Opposing the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global academic community

There is a campaign to exclude Israelis from the global community in protest against Israeli human rights abuses.  There is no analogous campaign in our world – by which I mean in academia, on the left, in the trade union movement – against the institutions or citizens of any other state.

The campaign is to exclude Israelis from the sporting, economic, artistic, academic, political, trade union, scientific and scholarly communities.

Why is the idea of boycott against Israel so attractive in our world

We live at a time when the positive creative movements for a better world are largely defeated and have been replaced, for the moment, by movements for resistance and opposition.

Supporting the boycott of Israel offers the opportunity to appear radical without having to do anything.

Part of the radical cachet originates from demonstrating the “courage” to stand up against Jewish (or Zionist) power – real, imagined or constructed.

The boycott doesn’t help change the situation in Palestine or in Israel but it does address the personal needs of boycotters to avoid feelings of complicity.  For some Europeans and Americans, Israel is ‘us’ but not quite ‘us’.  People think of it as “white” or “western”, they point to the support it receives from the US and Europe; yet it can be disavowed, our own “western” failings can be put onto its shoulders.

If the boycott was really about “western” influence and abuses, why would we not call upon our own institutions in America and in Europe to be boycotted?

The boycotters are good at framing the boycott issue as defining who is good and who is bad.  Supporters of the boycott are constructed as  “pro Palestine” and opponents of the boycott as “pro Israel” – then to many people it is obvious which side one must be on, to stand with the oppressed nation not the oppressor nation, against (US) imperialism not for (US) imperialism.

See my open letter to Claire Potter

There are lots of reasons to oppose this campaign: it doesn’t help the Palestinians; it violates democratic and academic norms; it encourages nationalist ways of thinking; it harms the peace movements; it divides the Labour movement and other left wing movements; it fosters antisemitic ways of thinking; it mis-educates antiracist activists on the meaning of solidarity and on recognising antisemitism.

How can we oppose the boycott campaign?

The boycott campaign appears, superficially, to be radical, left wing, antiracist and effective.  What we need to do is to build a movement which is actually pro-peace, antiracist and effective.

1.  The conflict on our campuses seems to be between wavers of the Israeli flag and wavers of the Palestinian flag.  We refuse to pick up one or the other flag and to hope for its victory; better to embrace a politics of reconciliation

We support the progressives and the antiracists, people fighting for a democratic politics, within both Israel and Palestine.

We support a politics of peace between Israel and Palestine, not a vain hope that one will defeat the other and bring peace through victory.  There are narratives both of Palestinian and of Israeli nationhood which are compelling and progressive; and they are compatible one with the other.  National conflict is not inevitable while national self-determination is the key to a peace agreement.

We are sensitive to, and we oppose antisemitism and also Islamophobia and also anti-Arab racism – we oppose racism in general. 

See the founding statement of Engage.

2.  We need to have a conversation about what solidarity is.

It is an old and difficult question: what can we do to help them, who are suffering?   The we is academics?  trade unionists?  intellectuals?  antiracists?  Americans?

Solidarity begins there not here.  It doesn’t answer our needs first, it relates to others first.  We are interested in peace in the Middle East, not in our own political cleanliness and not in using events far away rhetorically against our own enemies at home.

When we make solidarity we listen carefully and respectfully, but there is always a diversity of voices and positions to listen to; solidarity is always also a responsibility to engage and to think for ourselves.  Solidarity changes ‘us’ as it changes ‘them’, it is never a slavish or a one way responsibility to ‘answer a call’ or obey those who claim to speak in the name of the oppressed.

Solidarity is a relationship with progressives who are closer to the violence and the oppression than we are – in this case in Palestine and in Israel.  It is about fostering links, communication, confidence, critical engagement; between us and them but also between them and them.

Solidarity can also be simple and practical: sending books, teaching and speaking in Palestine and in Israel, working with Israelis and with Palestinians.  Forging links between trade unions, academic bodies, universities, schools and civil society.

The Oslo Process was created partly by engagement between Israeli and Palestinian academics.

Solidarity is about campaigning against violence and oppression – including racism and antisemitism.

Solidarity is about opposing the occupation and doing what we can to help move toward a situation where a Palestinian state can be created through a peace agreement.  Solidarity is about showing how the civilian occupation of the West Bank hinders this process.

Solidarity is about relating to the reality of diversity within Israel and Palestine, not treating each as a single monolith wrapped in a flag.

Read Paul Frosh’s piece about links between Israeli and Palestinian academics.

We, who are far away from the violence, we who are professionally involved in the work of thinking things through coherently and in context, have a special responsibility to get things right, to think about the consequences of our actions, to be a force for good and for peace.

If you were brought up in a refugee camp under the occupation of a Jewish army, it might be understandable, though by no means inevitable, if you internalized a hostility to Jews; If you were brought up under the threat of suicide bombs, and missiles with hostile Arab neighbours, it might be understandable, though by no means inevitable, if you were to internalize a hostility to Arabs.  But we, in our comfortable academic lives do not have such reasons or excuses to embrace a politics of violence, exclusion or racism.  And in truth, there is some space for democratic politics in Palestine and in Israel and many Palestinians and Israelis find their way to more enlightened worldviews than those of boycott or of racism or of violence or of national hatred. 

3.  Academic freedom and democratic norms

Refusing to collaborate with academics on the basis of their nationality is a violation of the norms of academic freedom and of the principle of the universality of science.  See Michael Yudkin’s outline of the standard liberal case against academic boycotts here.  

The boycott campaign’s distinction between a boycott of institutions and individuals fails to address the concern that the campaign actually leads to an exclusion of Israeli scholars from the global academic community.  See my piece about the myth of the institutional boycott here.

See Chad Goldberg’s piece about the campaign’s mis-understanding of the significance of institutions here.

There is a danger in a purely liberal defence of academic autonomy. The right has often attacked the academic left with arguments about how academia should be ‘neutral’ or ‘non-political’.  We have resisted those arguments.  Who gets tenure, who gets published, who gets a chair, who gets funding – political considerations have always had influence here.  We don’t pretend otherwise, rather we strive to make political factors transparent.  While the principle that universities are independent communities of scholars is important, we do not pretend that they are apart from and above the world.

