Response from University of Johannesburg

Sociologist Peter Alexander, at the University of Johannesburg, has defended the boycott decision against this critique from David Hirsh.  (double click the image to make it bigger)

David Hirsh argued, amongst other things:

The boycott campaign is not motivated by anti-Semitism, but wherever it goes, anti-Semitism follows. One of its leaders, Bongani Masuku, a Cosatu official, has been found guilty by the South African Human Rights Commission of hate speech. Jews around the world are routinely treated as supporters of apartheid if they dare to oppose the boycott campaign.

When you educate people to boycott only Israel, when you tell them that all Israelis are responsible for human-rights abuses, when you mobilise a global campaign to say that Israel is uniquely racist, and when this campaign becomes central to progressive politics globally, you are, whether you know it or not, incubating anti-Semitic ways of thinking. When ears are closed to concern about anti-Semitism on the basis that such concern is a marker of secret support for Israeli human rights abuses, then you know there is a problem.

Peter Alexander does not relate to this argument and he doesn’t rebut it.  He simply denies it:

Hirsh’s view that UJ is “legitimising an anti-semitic boycott” and “incubating anti-semitic ways of thinking” smacks of a man who is losing an argument.  For myself I am proud to have spent half a century opposing racism including anti-semitism.

He doesn’t say why Bongani Masuku was found guilty of hate speech by the South African Human Rights commission.   He doesn’t make an argument or present any evidence.  He doesn’t show that he is aware that much hostility to Israel is manifested in the language of antisemitism, for example by Hamas, by Hezobllah, by the Iranian government.  He doesn’t show any evidence that he knows what has been going on within the University and College Union, where Jews who oppose the boycott have been bullied out of the “debate”.   He doesn’t show any awareness of what it is like to be a Jewish student on his own campus.  He just responds with haughty, unthinking, denial.

For  the debate around the South African campaign for an academic boycott of Israel, with Desmond Tutu, David Newman, Neve Gordon, David Hirsh, Robert Fine, Ran Greenstein, Uri Avnery, Farid Essack click here.

For some Engage classics on contemporary antisemitism and boycotts against Israel, click here.

Israel is not like apartheid South Africa.  click here.

Hirsh’s argument against the academic boycott campaign.  click here.

What’s wrong with PACBI’s “call” for a boycott?  click here.

Michael Yudkin’s argument against the academic boycott campaign.  click here.

For the Engage archive on the Israel / Apartheid analogy click here.

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There is also this piece in the M&G, defending UJ’s boycott.