Uri Avnery against the Israel / South Africa analogy and against the boycott.

The following article by Uri Avnery appeared in the Morning Star.

A fresh strategy, please

How much did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.

Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the crimes of the regime.

This week, he visited Israel with the “Elders” – an organisation of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.

The matter of the boycott came up again last week after an article by Dr Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a worldwide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a worldwide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.

I have known and respected Gordon for many years. I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time – neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.

There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle.

According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims that its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor.

After that, the US and its allies no longer had any reason for supporting the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the worldwide struggle against communism.

“The boycott was immensely important,” Tutu told me. “Much more than the armed struggle.

“The importance of the boycott was not only economic,” he explained, “but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue.”

To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story. In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederik Willem de Klerk, was elected president of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. “I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?”

It seems to me that Tutu’s answer emphasises the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today. The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority.

Among a general population of almost 50 million, the whites amounted to less than 10 per cent. This means that more than 90 per cent of the country’s inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them too.

In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80 per cent of Israel’s citizens and constitute a majority of some 60 per cent throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. And 99.9 per cent of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.

They will not feel that “the whole world is with us,” but rather that “the whole world is against us.”

In South Africa, the worldwide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle.

The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite. It would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the “anti-semitic world.”

People are not the same everywhere. It seems that the blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis and from the Palestinians too.

The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath but, on the contrary, to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief and also the Jewish Biblical promise.

I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.

One of the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust. Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that “the entire world was silent” when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.

It may well be that the Jewish conviction that “the whole world is against us” is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.

The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathised with the nazis and were even interned for this in World War II.

Apartheid was based on the same racist theories that inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilised world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the nazi slogan “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” – don’t buy from Jews.

That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Eleven years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements.

Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-semitism.

One of the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible.

When the archbishop asked what we the Israeli peace activists are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the US to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavour. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.

No-one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.

Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilising the world against the state of Israel.

I do not share either view – neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will.

For this to happen, the boycott must gather worldwide momentum, the US must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse and the morale of the Israeli public must break. How long will this take? Twenty years? Fifty years? Forever?

I am afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise, the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.

True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads “for Israelis only.” But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example – in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry and sexual relations between them were a crime.

In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason – safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.

In South Africa, there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both whites and blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact.

The whites did not want partition because their economy was based on the labour of the blacks.

In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the workplace.

Because of this, there is now a worldwide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel. In short, the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle too must necessarily be different.

Back to the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory): “Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with.”

Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, peace activist and former Knesset member. He is one of the founders of Gush Shalom, a broad-based Israeli peace group

Hat Tip to Jim D at Shiraz Socialist.

33 Responses to “Uri Avnery against the Israel / South Africa analogy and against the boycott.”

  1. fred Says:

    Ran Greenstein wrote this reply to Avnery: http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/RanGreen.htm

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      So, fred, do you also agree with Greenstein in his broad support for Neve Gordon and boycott?

      It’s easy to deconstruct Avnery’s argument (or parts of it), as Greenstein has done. Whether that, therefore, makes the (political) opposite of a boycott the only way out is far from obvious. But you link to Greenstein; was this through a felt need to provide intellectual balance or to present the case for a boycott?

  2. letsgeteven Says:

    Desmond Tutu lectures Israelis on the “lessons they must learn from the Holocaust”, as if he understands the Holocaust better than they do. He previously told Israelis “they should forgive the Nazis”. He acts as if he were some sort of God-appointed intermediary between Jews and the rest of mankind. And then the moral illiterate calls on the world to wage economic warfare against the remnants of the survivors.

    Who the hell does he think he is? Has he no humility whatsoever?

  3. Lynne T Says:


    I’m sure ego and ignorance are present. I’m also sure that Tutu holds a grudge against Israel for Israel’s refusal to boycott South Africa, which, if I recall correctly, included Israel supplying arms to SA, which were, of course, used to maintain the police state.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think most of Tutu’s statements are outrageously wrong. It just may be that the Israeli government has to speak to this matter.

