Global Intifada Reaches the US and more

New Bypass Road takes Beit Ommar and Schoukh Land
New Bypass Road takes Beit Ommar and Schoukh Land

New Bypass Road takes Beit Ommar and Schoukh Land

Every day brings some good news on the shaking of the status quo in a positive direction. In my last book and in my writings elsewhere, I predicted that the next intifada (uprising) would be global. The Arab spring in the past few months gave renewed energy and it has spread to even Tel Aviv and New York. But the empire strikes back; settlers go on rampages/pogroms attacking peace activists and burning another mosque, peace activists get arrested by the hundreds, the CIA assassinates US citizens without trial, Israel accelerates its colonial activities, US allied government of Bahrain imprisons many demonstrators, US congress cuts humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinians under occupation (an act of extortion on the behest of the Israel lobby), and more.  But if anything, these actions show that we are in the final stage of this epic.  It only means we should work harder together to be the change we want to see in this world. Read below about BDS successes and the spread of memes of information that is making the racist elites lash out in irrational behaviors that ultimately will bring them down. Stay tuned or better yet, let us all get into the streets and march for freedom.

Israeli settlers attack Israeli activists & journalists; 19 injured, 3 hospitalized


Testimonies (key points highlighted): (eng) (heb)

New Bypass Road takes Beit Ommar and Schoukh Land

BDS Success 1: 218 signed the call for a Swedish academic boycott of Israel

Action Group at KTH for Boycott of Israel

Coordinating Committee of BDS Sweden

BDS Success 2: Ahava finally closes its doors in London
Cosmetics company Ahava is finally to close its controversial Covent Garden store this week, and manager Odelia Haroush said that the company had no plans to move elsewhere in the city, at least for the foreseeable future. Demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists have dogged the store for years. Protesters claim the products sold in the store are manufactured in a factory in Mitzpe Shalom, an Israeli settlement.

From “If Americans Knew”: Ethnic cleansing has been an integral part of the Palestinian tragedy from the earliest days of the Partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel. October marks the anniversaries of 10 massacres of Palestinian villagers in 1948, as well as a massacre carried out by a unit led by Ariel Sharon in 1953 and another in 1956 in which Israeli border police killed 48, including 6 women (one of them pregnant) and 23 children aged 8–17. To commemorate these dates, we ask you to help fight the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by sharing the booklet  <> “Palestinian Right to Return and Repatriation,” by Mazin Qumsiyeh, which details the plight of Palestinian refugees and lists the many massacres Palestinians suffered during the creation of Israel. Please order copies to give out to your neighbors, friends, coworkers or strangers, on your campuses, in your congregations, on the street, at a public event or at a private gathering.

Global intifada reaches the USA: 700 “arrested” in New York and protests spread to many cities around the US,0,6859500.story

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

BDS explained – DID YOU KNOW?

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 1.44.45 PM

BDS explained – DID YOU KNOW? updated 12May11 from Sonja Karkar on Vimeo.


This video is created by Australians for Palestine and Women for Palestine as an educational tool to help people gain a better understanding of the clear principles underpinning the Palestinian BDS call and the global Palestinian BDS movement.

Why Boycott Israel?



Aljazeera, 14 August 2011

Author and history professor Mark LeVine speaks with sociologist Lisa Taraki,
a co-founder of the Palestinian campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Mark LeVine: What is the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement and
how is it related to the academic and cultural boycott movement? How have
both evolved in the past few years in terms of their goals and methods?

Lisa Taraki: The BDS movement can be summed up as the struggle against
Israeli colonisation, occupation and apartheid. BDS is a rights-based
strategy to be pursued until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the
Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and complies
with the requirements of international law.

Continue Reading

Israel’s crackdown grows with boycott bill

Neve Gordon

The Knesset recently passed a bill making it illegal to advocate boycotts of goods produced in Israeli settlements.

