Taking on the Israel bashers(National Post January 30, 2008)
Barbara Kay, National Post
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Both Judeophobes and Judeophiles agree that Jews are smart, but when it comes to thwarting anti-Semitism, Jews can be pretty dumb.
In 2004, Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky attempted to convene the heads of Israeli universities to devise counter-strategies to the then-temporarily subdued movement to boycott their scholars and campuses. Immured in their ivory towers, they were so oblivious to the gathering threat that it took Sharansky six months to facilitate the meeting, where they insouciantly dismissed his concerns: "When [the boycott movement] gets stronger again, we'll get organized."
By contrast, rabid enthusiasm always dominates the annual internationally co-ordinated Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the fourth of which unfolds on six Canadian university campuses Feb. 3-10. Jubilant promotional material informs us that IAW 2008 will be "celebrated" for the first time at Palestinian universities. More ominously, IAW 2008 will include the founding conference of "High Schoolers Against Israeli Apartheid." Toronto's Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid pronounces itself "a proud participant in the global movement."
Tonight, I am speaking to the Jewish community of London, Ont., about academic bias against Israel. I will have with me my review copy of Academics Against Israel and the Jews, for which Sharansky wrote the foreword, including my column's opening anecdote. Holding it aloft, I will declare, "Everything you need to know about global campus anti-Zion-ism and how --and how not -- to fight it is contained in this book. If this Jewish community cares about Israel's survival, you will read it and act on it now."
A collection of essays by knowledgeable scholars and pro-Israel activists, Academics Against Israel and the Jews is an important new information resource, for it is the first comprehensive analysis of this subject extending beyond a single country.
Case by case, and with rigorously documented thoroughness, knowledgeable insiders offer their respective forensic analyses of the activism and the intellectually corrupt ideologues fueling it in various academic hotspots as familiar as Canada's York University and as unfamiliar as the Universities of Utrecht and the Australian National University in Canberra.
The essays are sobering but reader-friendly, and written with a view to education, not retaliation. Amongst other fascinating facts, we discover in these pages why only one university in Spain (Navarre) is friendly to Israel; why United Kingdom academics are particularly boycott-obsessed; and why Jewish students in North America are far better placed to combat anti-Zionism than those in Europe.
In a particularly distressing probe by Palestinian Media Watch directors Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, we see scarifying evidence that revisionist history and open anti-Semitism of the vilest kind is common currency amongst "scholars" in Palestinian universities. If only shameless historical lies and routine classroom incitement to hatred were criteria for collegial shunning -- the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a standard "text" for Palestinian students -- rather than trumped-up charges of a non-existent "apartheid," Palestinian universities would be instant pariahs. Alas, thanks to our postmodern intellectuals' weakness for moral inversions, it seems even university-sanctioned incitement to literal genocide is no barrier to acceptance in the West's Islamophilic groves of academe.
Canada holds the dubious honour of providing material for two chapters: an overview of the Canadian campus scene in general, and a chapter on the ferment leading to the 2002 Concordia Netanyahu riot, an often-cited case study in appeasement and a primer in how not to deal with ideological scofflaws.
Manfred Gerstenfeld, the book's editor and chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a prolific, authoritative writer on the subjects of anti-Semitism and world Jewish communities.
Gerstenfeld is also a canny activist. If the cumulative effect of so much of the book's bad news is demoralizing, Gerstenfeld's bullish emphasis on remedies, and abundant proofs that the smart activism of a few can be effective in pushing back, are re-moralizing. A particularly absorbing narrative chronicles Gerstenfeld's own successful tide-turning intervention at the notoriously anti-Zionist School of Oriental and African Studies in London (known to the cognoscenti as the "School of Orchestrated Anti-Semitism").
Gerstenfeld's summary chapter is an education in itself. Here, an uninformed reader can assimilate the essentials: how to distinguish criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism; the nature and effectiveness of various present and past boycotts; contemporary Arab anti-Semitism and the recycling of old motifs; anti-Semites' contradictory images of the Jew; and Israel's plight as a paradigm for the West's future.
As universities are a feeder system into the elite cultural ranks of the general population, campus anti-Semitism is more than a threat to Jews alone. Widespread anti-Semitism is always a symbol of decline in a society, as the sorry situation in Europe makes clear (Sharansky calls North American universities "little islands of Europe"). Cultures in which anti-Semitism becomes the reigning ideology, like Nazi Germany and most Arab states since 1917, are by definition failed cultures.
At York University in 2003, a Jewish student told Sharansky, "For me as a Jew, the existence of Israel is a big problem. I want to be a normal person ... If Israel did not exist, I would feel much easier." If a Jewish student can't feel "normal" on a university campus because Israel "exists," is he not already studying in a failed culture?