Back to School at Ben Gurion U.September 1, 2009 13:44 by BackSpin Editor
As students get ready to begin the fall semester, Ben Gurion U. president Rivka Carmi got op-ed space in the LA Times to slam Neve Gordon and his call to boycott Israel:
Academic freedom exists to ensure that there is an unfettered and free discussion of ideas relating to research and teaching and to provide a forum for the debate of complicated ideas that may challenge accepted norms. Gordon, however, used his pulpit as a university faculty member to advocate a personal opinion, which is really demagoguery cloaked in academic theory . . . .
Like it or not, Gordon cannot be readily dismissed. The law in Israel is very clear, and the university is a law-abiding institution.
At the same time, by calling on other entities, including academic institutions, to boycott Israel — and effectively, to boycott his own university — Gordon has forfeited his ability to work effectively within the academic setting, with his colleagues in Israel and around the world. After his very public, personal soul-searching in his Op-Ed article, leading to his extreme description of Israel as an "apartheid" state, how can he, in good faith, create the collaborative atmosphere necessary for true academic research and teaching?
Carmi told YNet News that demands that Gordon resign are legitimate, adding that the BGU cannot and will not fire him.
Highlighting how Gordon's views are fringe, even by Israeli standards, Uri Avnery explained why boycotting Israel wouldn't have the same effect as the world's boycott of South Africa:
The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10 percent. That means that more than 90 percent of the country’s inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.
In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80 percent of Israel’s citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60 percent throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9 percent of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.
They will not feel “the whole world is with us”, but rather that “the whole world is against us”. In South Africa, the worldwide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite.
And Gordon? He's sticking to his guns, telling The Media Line:
"There’s also a contradiction in my call because in a sense I’m calling on people to boycott myself or my country," he said. "But we all live with different contradictions and this is a contradiction that I’m willing to take on.’
"We have to remember that the call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a non-violent strategy to end an apartheid situation, opposed to the violence that is used daily in the occupied territories."
"There is a double standard in a sense that other countries are abusing human rights just as much as Israel if not more so," he added. "But go boycott China, how will that affect China? It will not. Here in Israel there is something very pragmatic about it. I think it can help Israel and save Israel from itself.
Gordon and his op-ed will surely be the buzz of campus.