Academic freedom is an issue in Palestinian universities: firstly because the conditions of the occupation materially infringe the business of running communities of scholars; secondly because Hamas and the PA, as well as other Palestinian political forces, not least the boycott campaign itself, infringe the norms of academic freedom in Palestine.  Palestinian academics come under severe pressure and are likely to be denounced as ‘collaborators’ if they have links with Israelis or with foreign academics who opose the boycott. 

See Jon Pike’s argument about academic freedom here.

The boycott campaign impacts first “here” in the boycotting institutions.  It is a campaign to exclude Israelis from our institutions “here”.  It is a prohibition on us from having links with colleagues in Israel.  This is a particular restraint for those working in fields where links with Israeli colleagues are important, such as Jewish Studies or certain fields of history or archeology. 

4.  Consistency

The focus on Israeli human rights abuses sits strangely alongside the lack of will seriously to address, for example the Syrian regime, just across Israel’s northern border, which is carrying out incomparably more serious crimes than Israel is, or has ever done.  The Egyptian army, across Israel’s southern border, is carrying out incomparably greater repression against the Muslim Brotherhood than Israel is against its Palestinian counterpart Hamas.  With the spread of ethnic conflict and human rights abuses in the Middle East, the focus on Israel becomes ever more eccentric.

Much of the energy for the boycott campaign comes from anti-Zionist Jews.  They are no different from many Jews in so much as, for understandable reasons, they are especially concerned about Jewish issues and about Israel – its crimes or its victimhood, real or imagined.

Sometimes small groups of anti-Zionist Jews are successful in exporting their own particular concern about Israeli human rights abuses into non-Jewish civil society organizations like trade unions or academic associations.  This then creates an anomalous situation with respect to consistency.

Civil society organizations have a duty to relate to human rights abuses consistently; to occupations consistently; to violations of academic freedom consistently; to institutional racism consistently.

An individual is free to be concerned about whatever concerns them; a progressive organization on the other hand, needs to find consistent criteria.

It is legitimate to ask

“Why do you focus on Israel for unique punishment?”

“Why do you hold Israeli citizens in particular responsible for the actions of their states?”

“What are the consequences of having huge campaigns of boycott and demonization against Israel which are not proportional to Israel’s human rights abuses or to its importance?

The belittling accusation of whataboutery” does not deal with the question of consistency.  Lack of consistency is at the heart of another problem with the boycott campaign which is the antisemitism which results from the relentless and particular focus only on Israel.

5.  Antisemitism. 

We are talking about a boycott movement against Israel.  We know that there is racist hatred against Israelis and Jews in the Middle East; we know that there is a long and profound history of antisemitism in Europe and also in America; we know that radical movements are far from immune to antisemitism.  Wouldn’t it be unexpected if anger with Israel was never articulated in a language which mirrored previous entrenched hostilities to Jews?  Wouldn’t it be unexpected if a campaign to exclude Israelis did not impact upon Jews around the world who felt that they wanted to speak up for Israel’s right to exist?  Wouldn’t it be strange if some of the ideas from antisemitic Arab nationalist or Islamist discourses, with whom the boycotters are in a political alliance, never seeped across into the democratic spaces of the BDS movement?

a.  antisemitism, like other racisms, does not always appear as open and conscious hatred.  Often it appears as ways of thinking; often it appears as unintended effects; often it appears in rhetoric which mirrors older antisemitims.  Antisemitism is an objective social phenomenon, not simply a malicious motivation inside people’s heads.  There can be antisemitism and racism which is not caused by hatred and which is not a result of an intention to discriminate.

b. the singling out of Israelis, and only Israelis, for boycott, is arguably antisemitic in itself.

c. the boycott campaign tends to bring with it, into civil society spaces where it gets a hearing, antisemitic ways of thinking.  In particular, it creates a presumption that Jews are ‘Zionist’ or anti-boycott.  It gives Jews a choice between agreeing to stand in the dock for Israel, keeping silent, or going along with the boycott.  Of course formally these options are thrust upon everybody, not only Jews.  But the boycott campaign creates an assumption about Jews, a suspicion, albeit one which Jews are able to nullify by disavowing Israel and by embracing the values of the boycott campaign.

See the evidence offered in the Ronnie Fraser case for examples of how the boycott campaign brings with it antisemitic ways of thinking and exclusions.

d.  Certain ways of denouncing Israel or Zionists as essentially racist, apartheid or Nazi can have antisemitic effects.  The overwhelming majority of Jews, for good reasons, resist these characterizations.  If those Jews and their communal organisations are then treated as apologists for racism, apartheid or Nazism, there is a clear antisemitic outcome.   If Zionist students are treated as one would treat Nazi students, then there is an antisemitic culture on campus.

e.  Discourses about Zionist power which mirror antisemitic conspiracy theory often accompany the boycott campaign.  Anyone who opposes the boycott is likely to be regarded as an agent of a foreign power or as an agent of the ‘Israel Lobby’.  Israel and its ‘lobby’ are talked about as though they have huge power, to determine tenure discussions, to control politicians, to silence dissent with a threat of a bad faith charge of antisemitism.  In truth, pro Israel lobbying organisations have often shown themselves to be ineffective and disoriented in the face of the boycott campaign.

f.  The raising of the issue of antisemitism is often understood as a disgraceful way of trying to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.  It is considered right wing and pro Israel to talk about antisemitism; hence to behave in such a way that bothers complainers of antisemitism is considered as left wing and pro Palestine.  The result is that Jews who are concerned about antisemitism are generally accused of speaking in bad faith – the accusation is that they are only pretending to be concerned about antisemitism while actually they want to silence criticism of Israel by fake and dishonest means.  Antiracist activists are being coached to recognise the raising of antisemitism as a dishonest tactic of the Zionist (racist, pro-apartheid, Nazi, powerful, rich, white) activist.

See my work on The Livingstone Formulation.

See my reply to Claire Potter on the issue of antisemitism.

See my paper on the relationship between hostility to Israel and antisemitism here.

See my work on a sociological understanding of the relationship between hostility to Israel and antisemitism here. 

6.  Understanding, analyzing, making arguments, educating.

There is no short cut to defeating the boycott campaign.  There is no silver bullet.  There is no devastating single issue upon which to base a win.  There is no single principle that will make everything transparent.

We need to build a network, a movement, a way of thinking, which can make arguments, which can explain the problems, which can demonstrate that a genuine left wing approach is possible and is different from the boycott campaign.

We support the norms of academic freedom and we explain the complexities.

We understand why people are attracted to easy and radical solutions but we explain the problems with the boycot approach.