Neve Gordon

Political change is slow. One doesn’t go to sleep in a democracy and wake up in a fascist regime. The citizens of Egypt and Tunisia can attest to the fact that the opposite is also true: dictatorship does not become democracy overnight.

Any political change of such magnitude is the result of a lot of hard work and is always incremental, indicating that there really is no single historical event that one can claim as the moment of conversion.

There are, however, significant events that serve as historical milestones.

The suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, who doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire when police confiscated his produce because he did not have the necessary permits, will be remembered as the spark that ignited the Tunisian revolution, and perhaps even the regional social uprisings now called the Arab Awakening. Similarly, the massive gatherings in Tahrir Square will probably be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back, setting in motion a slow process of Egyptian democratisation.

In Israel, it might very well be that the Boycott Bill, which the Knesset approved by a vote of 47 to 38, will also be remembered as a historic landmark.

Ironically, the bill itself is likely to be inconsequential. It stipulates that any person who initiates, promotes or publishes material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott on Israel or the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is committing an offence. If found “guilty” of such an offence, that person may be ordered to compensate parties economically affected by the boycott, including reparations of 30,000 Israeli shekels ($8,700) without an obligation on the part of the plaintiffs to prove damages.

The bill’s objective is to defend Israel’s settlement project and other policies that contravene international human rights law against non-violent mobilisation aimed at putting an end to these policies.

The Knesset’s legal advisor, Eyal Yinon, said that the bill “damages the core of Israel’s freedom of political expression” and that it would be difficult for him to defend the law in the High Court of Justice since it contradicts Israel’s basic law of “Human Dignity and Liberty”. Given Yinon’s statement, and the fact that Israeli rights organisations have already filed a petition to the High Court arguing that the bill is anti democratic, there is a good chance that the Boycott Bill’s life will be extremely short.

And yet this law should still be considered as a turning point. Not because of what the bill does, but because of what it represents.

After hours of debate in the Israeli Knesset, the choice was clear. On one side was Israel’s settlement project and rights-abusive policies, and on the other side was freedom of speech, a basic pillar of democracy. The fact that the majority of Israel’s legislators decided to support the bill plainly demonstrates that they are willing to demolish Israeli democracy for the sake of holding onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The onslaught on democracy has been incremental. The Boycott Bill was merely a defining moment, preceded by the Nakba and Acceptance Committee laws, and will likely be followed by the passing of a slate of laws aimed at destroying Israeli human rights organisations. These laws will be voted upon in the coming months, and, given the composition of the Israeli Knesset, it is extremely likely that all of them will pass.

Israeli legislators realise, though, that in order to quash all internal resistance, the destruction of the rights groups will not be enough. Their ultimate target is the High Court of Justice, the only institution that still has the power and authority to defend democratic practices.

Their strategy, it appears, is to wait until the Court annuls the new laws and then to use the public’s dismay with the Court’s decisions to limit the Court’s authority through legislation, thus making it impossible for judges to cancel unconstitutional laws. Once the High Court’s authority is severely hamstringed, the road will be paved for right-wing Knesset members to do as they wish. The process leading to the demise of Israeli democracy may be slow, but the direction in which the country is going is perfectly clear.

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation and can be reached through his website.

First published in Al Jazeera

Who is annexing Whom?

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, 27 March 2011

IN A rare late-night session, the Knesset has finally adopted two obnoxious racist laws. Both are clearly directed against Israel’s Arab citizens, a fifth of the population.

The first makes it possible to annul the citizenship of persons found guilty of offences against the security of the state. Israel prides itself on having a great variety of such laws. Annulling citizenship on such grounds is contrary to international law and conventions.

The second is more sophisticated. It allows communities of less than 400 families to appoint “admission committees” which can prevent unsuitable persons from living there. Very shrewdly, it specifically forbids the rejection of candidates because of race, religion etc. – but that paragraph is tantamount to a wink. An Arab applicant will simply be rejected because of his many children or lack of military service.

