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SPME Voices

EXPLOITING APARTHEID TO JUSTIFY THE ANTI-ISRAEL BOYCOTT

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg

Director, Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation

Political Studies, Bar Ilan University

Ramat Gan , Israel

          Member, SPME Board of Directors

steing@mail.biu.ac.il

 

In reply to "Sanctions can Work", by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, Times Higher Education Supplement, 13 May 2005

 

The attempt by Hilary and Steven Rose to justify a boycott of Israeli academics highlights the core fallacy of their cause â€"  the comparison between the apartheid regime in South Africa and the ongoing Arab-Israeli dispute.  This invalid analogy diminishes the suffering of the black population of South Africa by exploiting it to justify a radical pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli bias. 

There is no question that the Middle East conflict and the violence it has generated for over a century is tragic and has taken a huge toll on Jews as well as Arabs, but this is in no way comparable to South African history.  Similarly, comparison of identity conflicts in Northern Ireland , Sri Lanka , the Balkans, Armenia/Azerbijan and many other areas with South Africa is untenable.  Those who focus exclusively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for this false analogy are exploiting the tragedy of apartheid to advance their prejudices.

In this process, the authors of this article have censured and selected the empirical evidence to fit their political predispositions.  The narrow map to which they refer is limited to the Israeli-Palestinian dimension of this conflict, with no mention of the involvement of Egypt , Syria , Saudi Arabia , Iraq and Iran in the numerous wars and terror attacks.  When the wider map is restored, the artificiality of their analogy and the fictitious image of Israel as "all powerful" becomes clear.  And their version of history is also carefully chosen â€" they have conveniently erased the first and most important United Nations resolution and its aftermath from the chronology.  This resolution, adopted on November 29 1947 by a two-thirds majority, called for partition of the British mandated territory into two states â€" one for the Jewish inhabitants and one for the Arabs.  The Jewish leadership agreed, but the Arabs rejected this division and launched a military assault in direct violation of the UN Charter.  Three decades and many wars later, Egypt was the first to end the state of war, but elsewhere, the conflict continues â€" crushing the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes.

Such misleading and selective claims would be unacceptable in serious academic publication, and this approach â€" designed to turn Israel into a pariah state -- should also be transparent to the members of the AUT.  On the moral and ethical level, the demonization also devalues the impact of valid criticism of Israeli responses to decades of violence   And by taking the side of the more radical and violent Palestinians, those who endorse this boycott undermine the fragile process of restoring some cooperation and hope for a peace based on compromise and mutual acceptance.  This would be the most deadly consequence of replacing the universal values of academic cooperation with particularist political biases.

 

 

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