We win people to a politics of peace and reconciliation from a politics of flag waving the good flag against the bad flag.

We are careful to understand and to avoid antisemitism and racism.

The Israeli and Jewish right tends increasingly to embody a politics and a way of thinking which has little in common with our own.  What they say about the roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict, about how to get peace, about how to relate to the boycott, about how to relate to the Palestinian national movement, about how to relate to the Islamists is highly problematic.  Their paradigm and their way of thinking is not likely to be influential amongst academics.

But the Israeli and Jewish right are sometimes quite good at sniffing out antisemitism.  When they are angry and militant against antisemitism – that is when they’re right, it isn’t an indicator that they must have got it wrong. 

Just as liberty, freedom, the rule of law, democracy, lesbian and gay rights, womens rights and human rights are values which should not be abandoned by the left, as though they were right wing issues, so the issue of antisemitism should not be abandoned to the right either.

The left cannot be influential amongst Jews if it teaches people to recognise concern for antisemitism and opposition to boycotts of Israel as right wing issues. 

The problem with the approach of the right isn’t that their militancy against antisemitism is misplaced – the problem is that they’re not consistent, they’re not antiracist, they’re not for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine – indeed the problem with the right is similar, in these respects to the problem with the boycotters and the people who think that anti-imperialism is the only important left wing value.

We need a movement and a network to give people good arguments, to build a cosmopolitan anti-nationalist sensibility, to propose genuine solidarity in place of the hollow boycott-version.

We need to offer an alternative to the flag waving of the right and the flag waving of the boycotting-left.

Our method of fighting boycotts and fighting antisemitism is explaining, winning arguments, proposing better ways forward, engaging, communicating, teaching.

In the 1960s the civil rights movement won in the Supreme Court because it was based on a mass movement which fought the racists and which won arguments.  Roe v Wade won in court, but it was the result of the women’s movement having won amongst public opinion.  There is nothing illegitimate about fighting in the courts, on a legal terrain; the problem is when people think that a legal fight can substitute for a political and an ideological fight rather than be part of it.

Attempts to legislate or to persuade judges won’t work if we can’t win arguments and change the commonsense notions which are set up by the antizionists and the boycotters.

David Hirsh

The debates regarding the Israel boycott movement in South Africa are online here:


David Hirsh and Chip Berlet discuss antisemitism and conspiracy theory here:


See also intelligent, smart, supportive comments from Bob From Brockley, relating to this piece.

What do the intellectuals who try to organise a boycott of Israel have in common with Dieudonné and Anelka with their Quenelle?

The connection between Dieudonné and his Quenelle, and the antizionist academics with their boycott is as clear as it is important.

Both begin in a good place, both begin with solidarity with the Palestinians, both begin with an anger and a dismay at how the Palestinians are being treated. Dieudonné begins as an antiracist anti-imperialist black radical in Paris, the boycott movement begins as a mainly Jewish movement in London for Palestinian solidarity.

So what happens? Two things. These two globalizing movements begin to focus not on human rights abuses in general, not on occupations in general, not on colonialism in general; but they find themselves especially outraged only by Israeli crimes, which for them become symbolic of the crimes of a whole global system. For the Jewish anti-Zionists in London the focus on Israel is understandable because it is a specifically Jewish anti-Zionism – it then gets exported into non-Jewish civil society and it gets adopted there with enthusiasm.

For Dieudonné in Paris, the focus is more and more on the war against terror, the injustices against the Muslims, the anti-imperialist rhetoric which he shares with parts of the French left and parts of the French Islamist movement. And then the next step, which is coming up against Jewish Power.

Focus shifts away from the bad Israelis and onto the Jews who support them here in London or here in Paris. The Jews are constructed as hugely powerful – in France they are powerful enough to dictate which jokes a radical comedian are allowed to tell, in England they are powerful enough to dictate that “criticism of Israel” should be forbidden. And so both movements end up as movements which position themselves as anti-establishment and courageous opponents of Jewish power.

Dieudonné is iconoclastic, he takes the piss out of the Shoah as a pineapple, the boycotters are iconoclastic, they say that there is no free pass for the Jews after the Holocaust, and they say that the” use” of the “holocaust” in discourse is a disgrace; they say that universities are particularly dear to Jews.

For both movements the Holocaust becomes a discourse and a signification of Jewish cunning rather than the thing itself. And it all ends up in Jew-baiting. How do academics bring the powerful Jews down? they boycott them, they campaign against their power to invoke antisemitism. How does Dieudonné bring the powerful Jews down? he makes the Jews look pompous and humourless. And then both Dieudonné and the boycotters have to show how this is really, fundamentally, a struggle for freedom and free-speech against the Jewish ability to dictate. Academics assert their right to boycott Jews; radical French people assert their right to make the hitler salute as a symbol of their rebellion against Jewish power.

What begins as a radical anti-imperialist impulse to side with the Palestinians ends up in a more and more open fight with “The Jews”. Dieudonné ends up in bed with Jean Marie Le Pen, the boycotters end up with a global campaign against the Jewish “lobby”.

David Hirsh

So how does it work, the Quenelle?

This piece by David Hirsh is on Left Foot Forward.


Nicholas Anelka scored a Premier League goal for West Brom and at that moment, when the cameras were focused on him, he straightened his right arm as if beginning to raise it in a Seig Heil Hitler salute.

However his left arm went over to his right and it appeared to suppress the cheeky and rebellious gesture that his right arm was eager to make. His left arm kept his right arm safely down by his side; his left arm protected him from the punishment that the grown-ups, the establishment, would have meted out in response to an un-suppressed Hitler salute.

But in fact this whole train of thought is itself already captured in the stylised gesture, which is known as ‘la quenelle’. The defenders of the Quenelle say that it is an anti-establishment salute, a shared expression of the impulse to kick back against all the hypocrisies of bourgeois society; like when Sid Vicious wore a Swastika t-shirt.

The Quenelle was invented by the French comedian Dieudonné. He found a sharp and succinct way of expressing the huge, complex and diverse nest of resentments he felt against the existing ‘powers that be’. He made a joke out of the memory of the Holocaust. He put together the Hebrew word, often used in French to refer to the Holocaust, Shoah, with Ananas, the French word for pineapple and he got ‘Shoananas’. Dance around, sing ‘Shoananas’ to a silly tune, have fun with Zyklon B and with yellow stars, that is all that you need to do.

