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[Fwd: Letter from Jerusalem - R Kaminer]

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  • Ron Cohen
    ... Subject: Letter from Jerusalem - R Kaminer Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 21:54:23 +0200 From: Reuven Kaminer To: Reuven Kaminer
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 10, 2005
      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: Letter from Jerusalem - R Kaminer
      Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 21:54:23 +0200
      From: Reuven Kaminer <rkaminer@...>
      To: Reuven Kaminer <rkaminer@...>

      Letter from Jerusalem

      An upcoming meeting of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in
      England is to discuss various boycott proposals against Israeli
      universities and against Israeli academics who do not hold a clear
      position against the occupation.

      Any right- minded individual should know by now that the occupation,
      i.e., the brutal and corrupt Israeli military control over the
      Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 is an abomination and a
      disgrace. It has made a mockery of all principles of elementary justice
      and international law. Needless to say, the colossal settlement land
      grab has totally effaced any tenuously argued connection to Israeli
      security. This being so, any non-violent activity designed to bring this
      occupation to a speedy demise, is morally justified. Therefore, the
      calls for action from Palestinian universities and academics deserve the
      most serious and sympathetic consideration.

      However, the suggestions for international sanctions of one sort or
      another against Israel, like any other translation of principle into
      action, must be scrutinized on the level of strategy and evaluated in
      terms of potential success or failure.

      The Association of University Teachers draft proposal suggests imposing
      a boycott on three Israeli universities and �that the boycott should
      take the form described in the Palestinian call for an academic boycott
      of Israeli institutions.� (I am basing myself on AUT material forwarded
      to the Israel ALEF (Academic Left website).
      Unfortunately, the proposal as its stands has a number of elements,
      which may render it counter-productive.

      The preamble of the Palestinian call suggests a boycott of all �Israeli
      academic and cultural institutions�. Individuals are not mentioned.
      However, Article 4. excludes �conscientious� academics from the boycott,
      thus giving us to understand that all the other individual academics are
      included in the boycott. There is, of course, a tremendous distinction
      between a boycott of individuals and institutions. Especially when you
      are trying to distinguish between the individuals on the basis of their
      convictions. Anyone with the most superficial knowledge of the
      university scene in Israel will recognize the absurdity of seeking to
      impose sanctions, on an individual level against thousands of Israeli
      academics. In the Palestinian call there is a well-meaning, but
      dangerous clause designed to exempt conscientious Israelis from the
      effects of the boycott. Implementing this ethically problematic �escape
      clause� that would �any conscientious Israeli academics and
      intellectuals opposed to their state�s colonial and racist policies�
      would only isolate and expose to derision the very same people who are
      supposed to gain from it. It is a fact that the overwhelming majority
      of �conscientious academics� in Israel bitterly oppose the boycott
      idea. In spite of this, they would be held accountable by their
      colleagues for inspiring and sponsoring hostile steps against their
      careers and livelihood. The very idea of punishing individuals for
      their views or lack thereof can be easily construed as an attack on
      academic freedom, if not worse. This kind of repugnant boycott, which
      will most certainly be grossly ineffective, will indeed receive wide
      publicity courtesy of the alert public relations staff of the Israeli

      The proposal relates to three serious wrongs committed at three
      different universities.
      Two of the three instances � the Hebrew University�s land grab from
      neighbors to build dormitories, and the McCarthyite threats against the
      courageous and distinguished Professor Ilan Pappe, are indeed worthy of
      condemnation. However, they are so untypical of the crimes of the
      occupation to the point that they almost trivialize the scope and the
      depth of the occupation issue without going to the roots of academic
      collusion with the occupation.