  4. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I’m always uneasy about anti-boycott arguments that revolve around the feelings of Jews or Israelis, connotations of anti-Jewish boycotts of the past, etc, because they skirt around the fundamental issue. It seems to me that Avneri defines the conflict in much the same terms as Gordon (despite quibbles about the word ‘apartheid’) and here lies the problem.

    The key problem is the false portrayal of the Zionist enterprise as an inherently racist, imperialist and expulsionist one. It is this rewriting of history that needs to be challenged. We need to emphasise that Zionism is a legitimate nationalist movement. That the Zionist settlement was based on immigration and legal land purchase explicitly sanctioned by international law (the terms of the League of Nations Mandate) and the laws of the prevailing governments of the region. That the Zionist settlement coincided with (and probably helped to stimulate) an inflow of Arabs to the region, not an outflow. That illegal Jewish immigration was largely provoked by the British breach of the mandate after 1936. That the genuine injustices suffered by the Palestinians were certainly a consequence of a defiance of international law, but not Israel’s. The defiance in question was that of the Arab states who defied the 1947 UN partition resolution and sought to destroy Israel by force. And that the continued occupation is at least partly a consequence of Arab rejectionism (i.e. defiance of that same resolution, and the UN recognition of Israel) and terrorism after 1967.

    In short, we need to develop a case based on justice and history. In that respect, Avneri’s ‘sensitivity’ is no more helpful than Gordon’s open aggression. They both sanction a version of history based on new-leftist third-worldism and the whitewashing of Islamist totalitarianism.

    We need to challenge that worldview head-on, not gratefully quote those of its advocates who want to treat us with a little more sensitivity.

  5. Gil Says:


    “I’m also sure that Tutu holds a grudge against Israel for Israel’s refusal to boycott South Africa, which, if I recall correctly, included Israel supplying arms to SA, which were, of course, used to maintain the police state.”

    If this were indeed the case, then Tutu should forgive Israel. After all didn’t he ask Jews to forgive the Nazis? He should lead by example, shouldn’t he?

  6. Jacob-Alain Says:

    “In short, we need to develop a case based on justice and history. In that respect, Avneri’s ’sensitivity’ is no more helpful than Gordon’s open aggression. They both sanction a version of history based on new-leftist third-worldism and the whitewashing of Islamist totalitarianism.

    We need to challenge that worldview head-on, not gratefully quote those of its advocates who want to treat us with a little more sensitivity.”

    This is well put, Harry.

    Revisionist history Soviet style is what the anti-Zionist movement is engaged in.

  7. Lynne T Says:


    As I recall, Tutu has described Israel as worse than South Africa, so who knows but that in his mind, Jews/Israelis can forgive Nazis as the two are the moral equals, but Israelis being worse than South Africa, it’s just too much to ask that Israel be forgiven its support for South Africa.

    But Israel is neither Nazi Germany nor South Africa under apartheid, and neither is the Palestinian “resistance” the equivalent of the apponents of apartheid, except, perhaps the faction associated with Winnie Mandala.

  8. Lynne T Says:

    Did I really type “apponents”! I meant opponents, of course.

  9. Jonathan Romer Says:

    Harry Goldstein’s response is spot on: Avnery is little better than Gordon.

    Both Avnery and Gordon embrace the most simple-minded worldview, in which the only active participant is Israel, the only wrong-doer is Israel, and the only one with responsibilities is Israel. Nowhere in either man’s article is there a flicker of recognition that Palestinians or anyone else have anything to answer for, or any need to rethink their rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.

  10. Perplexed Belgian Says:

    “Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with.”

    It just goes to show how inscrutable the Ways of the Lord can be : Tutu is both blindingly wrong and intolerably self righteous.