Why is it that laughing at the idea of the Holocaust works so well as a symbolic of blasphemy against all that the powerful hold dear? The reason is that the notion of Jewish power resonates strongly, in ways of which we are not immediately conscious, and in ways which can be tremendously exciting and rewarding.

After decades of feeling that we are all guilty, somehow, of the Shoah – the Jews of France were rounded up mainly by French people – the freedom to disobey the powerful and to release our own pent up fears in satirical laughter is attractive.

Look at Palestine! The Jews are no better than us, they’re worse! We in post national Europe have moved on, it is only the Jews who are still racists, who have failed to learn from Auschwitz! Where does the guilt come from? It must be an imposition from the Jews and from the teachers and from the government and from the cultural elite, no? What if we don’t feel guilty, but we feel that they insist that we do? Jewish power operates through the requirement that everybody else feels guilty?

Antisemitism is full of potent, half-understood symbolism, half-recognised meanings, half-confronted fears. One of the key lives of antisemitism has been as a radical, anti-hegemonic movement, a fight back of the little people.

Dieudonné is a black man in France, he lives in a world where racism structures people’s lives; he lives in a world where Muslims are demonized; he makes sense of this with a radical mix of Islamist and left-wing anti-imperialist and antiracist rhetoric.

One of his starting points, no doubt, is concern for the Palestinians who suffer under occupation and who have been pushed around the Middle East for a century. Sympathy with the oppressed? Yes, but then anger with the oppressors. The Palestinians symbolise victims everywhere? Yes, then the Israelis symbolise the victimisers and Jews get pictured as being central to all that is bad in the world.

It is a strangely smooth and easy journey from concern for Palestinian suffering to anger with Israel, to anger with those Jews ‘here’ who take Israel’s side, to finding out what really works in a fight with those Jews here; to finding out what really baits Jews.

Antisemitism thinks of Jews as cunning, powerful and immoral; being behind the powerful and in control of them.

Antisemitism saw Jews behind revolutions and wars, behind Bolshevism, behind capitalism, behind imperialism, bankers, money lenders, landlords, pornographers, freemasons; today some people see Jews (or Zionists) behind the neocons, behind the Iraq war, as sabateurs of Middle East peace, as over-influential in academia, Hollywood, the media, the professions; Jews are the comfortable, the hypocrites, they have become ‘white’.

For some, anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism, anti-imperialism and antisemitism close in on each other, they share the same resonances, the same feelings, the same enemies, the same images, the same discourses.

All this is complicated, requires subtle arguments, difficult political judgments, historical knowledge, analytical ability. But the Shoah as a pineapple and the quenelle – well these are easy.

Today’s antisemitisms have to have some way of relating to the Holocaust. Holocaust denial was tempting, but it turned out was both too difficult to achieve (because the evidence was too clear) but also unnecessarily ambitious.

All you need are subtle changes of framing in how we think about the Holocaust.

Perhaps the Holocaust is just one instance of modernity’s inhumanity; perhaps Stalin was worse; perhaps the Jews (perhaps the Zionists?) use the memory of the Holocaust for their own purposes. And the second step on these normalization strategies is to turn the anger back on those who try to keep the Holocaust sacred for the Jews.

The cleverest way to deal with the Holocaust is this: focus on how the Holocaust is ‘used’, not on what the Holocaust actually was. Turn it around. Zvi Rex famously said: “The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz”. Neither will those who take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the Palestinians, universal symbols of all those who are suppressed by the global system of America, of Zionism, of Imperialism, of whiteness.

So why are French black men doing the (suppressed) Nazi salute? Because they aren’t thinking about the Holocaust; they are thinking about ‘The Holocaust’; not about the thing itself but about the discourse which they say has grown around it.

If there was once Holocaust piety, they break it with Holocaust blasphemy.

The Quenelle isn’t about Hitler, it doesn’t relate directly to the Nazis; rather it is about the way in which ‘The Holocaust’ is used and policed and owned by the Jews (or by the Zionists, or by the grown ups, or by the Americans or by the Murdoch Press).

The global system, the French bourgeoisie, the Americans – how do we hurt them, how do we puncture their po-faced hypocricy? We rhyme Shoah with Ananas. That is all. Hurtful resentment and Jew-baiting takes the place of a positive struggle for a better world.

Dieudonné is so far gone down the antisemitism road that he doesn’t worry any more. If a French court outlaws his antisemitic show, he says it is because the judge is a great nephew of Alfred Dreyfuss himself. He is happy, now to key straight into the symbolic heart of the French anti-Semitic tradition.

So how does it work, the Quenelle? One way it works is that it has become cool for people to be photographed doing it in naughty places; like outside the school in Tolouse where three Jews were murdered; like on the railways tracks to Auschwitz; like at the Wailing Wall; like at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

There are two key things which link together contemporary forms of antisemitism. One is a focus on fighting for free speech against the Jewish (establishment, Zionist, American etc) impulse to dictate what is allowed to be said. The other is that antisemitism is not frankly admitted. The Quenelle openly refers to Nazism, but its link to Nazism and antisemitism is also vigorously denied.

What will the football authorities do about Nicolas Anelka’s antisemitic salute? How can a black man be antisemitic? Well, this is how.

This piece by David Hirsh is on Left Foot Forward.

More on the Quenelle

Video of ‘Shoananas’ fun and games – laughing about Zyklon B and the yellow star

The apologist for the Quenelle given a platform on Newsnight

More on Dieudonné

Howard Jacobson on the Quenelle

Defending Hungary at the River Don?

This is a guest post by Karl Pfeifer


The Hungarian Government will erect a monument in the centre of Budapest commemorating the German occupation of the country on March 19th 1944. A few weeks later another Holocaust-museum will open in the capital. The government is keen on giving the appearance – mainly abroad – that Hungary is a democratic country like all other EU-states.

But believing that one can say things in Hungarian for domestic use which are not noted outside its borders, high-level representatives give speeches which (like many other things this government does) do breach the basic values of the EU.

In January 1943 the Red Army attacked the second Hungarian army at the shores of the Don and destroyed it. Many of the badly equipped 200’000 soldiers lost their lives. On the 71st anniversary of the Soviet “Break-through at the Don” Tamás Vargha, Undersecretary of the Defence Department, stated in a public speech that “the General Staff of the time said it loud and clear: participation in the war has to be avoided.”