      The third instance, the suggestion of steps against Bar Ilan University
      for its role in the establishment of the College of Judea and Samaria,
      in the settlement town of Ariel on West Bank occupied territory is
      indeed a scandal of international proportions. The links between the
      college, established by an Israeli Defence Forces fiat, and Bar Ilan
      University are clear and undisguised. The Council of Higher Education
      in Israel had tried for some time to ignore this festering sore on the
      body of Israeli academic life, but is in the process of coming around to
      the unreserved recognition of this �institution of higher learning� and
      its degrees. This is an issue, which if handled properly, can unite
      enlightened, liberal and democratic minded publics. If there ever was an
      excellent candidate for institutional boycott, Bar Ilan University, for
      its�s sponsorship of the College of Judea and Samaria, is it. The role
      of the Israeli Council of Higher Education in this affair deserves

      I fear that the Palestinian groups are making a huge mistake when they
      lump the academic scene and the cultural scene together and call for a
      cultural boycott. The universities and the academicians, for their part,
      are indeed an essential component in Israel�s governmental,
      administrative, technological and ideological establishment. The degree
      and the focal points of the collusion of the university system with the
      occupation and its administration must be examined closely and
      carefully. The cultural scene is a totally different matter. If there
      is an aspect of Israeli life seething with expressions of disgust over
      the occupation and its moral rejection, it is in culture and
      intellectual life, in literature, art and music. One would have to be
      totally unaware of the dynamics of Israeli culture to consider it a
      buttress of support for the occupation. Or is it suggested that we start
      distinguishing between �conscientious� art and culture and other
      non-conscientious art forms?

      It is excellent that the AUT is planning to �circulate the full text of
      the Palestinian call to all its [branches] for information and
      discussion.� Many of the Palestinian suggestions are worthy of serious
      consideration, however, some must be deemed as inappropriate or
      unworkable. It is to be hoped that the AUT will appreciate both the
      importance of urgent action and the need to elaborate specific forms of
      intervention that will unite the opponents of the occupation in England,
      the Palestinian occupied territories and Israel and attract broad
      support from our respective communities.

      Jewish Heroism in the Cellar

      Yad V�Shem recently inaugurated its new huge and impressive Holocaust
      museum. A bevy of very important people from all over the world were
      there for the ceremonies. It is hard to say anything against such a
      project though many observers thought it a shame that Israeli government
      circles converted the ceremonies into a public relations coup. The Yad
      V�Shem people did make some kind of effort to suggest that there is a
      wider, universal significance to the Holocaust, above and beyond the
      suffering of the Jewish people and the lessons to be drawn from it.
      However, the Israeli Foreign Office, which successfully manipulated the
      media, steered the message back into the old routine arguments. The
      Holocaust happened because of Jewish statelessness, Israel is the living
      proof that the lesson has been learned by the Jewish people. The fierce
      defense of our threatened homeland is the practical embodiment of the
      lesson learned. And that is the meaning of all these beautiful stone
      structures and their contents in the hills of Judea. Q.E.D.

      In a basement in the town of Hadera, halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa,
      David Zelevansky, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union ten years
      ago, set up his own museum. (See, Lily Galili, Ha�aretz, p. A9,
      September 29, 2004) He had a distinctive message that he and many of
      his fellow immigrants felt was not being heard sufficiently in Israeli
      discourse. Zelevansky, a military historian by profession, brought an
      eclectic collection of article to Israel, but the theme of the basement
      exhibition is very focused: Jewish heroism. Zelevansky says that when he
      immigrated, he was certain that his collection would be highly
      appreciated. Well, he had to learn that �the fundamental Zionist
      conception was that Jewish military heroism began here in the state of
      the Jews.� The museum could not be totally ignored and was visited by
      distinguished Israelis such as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak. But the
      exhibition is still in the basement and the rent is going up. Maybe the
      difficulty in integrating this small and specialized exhibition into the
      Israeli �conception� has something to do with a quite different
      conception articulated by Dora Numerovski, renowned as a Red Army combat
      medic in WW II. Numerovski, was astonished by the ethos connecting the
      Holocaust with the establishment of the state. Her response was � It�s
      not true that the state was established because of the Holocaust. The
      state was established because we won. If we hadn�t won, there would not
      be a state.� What an enormous amount of truth is packed into those
      three short sentences.

      Reuven Kaminer
      POBox 9013
      Jerusalem, Israel 91090
      Tel 972 2 6414632
      Fx 972 2 6421979

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