  11. Jewish Voice for Peace Says:

    Sydney Levy
    Jewish Voice for Peace

    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

    • Jonathan Romer Says:

      Fascinating. Gordon is free to call for a boycott that would destroy the academic freedom of his peers and compatriots and smear them with the apartheid label. But when those same colleagues voice their disagreement with him — whilst noting that he has tenure and full legal protection — the likes of Sydney Levy are incensed. Levy’s attachment to academic freedom seems a little restricted.

      Incidentally, Gordon lends his support to the “Bilbao initiative” of the BDS crowd, which talks of 60 years of injustice to Palestinians and of their “right” to return to homes in Israel. That is, the boycott is not a plan to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — it’s just another plan to end Israel. Neve Gordon is either astoundingly gullible for a tenured professor of politics, or he’s blatantly dishonest in his aims.

  12. Jacob-Alain Says:

    Sydney Levy, I hope you are joking when you say “Defend academic freedom: Defend the right to talk about boycott, divestment, and sanctions.”

    It seems to me that academic boycotts (as well as sanctions and divestment) are the antithesis of academic freedom. Nor are boycotts conducive to peace.

    Any organization that calls itself “Jewish Voice for Peace” should be for open debate and dialogue not for boycotts, sanctions which create resentment and make peace that much harder.

    Moreover, why would Professor Neve Gordon after he called for a boycott of his institution expect to be rewarded for it by his University? If he were at all consistent he would resign his job and be among the first to boycott the University he thinks is doing so much harm.

    Mr. Levy’s and Professor Gordon’s stance is pretty Orwellian.

  13. Saul Says:

    Yes, I read your post about Gordon.

    I agree fully in defending academic freedom along with other freedoms. I deplore the way the new Israeli administration is treating those who express disagreement. Currently living in the UK I am only too aware of the erosion of civil liberties (for example, in the UK, rights to assembly, rights of protest, liberties of those suspected of “terrorism”, (a word itself that is problematic, to say the least), including secret courts and detention without trial that has taken place. Indeed, a student in Britain was taken into custody merely for printing some materials for research purposes. And, as you are aware, many of these measures have taken place under a Labour government!

    I also appreciate that the right have taken exception against his comments. As we know, in the US, the right have been calling for “proof” of Obama’s birth place. The right make lots of calls to silence individuals with whom they take exception. In the UK, for example, the Sun newspaper called for a charge of treason to be set against Steve Bell a cartoonist for the liberal-left Guardian. I recall, also, in the US a person being arrested in a mall for wearing a “Give Peace a Chance” t-shirt.
    I am aware also of George W. Bush’s comment after 9/11 that, if one was not “for us” one was “against us”, thereby implying all opposition to the war in Iraq was illegitimate.

    In the UK, many Jewish and non-Jewish academics have suffered immense abuse within the UCU for expressing views about Israel that the apparachiks within the Union have disagreed. Indeed, in one case, one union member expressed the hope that any, by leaving the union and who did not “tow the line”, would make the Union a better place. Members have been prohibited from making their voices heard on the Union activists list on mere technicalities (as opposed to the more serious offence of linking to neo-nazi websites). Comments about alleged Zionist omnipotence regularly appear (see the pages on Engage).

    Inflammatory rhetoric, unfortunately, plays its part in debates concerning Israel and Palestine. WIth this point in mind, could you tell us please tell us what action has actually been taken against Gordon? Have any disciplinary charges been set in motion? Has Gordon been asked to leave his job, his country?

    Finally, I find it ironic that on the one hand, JVP are supportive of a discussion about BDS within the framework of “academic freedom” whilst, on the other hand, failing to acknowledge how an academic boycott would affect the academic freedom whose only “offence” would be the passport they hold.

  14. Lynne T Says:

    What credibility does an organization calling itself Jewish Voices for Peace have when it brands Israel as an apartheid state?

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    Is it not embarassing for JVP that whilst they want a nice cosy discussion on boycotting the Jewish state, one of the most respected peace campaigners in Israel opposes it. But, I guess, JVP know better with what with their Naomi Klein books to guide them.
    I note also that whoever posted the JVP thing remained silent about the original post.
    I also find it amusing that a bunch of concerned American citizens are calling for a boycott of another country when their own state is waging an illegal war, keeping people locked up overseas, fly people to secret jails, are complicit with torture and so on and so forth.