This is a crude falsification. Nothing forced Hungary to enter the attack against the Soviet Union and the then Chief of the General Staff Henrik Werth rather suggested to Prime Minister Bárdossy on June 14th 1941 in writing that Hungary should indeed take part in the German attack [to get a part of the spoils], which proved to be a catastrophic miscalculation.

To quote Vargha further: “Many, tens of thousands of Hungarian soldiers became casualties on the Don, yet these Hungarians on the wide Russian battlefields did not fight and die for foreign interests, but in defence of their homeland.”

This sort of revisionist thinking usually propagated by right wing extremists is now voiced by representative government politicians, while their colleagues insist – mainly abroad – on the huge difference between the right wing “Jobbik” and the “conservative” Fidesz-KDNP.


Austria to Palestine and Back Again

Austria to Palestine and Back Again

Austria to Palestine and Back Again

The journalist Karl Pfeifer in conversation

Monday 3 February 2014, 7.00pm | Austrian Cultural Forum London

Born in 1928 into a Jewish family in the small town of Baden bei Wien, Karl Pfeifer experienced firsthand some of the major events of 20th century history. In his memoir he recounts his experiences from growing anti-Semitism in his hometown to his escape to Hungary and emigration to Palestine at the age of 14. Pfeifer went on to take part in the struggle to establish an independent Israeli state and was one of the few émigrés to return to Vienna where he worked as a journalist. Karl Pfeifer will be joined by Joanna White to discuss and read from his autobiography.

Austrian Cultural Forum London
28 Rutland Gate
London SW7 1PQ
Visitor information

Events at the Austrian Cultural Forum are free, but seating is limited.


The American Studies Association boycott resolution, academic freedom and the myth of the institutional boycott – David Hirsh


David Hirsh

David Hirsh

The shorter version published in Inside Higher Ed is available here.

The fuller version is available here on a PDF


1.     The ‘institutional boycott’ is likely to function as a political test in a hidden form.  It would offer exemption from the boycott to those Israelis who are willing or able to disavow their own institutions or funding bodies.

2.      An ‘institutional boycott’, even if it did not in fact impact against individuals, would still be a violation of the principles of academic freedom.

3.      In practice, the boycott campaign has been, and is likely to continue to be, a campaign for the exclusion of individual scholars who work in Israel, from the global academic community.  There is no general principle proposed for boycotting universities in states which have poor human rights records or which receive US aid or on the basis of any other stated criteria; there is only a boycott campaign against Israeli academia.

4.      There are also foreseeable likely impacts within the boycotting institutions, or within institutions in which the boycott campaign is strong, which would be distinct from the impact against Israeli academia.  The violations of academic freedom which constitute academic boycott are likely to impact in the boycotting as well as the boycotted institutions:

a.       Academics in boycotting institutions, in subjects which specifically relate to Jewish or Israeli topics, would be cut off from the mainstream of their disciplines, for example Jewish Studies, Israel Studies, some theology, some archaeology, some history; and there is a more generic danger that scholars would be cut off from important colleagues in any discipline.

b.      People who resist the characterisation of Israel as apartheid or as Nazi or as essentially racist are likely to be characterised by the boycott campaign as apologists for apartheid, Nazism, or racism and treated as such.  People who ‘break the boycott’ are likely to be treated as blacklegs or scabs.  Social sanctions against opponents of the boycott or ‘strikebreakers’ are likely to impact disproportionately against Jews.  It is likely that some Jews will feel themselves to be under particular pressure to state their position on the boycott; it is likely that Jews will be suspected of opposing the boycott if they do not explicitly support it.

What the ASA resolution says[1]

The ASA resolution re-affirms in a general and abstract way, its support for the principle of academic freedom.  It then says that it will ‘honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions’.  It goes on to offer guarantees that it will support the academic freedom of scholars who speak about Israel and who support the boycott; the implication here is that this refers to scholars who are opponents of Israel or of Israeli policy.  The resolution does not specifically mention the academic freedom of individual Israeli scholars or students; nor does it mention protection for people to speak out against the boycott; nor does it say anything about the academic freedom of people to collaborate with Israeli colleagues.

What the ASA names ‘the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott’ is the PACBI ‘Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’.[2]  The PACBI call explicitly says that the ‘vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics’, that is to say individuals, have contributed to, or have been ‘complicit in through their silence’, the Israeli human rights abuses which are the reasons given for boycott.  There would be no sense in making this claim if no sanctions against individuals were envisaged.  The PACBI guidelines state that ‘virtually all’ Israeli academic institutions are guilty in the same way.

These claims, about the collective guilt of Israeli intellectuals, academics and institutions are strongly contested empirically.  Opponents of the boycott argue that Israeli academia is pluralistic and diverse and contains many individuals and institutions which explicitly oppose anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and the military and the civilian occupations of the West Bank.  Israeli universities, they argue, are anti-racist spaces, where words are used rather than violence and where there is as much effort to eradicate discrimination against minorities as there is in other universities in democratic states.

These claims about the guilt of Israeli academia are also contested by those who hold that the principle of collective guilt is a violation of the norms of the global academic community and of natural justice.  Opponents of the boycott argue that academics and institutions should be judged by the content of their work and by the nature of their academic norms and practices, not by the state in which they are employed.

The PACBI guidelines go on to specify what is meant by the ‘institutional’ boycott.     ‘…[T]hese institutions, all their activities, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted.’  ‘Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these complicit institutions should be boycotted’.  The guidelines then offer an exemption for some other classes of individual as follows: ‘Mere institutional affiliation to the Israeli academy is therefore not a sufficient condition for applying the boycott.’

Summary of the ASA position[3]

  • ASA is for academic freedom in general and for the academic freedom of critics of Israel and for boycott advocates in particular
  • ASA holds (via its endorsement of PACBI) that the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics are guilty
  • ASA says (via its endorsement of PACBI) that virtually all Israeli academic institutions are guilty
  • ASA says (via its endorsement of PACBI) that individuals who are explicitly representing Israeli institutions should be boycotted
  • ASA says (via its endorsement of PACBI) that mere institutional affiliation at an Israeli university is not a sufficient condition for boycotting an individual
  • ASA does not mention any violations of academic freedom within Palestinian academic institutions other than those for which the Israeli state are responsible

The ‘institutional boycott’ functions as a political test by another name

Refusing to collaborate with academics on the basis of their nationality is, prima facie, a violation of the norms of academic freedom and of the principle of the universality of science.[4]  It seems to punish scholars not for something related to their work, nor for something that they have done wrong, but because of who they are.