A majority of members did not bother to show up for the vote. After all, it was late and they have families, too. Who knows, some may even have been ashamed to vote.

But far worse is a third law that is certain to pass its final stages within a few weeks: the law to outlaw the boycott of the settlements.

SINCE ITS early stages, the original crude text of this bill has been refined somewhat.

As it stands now, the law will punish any person or association publicly calling for a boycott of Israel – economic, academic or cultural. “Israel”, according to this law, means any Israeli enterprise or person, in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel. Simply put: it is all about the settlements. And not only about the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was initiated by Gush Shalom some 13 years ago, but also about the recent refusal of actors to perform in the settlement of Ariel and the call by academics not to support the so-called University Center there. It also applies, of course, to any call for the boycott of an Israeli university or an Israeli commercial enterprise.

This is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation: it is anti-democratic, discriminatory, annexationist, and altogether unconstitutional.

EVERYBODY HAS the right to buy or not to buy whatever he or she desires, from whomsoever he or she chooses. That is so obvious that it needs no confirmation. It is a part of the right to free expression guaranteed by any constitution worth its salt, and an essential element of a free market economy.

I may buy from the store on the corner, because I like the owner, and shun the supermarket opposite, which exploits its employees. Companies expend huge sums of money to convince me to buy their products rather than others.

What about ideologically motivated campaigns? Years ago, while on a visit to New York, I was persuaded not to buy grapes produced in California, because the owners oppressed the Mexican migrant workers. This boycott went on for a long time and was – if I remember right – successful. Nobody dared to suggest that such boycotts should be outlawed.

Here in Israel, rabbis of many communities regularly paste up posters calling upon their flock not to buy at certain shops, which they believe are not kosher, or not kosher enough. Such calls are commonplace.

Such publications are fully compatible with human rights. Citizens for whom pork is an abomination, have the right to be informed about which shops sell pork and which do not. As far as I know, no one in Israel has ever contested this right.

Sooner or later, some anti-religious groups will publish calls to boycott kosher shops, which pay the rabbis – some of them the most intolerant of their kind – heavy levies for their certificates. They support a vast religious establishment that openly advocates turning Israel into a “Halakha state” – the Jewish equivalent of a Muslim “Shari’a state”. Many thousands of Kashrut supervisors and myriads of other religious functionaries are paid for by the largely secular public.

So what about an anti-rabbinical boycott? It can hardly be forbidden, since religious and anti-religious are guaranteed equal rights.

SO IT appears that not all ideologically motivated boycotts are wrong. Nor do the initiators of this particular bill – racists of the Lieberman school, Likud rightists and Kadima “centrists” – claim this. For them, boycotts are only wrong if they are directed against the nationalist, annexationist policies of this government.

This is explicitly stated in the law itself. Boycotts are unlawful if they are directed against the State of Israel – not, for example, by the State of Israel against some other state. No Israeli in his right mind would retroactively condemn the boycott imposed by world Jewry on Germany immediately after the Nazis came to power – a boycott that served as a pretext for Josef Goebbels when he unleashed on April 1, 1933, the first Nazi anti-Semitic boycott (“Deutsche wehrt euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!”)

Nor does any upright Zionist find fault with the boycott measures passed by Congress, under intense Jewish pressure, against the late Soviet Union, in order to break down the barriers to free Jewish emigration. These measures were hugely successful.

No less successful was the worldwide boycott against the Apartheid regime in South Africa – a boycott warmly welcomed by the South African liberation movement, though it also hurt the African workers employed by the boycotted white businesses (an argument now repeated by Israeli settlers, who exploit Palestinian laborers for starvation wages).

So political boycotts are not wrong, as long as they are directed against others. It’s the old “Hottentot morality“ of colonial lore – “if I steal your cow, that’s right. If you steal my cow, that’s wrong.”

Rightists can call for action against left-wing organizations. Leftists cannot call for action against right-wing organizations. It’s as simple as that.