    Maybe they should look at their own backyard before demanding others clean up theirs.

  16. Jewish Voice for Peace Says:

    some seem to be irritated. here JVP suggests to fire gordon without firing him:

  17. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”

    That’s the heading from the site linked to by Jewish Voice for Peace, posted here on 3.9.09 @ 7.31 pm. Whoever posted the link appeared to miss the irony of the vibrant, open debate (ie, academic freedom/freedom of speech) at its best, while Jewish Voice for Peace calls for a boycott of Israel. Read carefully what the link shows: Rivka Carmi’s original (possibly personal) call for the sacking of Neve Gordon, and the immediate and strong backlash against that. How’s that for academic freedom in action?

    Just in case anyone at JVP has missed this, they are calling for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against a society that is demonstrating the exuberance of freedom of speech/academic freedom, even as they call for a boycott against this exuberance. Possibly agianst the law (if enacted) in _both_ the USA and the UK.

    To paraphrase the late Airey Neave (of whom I am not a fan, at least not once he’d escaped from wartime captivity in Germany and made it back to the UK and, later, become a Thatcherite MP), “madness be my friend”.

    Do these idiots not realize that the very people they would silence are their greatest allies in calling for an end to the situation they deplore? Plainly, not.

    How many times must it be said that an attack on academic freedom _anywhere_ (Israel, Syria, Iran, Russia, etc, etc) is an attack on it _everywhere_? Clearly, again and again, until the lackwits get the message..

    Oh for an old-fashioned, genuinely anti-racist in all its manifestations left.

    (Sigh). God, that’s clearly an old-fashioned wish.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      I said Airey Neave, when I _should_ have said Richard Pape, who used “Boldness be my friend” as book title for his world war 2 experiences. I apologies to the shades of both for my carelessness and my misremembering.

  18. Jacob-Alain Says:

    I don’t know if the latest reply from “Jewish Voices for Peace” is by the same poster who penned the above comment, Sydney Levy, or not but it equally avoids serious issues in favor of obfuscation:

    “some seem to be irritated. here JVP suggests to fire Gordon without firing him:”

    To explain, the JVP poster offers a link to “muzzle watch” whatever that is supposed to mean to a group of people who want to “boycott” which is to say muzzle Israeli academics:

    That website quotes someone saying that:

    “We, the students, wish to express our support of Dr. Neve Gordon and his welcome efforts to bring to the public important issues regarding the future of Israeli society–issues that are absent from the legitimate public dialog.”

    Hard to know how many students the “we” represents. In any case anyone who read the Israeli press either in Hebrew or in English could hardly agree that there are any issues
    affecting the future “of Israelis society” that are not being discussed.

    I suppose the writer means discussions of boycotting Israeli Universities, though I have read discussions in the Israeli press even about that.

    I would guess that it is not the absence of discussions that bother JVP and their friends, but the fact that most Israelis don’t come to the same conclusions about Israeli society they do.

    This is made clear when in a subsequent paragraph it says:

    “We are taught History but it seems we are not allowed to learn from it… “

    There is no single lesson to be learned from “history.”

    The idea that history offers single lessons is a totalitarian view which has no place in a democratic educational institution.

  19. Another Observer Says:

    Muzzlewatch is the sight who claims that Jewish/Zionist orgainsations “muzzle” “critics” of Israel. I guess the LA Times was the exception, eh?

  20. James Mendelsohn Says:

    JVP, please give us a break, if your website is called “Muzzlewatch” I’d suggest you’re not so good at avoiding antisemitic tropes yourself – do you really think the wicked Zionists “muzzle” dissent by (presumably) controlling the media? And while you’re there, do you really believe Israeli policies are equivalent to the Holocaust, and do you consider it acceptable to cooperate with the Socialist Workers Party and the Revolutionary Communist League, and are you still keen to stand up for Norman Finkelstein?