In 2002 Mona Baker, an academic in the UK, fired two Israelis from the editorial boards of academic journals which she owned and edited.  Gideon Toury and Miriam Shlesinger are both well respected internationally as scholars and also as public opponents of Israeli human rights abuses, but nevertheless they were ‘boycotted.’[5]  In 2002 the boycott campaign in the UK supported Baker against those who were critical of her act of boycott, as implemented against individuals on the basis of their nationality.

The boycott campaign sought a more sophisticated formulation which did not appear to target individuals just for being Israeli.

In 2003, the formulation of the ‘institutional boycott’ was put into action with a resolution to the Association of University Teachers (AUT), an academic trade union in the UK, that members should ‘sever any academic links they may have with official Israeli institutions, including universities.’  Yet in the same year, Andrew Wilkie, an Oxford academic, rejected an Israeli who applied to do a PhD with him, giving as a reason that he had served in the Israeli armed forces.  The boycott campaign in the UK supported Andrew Wilkie against criticism which focused on his boycott of an individual who had no affiliation of any kind to an Israeli academic institution.  If the principle was accepted that anybody who had been in the Israeli armed forces was to be boycotted, then virtually every Israeli Jew would be thus targeted.

In 2005 the boycott campaign aimed short of a full boycott of Israel, calling instead for the AUT to boycott particular Israeli universities:  Haifa because it alleged the mistreatment of a professor, Ilan Pappe; Bar Ilan because of its links with Ariel College in the West Bank; and Hebrew University Jerusalem because it made the (contested) claim that HUJ was building a dorm block on occupied land.  This was an attempt to try to relate the boycott to particular violations rather than just aim it at Israel as a whole.

In 2006 the boycott campaign took a new tack, offering an exemption from the boycott to Israelis who could demonstrate their political cleanliness.   The other British academic union, NATFHE, called for a boycott of Israeli scholars who failed to ‘publicly dissociate themselves’ from ‘Israel’s apartheid policies.’  The political test opened the campaign up to a charge of McCarthyism: the implementation of a boycott on this basis would require some kind of machinery to be set up to judge who was allowed an exemption and who was not.[6] The assertion that Israel is ‘apartheid’ or implements ‘apartheid policies’ is emotionally charged and strongly contested.  While it is possible for such analogies to be employed carefully and legitimately, it is also possible for such analogies to function as statements of loyalty to the Palestinians.  They sometimes function as short cuts to the boycott conclusion, and as ways of demonizing Israel, Israelis, and those who are accused of speaking on their behalf.  In practice, the boycott campaign attempts to construct supporters of the boycott as friends of Palestine and opponents of the boycott as enemies of Palestine.

The political test was implemented at the South African Sociological Association conference on 28 August 2012.  An Israeli sociologist was required to disavow ‘Israeli apartheid’.  When he declined, the other participants in the panel left the room to give their papers elsewhere while his freedom of speech, it was claimed, was respected because he was allowed to give his paper to an empty room.  Boycott can be as much refusal to listen as it is a prohibition to speak.

But long before 2012, the official boycott campaign had moved on from the political test, changing  tactic again, calling  for an ‘institutional boycott’.

It is reasonable to assume that under the influence of the campaign for an ‘institutional boycott’, much boycotting of individuals goes on silently and privately.  It is also reasonable to assume that Israeli scholars may come to fear submitting papers to journals or conferences if they think they may be boycotted, explicitly or not; this would lead to a ‘self-boycott’ effect.  I offer an anecdotal example of the kinds of things which are likely to happen under the surface even of an ‘institutional boycott’.  An Israeli colleague contacted a UK academic in 2008, saying that he was in town and would like to meet for a coffee to discuss common research interests.  The Israeli was told that the British colleague would be happy to meet, but he would first have to disavow Israeli apartheid.

The PACBI call, endorsed by ASA, says that Israeli institutions are guilty, Israeli intellectuals are guilty, Israeli academics who explicitly represent their institutions should be boycotted, but an affiliation in itself, is not grounds for boycott.  The danger is that Israelis will be asked not to disavow Israel politically, but to disavow their university ‘institutionally’, as a pre-condition for recognition as legitimate members of the academic community.  Israelis may be told that they are welcome to submit an article to a journal or to attend a seminar or a conference as an individual: EG David Hirsh is acceptable, David Hirsh, Tel Aviv University is not.  Some Israelis will, as a matter of principle, refuse to appear only as an individual; others may be required by the institution which pays their salary, or by the institution which funds their research, not to disavow. 

An ‘institutional boycott’ is still a violation of the principles of academic freedom

Academic institutions themselves, in Israel as anywhere else, are fundamentally communities of scholars; they protect scholars, they make it possible for scholars to research and to teach, and they defend the academic freedom of scholars.  The premise of the ‘institutional boycott’ is that in Israel, universities are bad but scholars are (possibly, exceptionally) good.  Universities are organs of the state while individual scholars are employees who may (possibly, exceptionally) be not guilty of supporting Israeli ‘apartheid’ or some similar formulation. 

There are two fundamental elements which are contested by opponents of the boycott in the ‘institutional boycott’ rhetoric.  First, it is argued, academic institutions are a necessary part of the structure of academic freedom.  If there were no universities, scholars would band together and invent them, in order to create a framework within which they could function as professional researchers and teachers, and within which they could collectively defend their academic freedom.

Second, opponents of the boycott argue that Israeli academic institutions are not materially different from academic institutions in other free countries: they are not segregated by race, religion or gender, they have relative autonomy from the state, they defend academic freedom and freedom of criticism, not least against government and political pressure.  There are of course threats to academic freedom in Israel, as there are in the US and elsewhere, but the record of Israeli institutions is a good one in defending their scholars from political interference.  Neve Gordon, for example still has tenure at Ben Gurion University, in spite of calling for a boycott of his own institution; Ilan Pappe left Haifa voluntarily after having been protected by his institution even after travelling the world denouncing his institution and Israel in general as genocidal, Nazi and worthy of boycott.