BUT THE law is not only anti-democratic and discriminatory, it is also blatantly annexationist.

By a simple semantic trick, in less than a sentence, the lawmakers do what successive Israeli government did not dare to do: they annex the Palestinian occupied territories to Israel.

Or maybe it’s the other way round: are the settlers annexing Israel? The word “settlements” does not appear in the text. God forbid. Much as the word “Arabs” does not appear in any of the other laws.

Instead, the text simply states that calls for the boycott of Israel, which are forbidden by the law, include the boycott of Israeli institutions and enterprises in all territories controlled by Israel. This includes, of course, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

This is the core of the matter. Everything else is camouflage.

The initiators want to silence our call for boycotting the settlements, which is gathering momentum throughout the world.

THE IRONY of the matter is that they may achieve the exact opposite.

When we started the boycott, our stated objective was to draw a clear line between Israel in its recognized borders – the Green Line – and the settlements. We do not advocate a boycott of the State of Israel which, we believe, sends the wrong message and pushes the Israeli center into the waiting arms of the extreme right (“The whole world is against us!”) A boycott of the settlements, we think, helps to re-institute the Green Line and make a clear distinction.

This law does the exact opposite. By wiping out the line between the State of Israel and the settlements, it plays into the hands of those who call for a boycott of Israel in the belief (mistaken, I think) that a unified Apartheid state would pave the way for a democratic future.

Recently, the folly of the law was demonstrated by a French judge in Grenoble. This incident concerned the quasi-monopolistic Israeli export company for agricultural products, Agrexco. The judge suspected the company of fraud, because products of the settlements were falsely declared as coming from Israel. This could well be fraud, too, because Israeli exports to Europe are entitled to preferential treatment which the products of the settlements are not.

Such incidents are occurring more and more often in various European countries. This law will cause them to multiply.

IN THE original version, boycotters would have committed a criminal offence and been fined. That would have caused us great joy, because our refusal to pay the fines and subsequent imprisonment would have dramatized the matter.

This clause has now been omitted. But every single company in the settlements and, indeed, every single settler who feels hurt by the boycott can sue – for unlimited damages – any group calling for the boycott and any individual connected with the call. Since the settlers are tightly organized and enjoy unlimited funds from all kinds of casino owners and sleazy sex merchants, they can file thousands of suits and practically paralyze the boycott movement. That, of course, is the aim.

The fight is far from over. Upon the enactment of the law, we shall call upon the Supreme Court to annul it, as contrary to Israel’s fundamental constitutional principles and basic human rights.

As Menachem Begin used to say: “There are still judges in Jerusalem!”

Or are there?

Banning the Commemoration of Nakba

Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark
Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark

Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark

Palestine Monitor
, 24 March 2011
On Tuesday night, the Knesset approved two bills that extend the institutionalization of racial discrimination and reduction in civil rights in Israel.

One bill, known as the Nakba Law effectively illegalizes any public institution—including local municipalities and publically supported organizations—from commemorating Nakba Day—or in the bill’s own words any “commemoration of Independence Day as a day of mourning.”

This law strikes at the very core of freedom of expression: now, the State will be able to fine any local institution that presents or expresses any rendering of Israeli Independence Day as anything that deviates from a story of victory and triumph.


ACRI has denounced the bill, arguing that not only does it chip away at Israel’s most basic rights of freedom of artistic and political expression, but it will undoubtedly target Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Palestinians living in Israel will be unable to represent their own history and narrative of the creation of Israel.

The bill imparted enforcement duties to the Ministry of Finance, who will be able to withhold funds to public organizations. Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), has written about the shocking direction this bill takes Israel. In an article originally published in Hebrew on NRG, El-Ad writes, “This is perhaps the first time in democracy for freedom of expression to receive such a price tag.”

El-Ad has interpreted the bill as a privatization of free speech, writing that now, “Certain forms of speech will have a particularly high price.”

