Brouhaha over academics’ letter and BDS
Angry words fly
Jewish Report Online reported on December 17 in “BDS TURNS STATEMENT OF BORED ACADEMICS AROUND” that 204 senior academics in SA (led by Profs Robert van Niekerk, Salim Vally & Steven Friedman) had signed a pro-Palestinian petition and asked BDS to mail it out. But, as we reported, BDS’ Kwara Kekana first hijacked the mail and turned a pro-Palestinian pledge into “an academic boycott of Israel”.
Yesterday, the anti-Israel lobby group Media Review Network (MRN) also issued a statement to the BDS mailing list. MRN researcher, Ibrahim Vawda, wrote “SUPPORT FOR BOYCOTT BY ACADEMICS” on Politicsweb.
Barely a few hours later, Sydney Kaye, a pro-Israel lobbyist in Cape Town who has previously successfully complained to the Press Ombudsman against media houses unfairly accusing Israel (notably in this context in the 2013 case of SYDNEY KAYE vs CAPE TIMES wherein the newspaper was forced to publish an apology) responded to Vawda – with a no-holds-barred comment below his Politicsweb piece.
Kaye recently added his voice to a slew of complaints to the Ombud over the recent Cape Times fiasco where the entire Independent Media Group, apparently falsely, tried to implicate the SA authorities into a HOAX ABOUT ARREST WARRANTS OF ISRAELI COMMANDERS going back six years to the Mavi Marmara incident.
The latest round of angry words
In “Support for boycott by academics” Vawda says that the MRN “is in total support of (the) resourcefulness of the academics knowing the pressure put on any person/s, organisations or institutions that criticise the Zionist state”.
Kaye responds that academics do not think or act academically when it comes to Israel. “This type of unfortunate thinking also finds itself into any commentary where Israel is involved. The commentator’s function to analyse events for the benefit of the reader is often set aside in favour of passing on the standard propaganda of the preferred side,” he says.
Vawda goes on to congratulate the SA academics for having “endorsed the commitment that the Zionist treatment of Palestinians, the human rights violations on an ongoing daily basis, the illegal occupation of Palestine and the unending Zionist resistance to a reasonable and achievable solution to the crisis, cannot be tolerated”.
Nonsense, says Kaye. “I always understood that the academics’ version of the Hippocratic oath was to first critically analyse the premises of an argument before coming to a rational conclusion,” which he suggests is what the 204 signatories have done here. He raps Vawda over for assumptions such as: “illegal occupation”, “intolerable human rights violations” and “apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement”.
The arguments of both parties in this appear in full below.
SUPPORT FOR BOYCOTT BY ACADEMICS
By: Ibrahim Vawda on PoliticsWeb, December 21, 2015
Following on the initiative of their academic colleagues in the United Kingdom and Ireland, South African academics from almost all South African Institutions of higher learning, have come out in support of the boycott of Zionist academic institutions in occupied Palestine.
The Media Review Network (MRN) is in total support of this resourcefulness of the academics knowing the pressure put on any person/s, organisations or institutions that criticise the Zionist state. In their response, the South African academics have endorsed the commitment that the Zionist treatment of Palestinians, the human rights violations on an ongoing daily basis, the illegal occupation of Palestine and the unending Zionist resistance to a reasonable and achievable solution to the crisis, cannot be tolerated.
The academics have vowed to refuse any invitation to visit Zionist institutions, to participate in their conferences or to act as referees in any of their processes. The academics have declared to maintain this position until the Zionist state obeys and conforms to international law and respects and observes the universal principles of human rights.
This commitment comes in response to a call from Palestinian civil society in the wake of their struggle to sustain some semblance of normal life in obstinately difficult circumstances of occupation. The recent unrest on the streets of Jerusalem and the West Bank is further evidence of the Zionist state’s inflexibility and rigidity.
The MRN congratulates and backs this group of international academics in this highly principled position adopted by them. We believe that many academics working across the university sector around the world will join and pledge their commitment to this humanitarian effort. Civil society has the moral obligation to help shift the dynamics at work in Israel’s relationship with the outside world which will ensure equality, freedom and justice for the Palestinians.
Kaye rubbishes the argument
Comment on Vawda’s post: PoliticsWeb, December 21, 2015
By Sydney Kaye
I always understood that the academics’ version of the Hippocratic oath was to first critically analyse the premises of an argument before coming to a rational conclusion, not partake in a mass exercise in virtue signalling as in the boycott of Israeli academic institutions because of “illegal occupation”, “intolerable human rights violations” and “apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement”.
It may be so, and others may disagree with me, that Israel has a right-wing government beholding to an even more right-wing settler movement, that there is a messianic Zionist component to the Israeli electorate, that there have been examples of outright criminality from those quarters, and even that there have been human rights violations; none of which however come close to those experienced in dozens of other countries.
The “illegal occupation” is an old saw which in spite of constant repetition is not necessarily correct, but what is certainly contradicted by the facts is the “apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement”.
The fact is Israel has two parties to deal with; Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The former has made it clear that settlement is not on the table and that like ISIS, its objective is to establish an Islamic state on the whole of what it calls Palestine, and no amount of twisting and turning from apologists can change that. As far as the PA, Arafat pulled out of the Camp David settlement only because he couldn’t bear to sign it and Abbas goes around boasting that he refused Omert’s 2008 offer without even considering it; latterly confirmed by Clinton that it was a genuine far-reaching win-win deal.
These well-known and recorded events should give pause to anyone who regards himself as a scholar before making the statement that Israel is the party that has resisted settlement.
The other issue that should occupy an academic’s mind before coming to any conclusion is to consider what the party should be doing instead if what it is doing , before criticising its behaviour. To suggest that Israel should unilaterally leave its defensive positions while surrounded by enemies whose proclaimed aim, in word and deed is to destroy her, would in normal circumstances sound like a ridiculous suggestion, especially since Israel did just that in Gaza 2005 and was rewarded with 10 years of rockets instead of the commercial co-operation it was hoping would give a better life to Gaza’s population.
But when it comes to Israel, normally rational people set aside their cognisant powers and join the “right thinking” received wisdom of the anti-Israel movement.
This type of unfortunate thinking also finds itself into any commentary where Israel is involved. The commentator’s function to analyse events for the benefit of the reader is often set aside in favour of passing on the standard propaganda of the preferred side.
Therefore when the Cape Times reported on the Turkish-backed boat attempted to break the Gaza blockade, its writer perhaps through inexperience did not to bear in mind the rule that when a state acts it is always (except in South Africa under the ANC) to further the interests of the state.
It was not appreciated that Turkey provoked the adventure not because it had the slightest interest in the Palestinians, but because the Turkish president thought it would further his chance to lead the historic Ottoman region.
Now that that hope has evaporated, he has been desperately asking Israel to regularise its ties with Turkey to join an economic block with Greece to counter Turkey’s isolation, after it downed the Russian plane and blackmailed the EU over Syrian immigrants. Turkey has now agreed to Israel’s terms to re-establish relations being that any threat to arrest Israelis over the Mavi Marmara affair would be irrevocably withdrawn and that the Hamas leadership would be kicked out of Turkey.
Turkey has dropped its demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted and ambassadors will now be exchanged. If the Cape Times had been open minded and its foreign editor was an unbiased journalist alert to events in the real world outside South Africa, it would have known that the story about Turkey wanting Israelis arrested, fed to it by BDS, was false and its embarrassment in that regard would have been avoided.