    And how do you feel about the fact that your organisation is cited approvingly by genuinley antisemitic writers like Stephen Sizer?

  21. Comrade T Says:

    So JVP have irritated a site dedicated to combating antisemitism.

    I assume that they take that to be a “good thing”.

    I think that says everything about their politics and their political maturity.

    It sure beats engaging with any of the comments.

    What radicals they are!!

  22. Saul Says:

    I am sorry, but can we have some clarification here.

    The original post from JVP that,
    “We now believe that “massive international pressure” will be needed to keep him from being fired from his job.”

    In the links provided, it is clear that Gordon is not being dismissed nor, as far as I can tell, is he even facing disciplinary proceedings.

    As to the comments made by those who thought Gordon should be dismissed. a. they have had no effect whatsoever and, b. they have brought into being a considerable opposition to his dismissal by a number of Israeli academics.

    None of this is to downplay the unpleasantness of the whole affair. As any British academic who is prepared to question the “anti-zionism” of their union knows, the name-calling and vilification can certainly take its toll.

    Gordon should not be subjected to such behaviour. But that is very different from making the claim that his University is firing him.

    There is enough mystification of events in Israel and Palestine. It is a pity, therefore, that JVP should add even more confusion.

    Again, I ask for a simple answer. Has Mr. Gordon been disciplined? has he been sacked? has a disciplinary proceedure been set up for him?

    For, until now, the whole matter is really a bit of a non-story.

    Can I ask, just for consistency, how JVP responded to the purge of liberal Iranian academics a few months back? In that case, academics really did lose their jobs because of their political views. Or, since they were not Jews, it didn’t matter?

    Or, is JVP so parochial that “as Jews” they only concern themselves with unsubstantiated offences allegedly committed by other Jews, in what used to be called the politics of the shteitel.

    As to being irritated; one would believe, reading the above post, that, for JVP and other such groups, causing such “irritation” is to be treated as some kind of “victory”, especially when aimed at a site engaged in combating antisemitism. If that is the case, then, it tells a lot about JVP’s political maturity and the manner in which they understand the conflict in Israel as well as the wider world.

    Be that as it may, I await the answer to the questions (although the most I am expecting is another link to another site, rather than an actual discussion).

  23. Absolute Observer Says:


    According to JVP, Carmi received over 4000 emails in 48 hours protesting about her intemperate comments.

    JVP celebrated this fact (along with the fact that some of those sending the emails were from BGU – but, guess we have to boycott them too).

    This “celebration” of a mass email campaign is often not as well received. More often than not, it is portrayed as evidence of a Zionist conspiracy that clicks into being whenever a “brave” journalist/politician/academic “dare criticise” Israel. But, when organised by anti-zionists, is treated as an authentic outpouring of outrage.

    Surely, this is something Muzzlewatch should investigate; the mass campaign of a Jewish group trying to silence a President of a University who “bravely” speaks out against wordly opinion and “dare criticise” someone who calls for the boycotting of her University and the Jewish state as a whole.

    So, Muzzlewatch, whacha gonna do about it? After all, this is precisely the thing you were set up to oppose.

    (But, what we know you mean, of course, is that it’s ok when you do it, but not when others do it, nudge, nudge, what with them being rich Zionists with access to the media (LA Times excluded) to the President, to Congress) and you being poor radicals silenced by the evil beast.)

    Carmi is the President of the University. She has said some rather nasty things. She should not have said them (even though, to quote Ken Loach, one can “understand” why she did). For JVP, her comments are “proof” that Carmi is “firing Gordon without firing him”. Novel idea.

    What, of course, Levy means is that pressure is being put on him to go (despite the support of several of his colleagues, 4000 emails in 48 hours and Union protection).

    Nonetheless, despite all Carmi’s comments, he is still there, and, in all likelihood will remain.