Citing the use and payment of police officers to protect a demonstration, El-Ad observes that before the Nakba Law, society paid for the protection of their rights to free speech.

With the passing of the Nakba Bill, also known as Amendment 39, the state has transfers these costs to those public organizations that exercise their freedom of expression and speech.

El-Ad warns that future bills, namely the “Prohibition on participation in a boycott” bill will further privatize rights by burdening individuals with the cost of their political expressions.

Warning: BDS success answered by ‘Boycott Arab goods’ smear



Stuart Littlewood, 5 March 2011

Congratulations, BDS campaigners.

Your global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions effort is hurting Israel so much that panic-stricken propaganda bosses are casting about in desperation for something to hit back with… for example, the libelous press release which portrays yours truly and other Palestine freedom campaigners as promoters of a new movement boycotting Arab goods.

This tissue of lies arrived the same day as news that Israel is spending $1.6 million to train “new media warriors” in the use of social media tools for disseminating the regime’s endless stream of disinformation. Of course, it’s nothing new. Israel’s Ministry of Dirty Tricks launched a revised training manual eighteen months ago to serve as a communications primer for the army of cyber-scribblers it was then recruiting to spread Zionism’s poison across the internet.

According to the lie machine I addressed hundreds of Muslim Britons in front of the Libyan embassy in central London and “excoriated the Arab and Iranian regimes for plundering their countries of their wealth and depriving their people of their basic human rights”. And I upbraided them for “their entrenched system of apartheid”.

The Zionist “media warrior” who thought up this garbage writes that my fictitious new organization — Britons for Boycotting Arab and Iranian Goods (BBAIG) — has demanded that all UK importers immediately terminate their contracts with Arab countries, and that I’m claiming “the UK public is supporting our initiative until the vicious dictatorships of the Arab Middle East and Iran are overthrown and their civilian populations are finally endowed with classical democracy”.

Not that Zionists know anything about classical democracy. Rabid ethnocracy is more their thing.

Also targeted, and dubbed a co-founder of the imaginary BBAIG, is Dr Ghada Karmi of Exeter University, whom they describe as “a crusader for the seething Arab population of Gaza and the West Bank”. The public are supposed to believe that she is threatening the illegitimate Muslim government leaders of the Middle East with arrest warrants should they set foot on British soil or seek asylum here. “Under Britain’s laws of universal jurisdiction, war criminals and their genocidal ilk are liable to arrest upon the deposition of a citizen’s complaint before a UK magistrate.”

Well, not any more actually. Israel’s ‘heavies’ put pressure on British government wimps a year ago and our universal jurisdiction laws are being watered down on Tel Aviv’s instructions to provide a safe haven for the world’s war crimes riff-raff who qualify as friends of Whitehall and specifically Israel’s psychopaths.

Dr Karmi is reported to have “cast aside her life-time enmity towards Israel and pleaded with the Jewish state to invade Syria and Iran and wipe out their respective feudal ruling classes”.

Lawyer Daniel Machover and Sarah Colborne of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which leads numerous BDS campaigns, are also named in this wild fiction.

Attempting to strike fear into our hearts the press release contains a footnote saying: “Guaranteed Distribution to 330,000 media, government and NGO activists around the world via Internet, Twitter, Facebook, My Space.” The bogus story has managed to surface on a couple of sites, but all activists (and editors) need to be alert to the new tactic.

Just for the record I haven’t been in London for months, and I’ve never met Dr Karmi. However, she emailed to say: “Why not use it to let people know about this latest idiocy?” Agreed.

Truth is fatal to Israel’s vile ambition. Its propagandists can only peddle lies. For them the challenge is finding new avenues for their dishonesty and fevered imagination.

But at least they keep us amused.

The source of disinformation on this occasion calls himself/herself Baldev Singh If anyone recognizes the name or address, please broadcast details!


Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood is an industrial marketing specialist turned writer-photographer. In 2005 he was invited to write and shoot pictures for a book about the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. ‘Radio Free Palestine’ was published in 2007. For details please see

  • The Author is a regular contributor to Find more Articles by Stuart Littlewood on RamallahOnline.

Anti-BDS Bill passes first reading in the Knesset


Palestine Monitor, 16 February 2011

On Tuesday, 15 February, the Knesset voted to approve a bill in its first reading that would criminalize actions that support boycotts against Israel. The bill was originally introduced in June 2010 by a 25 MK’s from the Likud and Kadima party.

According to a report by the Alternative Information Center, the bill will prohibit citizens from initiating or encouraging participation in a boycott against Israel.

If the bill is passed, citizens of Israel supporting BDS could face fines up to 30,000 NIS, roughly 8,200 USD.

According to AIC, non-citizens taking part in BDS activities in Israel are subject to being denied entry into Israel for at least 10 years.

According to YNET, the bill caused a heated debate in the Knesset. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported that before the vote was made, MK Dov Khenin of the left-wing Hadash party suggested the bill be renamed to “Prohibition on Freedom of Expression Bill,” emphasizing its censoring nature.

Since the international BDS movement was first formed in 2005, Israel has increasingly voiced its concern over the potential threat it poses to Israel. In June 2010, the Reut Institute, a privately funded policy group based in Tel Aviv, published a report titled, “The BDS Movement Promotes Delegitimization against Israel.” The report discusses the growing popularity of the movement, and its underlying purpose to oppose “Israel’s right to exists as a Jewish and democratic state.” The Reut Institute’s report charges all boycotts—both partial and full—with delegitimizing Israel.

YNET has reported that the Foreign and Justice ministries admonished against the bill, stating that it could lead to poor relations with other states.

Read AIC’s full report

McCarthy in Israel

Supreme Court of Israel, Jerusalem. Taken from the Crown plaza hotel. (2006, Wikimedia Commons)

Neve Gordon, 27 August 2010

On May 31, I joined some 50 students and faculty members who gathered outside Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to demonstrate against the Israeli military assault on the flotilla carrying humanitarian aid toward Gaza. In response, the next day a few hundred students marched toward the social-sciences building, Israeli flags in hand. Amid the nationalist songs and pro-government chants, there were also shouts demanding my resignation from the university faculty.

One student even proceeded to create a Facebook group whose sole goal is to have me sacked. So far over 2,100 people (many of them nonstudents) have joined. In addition to death wishes and declarations that I should be exiled, the site includes a call on students to spy on me during class. “We believe,” ends a message written to the group, “that if we conduct serious and profound work, we can, with the help of each and every one of you, gather enough material to influence … Neve Gordon’s status at the university, and maybe even bring about his dismissal.”

Such personal attacks are part of a much broader assault on Israeli higher education and its professors. Two recent incidents exemplify the protofascist logic that is being deployed to undermine the pillars of academic freedom in Israel, while also revealing that the assault on Israeli academe is being backed by neoconservative forces in the United States.

The first incident involves a report published by the Institute for Zionist Strategies, in Israel, which analyzed course syllabi in Israeli sociology departments and accused professors of a “post-Zionist” bias. The institute defines post-Zionism as “the pretense to undermine the foundations of the Zionist ethos and an affinity with the radical leftist stream.” In addition to the usual Israeli leftist suspects, intellectuals like Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm also figure in as post-Zionists in the report.

The institute sent the report to the Israel Council for Higher Education, which is the statutory body responsible for Israeli universities, and the council, in turn, sent it to all of the university presidents. Joseph Klafter, president of Tel-Aviv University, actually asked several professors to hand over their syllabi for his perusal, though he later asserted that he had no intention of policing faculty members and was appalled by the report.