Jon Pike argued that the very business of academia does not open itself up to a clear distinction between individuals and institutions.  For example the boycott campaign has proposed that while Israelis may submit papers as individuals, they would be boycotted if they submitted it from their institutions.  He points out that

…papers that ‘issue from Israeli institutions’ (BRICUP)[7] or are ‘submitted from Israeli institutions’ (SPSC)[8] are worried over, written by, formatted by, referenced by, checked by, posted off by individual Israeli academics. Scientists, theorists, and researchers do their thinking, write it up and send it off to journals. It seems to me that Israeli academics can’t plausibly be so different from the rest of us that they have discovered some wonderful way of writing papers without the intervention of a human, individual, writer.[9]

Boycotting academic institutions means refusing to collaborate with Israeli academics, at least under some circumstances if not others; and then we are likely to see the re-introduction of some form of ‘disavowal’ test.

In reality, the boycott campaign is an exclusion of individual Jewish scholars who work in Israel from the global academic community

In 2011 the University of Johannesburg decided, under pressure from the boycott campaign, to cut the institutional links it had with Ben Gurion University for the study of irrigation techniques in arid agriculture.  Logically the cutting of links should have meant the end of the research with the Israeli scholars being boycotted as explicit representatives of their university.  What in fact happened was that the boycotters had their public political victory and then the two universities quietly re-negotiated their links under the radar, with the knowledge of the boycott campaign, and the research into agriculture continued.  The boycott campaign portrayed this as an institutional boycott which didn’t harm scientific co-operation or Israeli individuals.  The risks are that such pragmatism (and hypocrisy) will not always be the outcome and that the official position of ‘cutting links’ will actually be implemented; in any case, the University of Johannesburg solution encourages a rhetoric of stigmatisation against Israeli academics, even if it quietly neglects to act on it.

Another risk is that the targeting of Israelis by the ‘institutional boycott’, or the targeting of the ones who are likely to refuse to disavow their institutional affiliations, is likely to impact disproportionately against Jews.  The risk here is that the institutional boycott has the potential to become, in its actual implementation, an exclusion of Jewish Israelis, although there will of course be exemption for some ‘good Jews’: anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis or Israeli Jewish supporters of the boycott campaign.  The result would be a policy which harms Israeli Jews more than anybody else.  Further, among scholars who insist on ‘breaking the institutional boycott’ or on arguing against it in America, Jews are likely to be disproportionately represented.  If there are consequences which follow these activities, which some boycotters will regard as blacklegging or scabbing, the consequences will impact most heavily on American Jewish academics.  Under any accepted practice of equal opportunities impact assessment, the policy of ‘institutional boycott’ would cross the red lines which would normally constitute warnings of institutional racism. 

There was a case in the UK courts in 2007 in which Birmingham University decided to close down its department of Social Work in order to save money.  It turned out that an unusually high number of the academics in this department were black.  There was a challenge to the closure on the basis that it would have a disproportionate impact on black acdemics.  The challenge was upheld by the UK employment tribunal.  The tribunal found that the university ought to have carried out an equal opportunities impact assessment prior to its proposed closure.  Nobody said that there was any racist intent or consciousness at Birmingham, only that there was a forseeable institutionally racist outcome.  Perhaps an institution which plans a boycott of Israel would have a similar responsibility to assess, in advance, whether there would be a disproportional impact against Jews, and whether there was any politically or morally valid justification for such a disproportionate impact.

The reality of the ‘institutional boycott’ is that somebody will be in charge of judging who should be boycotted and who should be exempt.  Even the official positions of ASA, Bricup and PACBI are confusing and contradictory; they say there will be no boycott of individuals but they nevertheless make claims which offer justification for a boycott of individuals.  But there is the added danger that some people implementing the boycott locally are likely not to have even the political sophistication of the official boycott campaign.  There is a risk that there will still be boycotts of individuals (Mona Baker), political tests (South African Sociological Association, NATFHE), breaking of scientific links (University of Johannesburg), and silent individual boycotts.

Even if nobody intends this, it is foreseeable that in practice the effects of a boycott may include exclusions, opprobrium, and stigma against Jewish Israeli academics who do not pass, or who refuse to submit to, one version or another of a test of their ideological purity; similar treatment may be visited upon those non-Israeli academics who insist on working with Israeli colleagues.  There is a clear risk that an ‘institutional boycott’, if actually implemented, would function as such a test. 

While the boycott campaign offers the precedent of the boycott against apartheid South Africa as justification, there is a long history of boycotts against Jews, including exclusions of Jews from universities.[10] The boycott campaign is likely to resonate in Jewish collective memory in relation to these specifically Jewish experiences.

PACBI is the ‘Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’.  What it hopes to achieve is stated in its name.  It hopes to institute an ‘academic boycott of Israel’.  The small print concerning the distinction between institutions and individuals is contradictory, unclear and small.   It is likely that some people will continue to understand the term ‘academic boycott of Israel’, in a common sense way, to mean a boycott of Israeli academics.

David Hirsh

Goldsmiths, University of London  http://www.gold.ac.uk/sociology/staff/hirsh/

Founding Editor of Engage, a network and website which opposes boycotts of Israel and antisemitism.  https://engageonline.wordpress.com/


Relevant exerpts from the ASA resolution and the PACBI documents to which the resolution refers.

 The ASA resolution states:

Whereas the American Studies Association is dedicated to the right of students and scholars to pursue education and research without undue state interference, repression, and military violence, and in keeping with the spirit of its previous statements supports the right of students and scholars to intellectual freedom and to political dissent as citizens and scholars;

It is resolved that the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  It is also resolved that the ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.[11]

The PACBI ‘Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’ states the following (which the ASA resolves to endorse and honour):

Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence…[12]

PACBI guidelines offer the following clarification (which the ASA implicitly resolves to endorse and honour):

…as a general overriding rule, it is important to stress that virtually all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations.  Accordingly, these institutions, all their activities, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted.  Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these complicit institutions should be boycotted, by the same token.  Mere institutional affiliation to the Israeli academy is therefore not a sufficient condition for applying the boycott.[13]

[1] From the ASA resolution and from the PACBI ‘call’ and ‘guidelines’ which it resolves to endorse and to honor.   See appendix for relevant exerpts from the ASA resolution and the PACBI documents to which the resolution refers.

[2] Civil Society is specified because there is no ‘call’ from the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority or from the Presidency or from the PLO.  President Mahmoud Abbas told South African journalists in December 2013: ‘No, we do not support the boycott of Israel’.  http://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-we-do-not-support-the-boycott-of-israel/

[3] From the ASA resolution and from the PACBI ‘call’ and ‘guidelines’ which it resolves to endorse and to honor.   See appendix for relevant exerpts from the ASA resolution and the PACBI documents to which the resolution refers.