    Some years ago, the President of Harvard spoke out against antisemitism on US campuses. It is a pity JVP and Muzzlewatch didn’t take his comments as seriously as they do the intemperate comments of Carmi. For JVP, Carmi speaks the truth. For JVP Summers silences criticism.

    As to Muzzewatch, people got a bit confused and Jew-haters thought they found a kindred spirit. What the antisemites
    thought was that MW was a site exposing clandestine Jewish control when what MW meant was exposing clandestine Zionist control – see the difference?

    Anyway, it is all explained here.

  24. Absolute Observer Says:

    Post Date :
    Sunday, Aug 30th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    The latest link from MW was as above.

    It is now 4th September.

    What has happened since? Anything?

    Is Gordon still employed? Has he been defenerstrated? Has he left his job?

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    I do hope that the comparison of the two images below does not irritate Muzzlewatch and JVP too much. After all, one opposes Jewish Power, the other Zionist Power.


  26. Absolute Observer Says:

    Questions for you JVP,
    Or are you going to continue relying on merely repeating links to your own assumptions?

    1. What of Averny’s anti-boycott stance? What of HG’s response?
    2. Has any disciplinary proceedings been put in motion against Gordon? What of those Israeli academics who support his right to free speech and have the right to express that right in complete knowledge their jobs and freedom are safe?
    3. How do you square your call for “academic freedom” with a boycott of Israel academics.

    I assume of course that you will not engage with any of these questions since you have your own agenda and are either blind to all other points of view or assume that they are trying to “stifle” you.

  27. Saul Says:

    What a pity. I have received your posts personally now for sometime and have always had great respect for many of your views.
    What I find now, is that your shift to a boycott position is accompanied by a refusal to engage with those who try to enter with you in good faith but who take an opposite point of view to the way in which the conflict can be resolved.
    One can only conclude that these two aspects inherent in your recent development are related. Paradoxically, in seeking to isolate Israel you are, as your recent comments have shown, isolated yourself.
    One wonders further, whether this tendency to isolation that appears in those calling for a boycott would not, as Avenery notes, be multiplied several fold if applied to a state who in the vast majority opposes such a call.

    Of all the reasons against a boycott, your own behaviour and attitude has been the most persuasive.


  28. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    fred, 2 and a half days ago, I posted a reply to your very first comment (which is also the very first comment) on this thread, asking a question re Ran Greenstein and your linking to him.

    I’m still waiting a reply. I’m sure you’re very busy, but if you post comments linking to a site without clearly commenting about that site, you must expect questions.

    So how about a reply?

  29. Saul Says:

    Revisiting the JVP webpage, it would appear that two possibilities present themselves concerning the recent postings.

    First, both JVP and Engage have been “had”. The poster’s recent attitude, behaviour and (lack of) dialogue is quite out of keeping with the nature and spirit of JVP. (see their mission statement and FAQ which supports a two-state resolution, clearly differentiates Israel from apartheid SA and takes a pragmatic legal and equitable view on the question of return.

    Second, and alternatively. As with the increasing irrelevant JJfP who presents one view of themselves to the outside world whilst towing a completely different line in reality, as shown by their current attempts to adopt a boycott of Israel, so too may be the case with JVP. (In a recent missive JVP are joint signatures with the BDS campaign).

    It may well be that like JJfP, JVP believe that their abject failure to influence any but a few individuals has nothing to do with their own shortcomings and poor political choices, but rather the alleged sustained “influence” of Jewish/Zionist institutions. Perhaps, like JJfP, JVP is projecting the real causes of their irrelevence onto others, they have fallen into the politics of despair and are now throwing their lot in with any and all groups who appear to them to be doing “something” even if that something is ill-judged, not conducive to peace and flirts (at the least) with antisemitism.

    Maybe, like JJfP, JVP have lost the plot completely.

    One can only hope that JVP’s apparent decline is the consequence of the first of the two alternatives. If, however, it is the second; then it is a pity that a another group who began with good and honest intentions has ended by adopting such a disreputable and ignoble route.

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