A few days later, the top headline of the Israeli daily Haaretz revealed that another right-wing organization, Im Tirtzu (If You Will It), had threatened Ben-Gurion University, where I am a professor and a former chair of the government and politics department. Im Tirtzu told the university’s president, Rivka Carmi, that it would persuade donors to place funds in escrow unless the university took steps “to put an end to the anti-Zionist tilt” in its politics and government department. The organization demanded a change “in the makeup of the department’s faculty and the content of its syllabi,” giving the president a month to meet its ultimatum. This time my head was not the only one it wanted.

President Carmi immediately asserted that Im Tirtzu’s demands were a serious threat to academic freedom. However, Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, who is also chairman of the Council for Higher Education, restricted his response to a cursory statement that any move aimed at harming donations to universities must be stopped. Mr. Sa’ar’s response was disturbingly predictable. Only a few months earlier, he had spoken at an Im Tirtzu gathering, following its publication of a report about the so-called leftist slant of syllabi in Israeli political-science departments. At the gathering, he asserted that even though he had not read the report, its conclusions would be taken very seriously.

Although the recent scuffle seems to be about academic freedom, the assault on the Israeli academe is actually part of a much wider offensive against liberal values. Numerous forces in Israel are mobilizing in order to press forward an extreme-right political agenda.

They have chosen the universities as their prime target for two main reasons. First, even though Israeli universities as institutions have never condemned any government policy—not least the restrictions on Palestinian universities’ academic freedom—they are home to many vocal critics of Israel’s rights-abusive policies. Those voices are considered traitorous and consequently in need of being stifled. Joining such attacks are Americans like Alan M. Dershowitz, who in a recent visit to Tel-Aviv University called for the resignations of professors who supported the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli goods and divestment from Israeli companies until the country abides by international human-rights law. He named Rachel Giora and Anat Matar, both tenured professors at Tel Aviv University, as part of that group.

Second, all Israeli universities depend on public funds for about 90 percent of their budget. This has been identified as an Achilles heel. The idea is to exploit the firm alliance those right-wing organizations have with government members and provide the ammunition necessary to make financial support for universities conditional on the dissemination of nationalist thought and the suppression of “subversive ideas.” Thus, in the eyes of those right-wing Israeli organizations, the universities are merely arms of the government.

And, yet, Im Tirtzu and other such organizations would not have been effective on their own; they depend on financial support from backers in the United States. As it turns out, some of their ideological allies are willing to dig deep into their pockets to support the cause.

The Rev. John C. Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel, has been Im Tirtzu’s sugar daddy, and his ministries have provided the organization with at least $100,000. After Im Tirtzu’s most recent attack, however, even Mr. Hagee concluded that it had gone overboard and decided to stop giving funds. The Hudson Institute, a neoconservative think tank that helped shape the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Institute for Zionist Strategies over the past few years, and was practically its only donor. For Christians United and the Hudson Institute, the attack on academic freedom is clearly also a way of advancing much broader objectives.

The Hudson Institute, for example, has neo-imperialist objectives in the Middle East, and a member of its Board of Trustees is in favor of attacking Iran. Christian United’s eschatological position (whereby the Second Coming is dependent on the gathering of all Jews in Israel), includes support for such an attack. The scary partnership between such Israeli and American organizations helps reveal the true aims of this current assault on academic freedom: to influence Israeli policy and eliminate the few liberal forces that are still active in the country. The atmosphere within Israel is conducive to such intervention.

Nonetheless, Im Tirtzu’s latest threat backfired, as did that of the Institute for Zionist Strategies’ report; the assaults have been foiled for now. The presidents of all the universities in Israel condemned the reports and promised never to bow down to this version of McCarthyism.

Despite those declarations, the rightist organizations have actually made considerable headway. Judging from comments on numerous online news sites, the populist claim that the public’s tax money is being used to criticize Israel has convinced many readers that the universities should be more closely monitored by the government and that “dissident” professors must be fired. Moreover, the fact that the structure of Israeli universities has changed significantly over the past five years, and that now most of the power lies in the hands of presidents rather than the faculty, will no doubt be exploited to continue the assault on academic freedom. Top university administrators are already stating that if the Israeli Knesset approves a law against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement for Palestine, the law will be used to fire faculty members who support the movement.