[6] Steve Cohen argued that to require Jews to disavow, was itself reminiscent of previous campaigns to exclude Jews.  http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=444

 [7] British Campaign for the Universities of Palestine

[8] Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

[10] Picket lines were set up against Jews outside universities in Nazi Germany; Jewish Quotas were still in place in some elite American universities into the 1960s.

The shorter version published in Inside Higher Ed is available here.

The fuller version is available here on a PDF

The Boycott Isn’t Leftist – Chad Alan Goldberg

This piece, By Chad Alan Goldberg, is from Inside Higher Edindex

What the social-democratic left has always objected to is not the liberal aspiration to universal rights and freedoms, but rather the way that classical liberalism generally ignored the unequal economic and social conditions of access to those freedoms. The liberal’s abstract universalism affirmed everyone’s equal rights without giving everyone the real means of realizing these formally universal rights. The rich and the poor may have an equal formal right to be elected to political office, for instance, but the poor were effectively excluded from office when it did not pay a full-time salary.

For this reason generations of social democrats have insisted that all citizens must be guaranteed access to the institutional resources they need to make effective use of their civil and political rights. The British sociologist T. H. Marshall referred to those guarantees as the social component of citizenship, and he argued that only when this social component began to be incorporated into citizenship did equal citizenship start to impose modifications on the substantive inequalities of the capitalist class system. Today, when neoliberalism is ascendant and the welfare state is in tatters, it is more important than ever to remember the social-democratic critique of formal equality and abstract universalism.

Like other freedoms, academic freedom cannot be practiced effectively without the means of realizing it. At one time, those means were largely in the hands of academics themselves. As the German sociologist Max Weber put it, “The old-time lecturer and university professor worked with the books and the technical resources which they procured or made for themselves.” Like the artisan, the peasant smallholder, or the member of a liberal profession, the scholar was not separated from his means of production. But that time is long past. As Weber understood well, this “pre-capitalist” mode of scholarship had already disappeared a century ago, when he wrote those words.

The modern academic, he pointed out, did not own the means to conduct scientific or humanistic research or to communicate his or her findings any more than the modern proletarian owns the means of production, the modern soldier owns the means of warfare, or the modern civil servant owns the means of administration. Like those other figures in a capitalistic and bureaucratized society, the individual academic depends on means that are not his or her own. Specifically, she relies on academic institutions and the resources they provide — access to books, journals, laboratories, equipment, materials, research and travel funds, etc. — to participate in the intellectual and communicative exchanges that are the lifeblood of her profession. Unless she is independently wealthy, she depends on an academic institution for her very livelihood.

What, then, is an academic boycott of Israel in relation to these facts? The boycott recently endorsed by the American Studies Association, its supporters emphasize, is aimed only at Israeli academic institutions and not at individual scholars. Consequently, Judith Butler explained in the pages of The Nation in December 2013, “any Israeli, Jewish or not, is free to come to a conference, to submit his or her work to a journal and to enter into any form of scholarly exchange. The only request that is being made is that no institutional funding from Israeli institutions be used for the purposes of those activities.”

Butler argues that such a request does not infringe upon the Israeli scholar’s academic freedom because that scholar can pay from her “own personal funds” or ask others to pay for her. Personal funds presumably come from the salary paid to the Israeli scholar by her institution, but for Butler money apparently ceases to be institutional once it changes hands. One wonders why this same reasoning doesn’t apply to conference or travel funds furnished by an Israeli university.

One also wonders how many ASA members are willing to raise their own dues or earmark a portion of their current dues to pay for the participation of Israeli colleagues in the activities of their organization. Furthermore, one wonders why Butler, who has raised concerns about new forms of effective censorship exercised by private donors, does not have similar concerns about the donors who might pay for Israeli colleagues. But the most serious problem with Butler’s proposal is that it imposes special costs and burdens on Israeli scholars, creating substantive inequalities that undermine the formally equal and universal freedoms that she is eager to affirm for everyone in the abstract.

While scholars of other nationalities may use the resources of their institutions, Israeli scholars must make do with their own private means or rely upon charity; they enjoy equal academic freedom in the same way that the rich and the poor are equally free to hold an unpaid office. For the generously paid academic aristocracy at elite institutions, using one’s own personal funds may only be an “inconvenience” (Butler’s word) rather than a hardship. However, not all academics have personal resources in such abundance, and those with fewer personal resources are more dependent on institutional funding.

Because “academic freedom can only be exercised when the material conditions for exercising those rights are secured,” Butler has argued, the academic freedom of Palestinians is vitiated by the conditions of Israeli military occupation. She is indeed right, but the remedy for military occupation is a negotiated peace, not an effort to deprive Israelis of the material conditions for their academic freedom. Butler seems not to understand how her point militates against her own demand that Israeli scholars become luftmenschen. The distinction between an institutional and an individual boycott only makes sense in a world of abstract universalism, where Israeli scholars are entitled to academic freedom in a formal sense without equal access to the institutional means and resources they need to realize it in practice. The great irony of the campaign to boycott Israeli academics is that its proponents consider it a litmus test of left-wing politics when in fact they fail to apply consistently one of the left’s most important insights.

Chad Alan Goldberg is professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is a member of the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of University Professors and the Jewish Labor Committee.

This piece, By Chad Alan Goldberg, is from Inside Higher Ed

Triangulating Nigel Kennedy

A bit of an update on Israel-boycotting violinist Nigel Kennedy. These days he plays with one of Gilad Atzmon’s musical associates Yaron Stavi and has earned himself the support of Paul Eisen*. So when Robert Wyatt mentions Stavi and Kennedy approvingly in the Morning Star directly after a reference to ‘zionazis’, it’s not so much surprising as shameful.

Because it suits Paul Eisen’s politics to cheer for holocaust denial**. Because Gilad Atzmon denies the Holocaust even while nodding along with  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Because Wyatt’s ‘zionazi’ isn’t criticism, it’s just a good way to hurt a bunch of people who lost loved ones, homes, futures to the Nazis. Because Yaron Stavi is chummy with all of them. And because the Morning Star hasn’t resembled a genuine communist paper for years.

How is any of this pro-Palestine? Palestine supporters who think that picking on Jews is activism – they always damage their cause. They always end up sending a message that Jews and Israelis should be scared and defensive. Their work is a mockery.

HT Jim