Friday, June 15, 2007

The British boycott of Israeli Universities

Ken Stern, of the American Jewish Committee, has written a thoughtful piece on the proposed boycott of Israeli universities by British academics.

Israel as the N-word

A few years ago an American Indian friend phoned me, absolutely perplexed. He could not reconcile two stories in his morning paper – one in the news section, the other in sports. Both were about major Florida universities.

The first story reported universal outrage at and severe sanctions on a fraternity which had hosted an event where participants dressed in blackface. The leadership of the university spoke in strong language about not tolerating racism, the hurt of stereotypes, the psychological impact of dehumanization, and the incompatibility of such offensive behavior with the standards of a university.

The second noted, without comment, that the leadership of another Florida university (which had an Indian mascot) was encouraging students to show up at a major sporting event in red face.

“How can people get it when it comes to racism against African Americans,” he lamented, “but don’t have a clue when Indian people are victimized by the same outrageous nonsense?”

I had some theories, none of them completely satisfactory. But I recall thinking such a blatant double standard rarely appears regarding bigotry against other groups, including Jews.

Recently I opened the New York Times and saw two articles. One reported that a union of academics in the United Kingdom (The University and College Union) voted to support the principle of a boycott against Israeli academics.

The other noted the plight of an Iranian-American academic from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who was being imprisoned by the repressive regime in Iran. I was tempted to call my Indian friend and ask him, how could it be that academics want to demonize their Israeli colleagues simply because they are Israelis, but are absolutely silent when a repressive regime in the same region is actually imprisoning scholars?


It is bad enough that repressive regimes in the Arab and Muslim world (many of which are theocratic and autocratic) demonize Israel and promote dehumanizing views of Jews through their media and religious and education institutions.

[....] But now many in intellectual circles, especially in Europe, are also demonizing Israel with such regularity and glee as to resemble sport.

There is an historic parallel here which, while not applicable in every particular, is becoming increasing apt: the way leading Southern institutions treated blacks fifty years ago. Israel has in effect become the ni**er among the family of states or in the terms of anti-Semitic slur, “the ‘kike’ among the nations.”


Kenneth S. Stern

1 comment:

Unknown said...

English != British.
England != UK.

Facts != your strong point.