More importantly, there is now the sense among many faculty members that a thought police has been formed—and that many of its officers are actually members of the academic community. The fact that students are turning themselves into spies and that syllabi are being collected sends a chilling message to faculty members across the country. I, for one, have decided to include in my syllabi a notice restricting the use of recording devices during class without my prior consent. And many of my friends are now using Gmail instead of the university e-mail accounts for fear that their correspondence will in some way upset administrators.

Israeli academe, which was once considered a bastion of free speech, has become the testing ground for the success of the assault on liberal values. And although it is still extremely difficult to hurt those who have managed to enter the academic gates, those who have not yet passed the threshold are clearly being monitored.

I know of one case in which a young academic was not hired due to his membership in Courage to Refuse, an organization of reserve soldiers who refuse to do military duty in the West Bank. In a Google and Facebook age, the thought police can easily disqualify a candidate based on petitions signed and even online “friends” one has. Israeli graduate students are following such developments, and for them the message is clear.

While in politics nothing is predetermined, Israel is heading down a slippery slope. Israeli academe is now an arena where some of the most fundamental struggles of a society are being played out. The problem is that instead of struggling over basic human rights, we are now struggling over the right to struggle.

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation and can be contacted through his website

BDS campaign wants Israel to abide by international law


Neve Gordon, The Observer, 11, 2010

There is a considerable amount of misunderstanding about the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions). As John Berger explained a while back, BDS is not a principle but a strategy; it is not against Israel but against Israeli policy; when the policy changes BDS will end.

BDS is also not about a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather the demand that Israel abide by international law and UN resolutions. It is accordingly something that you can support if you are for a two state solution or a one state solution. You can even support it as a Zionist. It arises from the realization, following years of experience, that the Occupation will not end unless Israelis understand that it has a price.

In a sense, the fact that a boycott is required is a sign of weakness following the polaristaion and marginalisation of the left in Israel. On the one hand, we have more or less used all the other weapons we have in the arsenal of non-violent resistance and the situation on the ground is only getting worse. On the other hand, we are witnessing the development of a proto-fascist mindset in Israel. I am, for example, extremely anxious about the extent that the space for public debate in Israel is shrinking.

One of the ways of silencing any dissent is the through the demand for loyalty, so that a slogans you hear a lot now is “no citizenship without loyalty.” This slogan reflects the inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen and is accountable for inequities and injustices. It is a manifestation of the complete reversal of the republican relationship between state and loyalty and the adoption, instead, of a logic similar to the one that informed Mussolini’s Italy.  It is – as Gramsci once said – part of the morbid symptoms of our times.

One of the expressions of these symptoms is the increasingly violent attitude towards any kind of dissent within Israel. I have received more death threats following my criticism of the flotilla fiasco than ever before. When I walk on campus people ask in jest if I am wearing a bullet proof vest. Such jokes have a menacing undertone. Therefore it is not all that surprising that only three professors in Israel openly support a boycott; many others are in the closet because supporting BDS is not considered to be a legitimate form of critique and people who back it are in danger of being punished.

And yet, there is also a sense that the pro-government proponents have gone too far. They are not only targeting people on the far left, but practically everyone who is even slightly critical of government policies. A couple of months ago a high school principle who objected to military officers coming in to speak to his pupils, was all but crucified. Clearly the outrage of so many Israeli academics against the assault on academic freedom has little to do with the boycott, but is rather against the attempt to silence any kind of critique. There is an ever-growing sense that public discourse in Israel is dramatically shrinking. Thus, the provost of Haifa University, who courageously criticized the Minister of Education and the assault on academic freedom, is by no means a left-winger but is simply outraged at the current developments. He would never otherwise support my stance on the boycott.