the world to have sought out and brought to its shores, entirely on its own initiative, tens of thousands of black Africans for purposes other than slavery, granting them full citizenship. There is, to be sure, extreme and murderous racial and religious discrimination in the Middle East—have the Americanists looked into the causes of the 130,000 dead in nearby Syria?—so much so that Israel is nearly the only state in the region where “apartheid” is not practiced in some form.

Anybody who believes that the singling out of Israel, the sole Jewish-majority nation among all the nations of the world, for boycott has nothing to do with Jew-hatred will also believe that Europe’s recent obsession with banning circumcision and the laws of kashrut has nothing to do with a deep-seated desire to rid itself, yet again, of Jews. Such a (conjectural) person might also be interested in some choice real estate I know about in downtown Aleppo.

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