When the council of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the UK meets on Friday to reconsider the boycott of Bar Ilan and Haifa Universities adopted last month, there is a good chance it will retreat. The opposition to this desecration of free academic inquiry has been surprisingly widespread, despite the pervasive anti-Israel bias in Britain and Europe. Perhaps there is more sanity and common sense in post-modern and post-colonial intellectual discourse than has been apparent.
But a tactical defeat of the boycott this time should not be confused with a strategic change – the extremists who are waging the political dimension of the war against Israel lost an earlier round, but kept trying. They realized that the 45,000 members of the AUT have either been unwilling or unable to tell their leaders that further exploitation of universities for vitriolic attacks against Israel is unacceptable.
To win this wider political war, the sources of the incitement and hatred directed against Israel need to be understood and defeated. In the case of the AUT boycott, its main proponents – Susan Blackwell and Steven Rose – are obsessed anti-Israel campaigners. Their claims regarding Bar Ilan and Haifa Universities were simply hooks on which to hang the wider campaign to label Israel "an apartheid state."
This political assault, which accompanied the Palestinian terrorism that ended the Oslo process, was outlined at the UN’s 2001 Durban conference on racism. According to the logic of this movement, just as terror and boycotts in the case of South Africa were justified, the actions of "Palestinian victims of Israeli occupation" can be perceived in the same way. But South Africa was unique, and in no way comparable to the ethnic and religious conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Like other "great lies," this analogy exploits and diminishes the suffering of the victims of real apartheid, and disfigures basic principles of morality.
BOYCOTTS ARE a major part of this offensive, and the powerful heads of activist NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are driving the process. Instead of giving voice to the legitimate and peaceful needs of "civil society," according to the standard jargon, these NGOs only use the rhetoric of human rights, humanitarian claims and charity to justify terror and promote demonization.
The link is particularly direct in this case – the AUT boycott resolution specifically repeats the accusations of the PNGO – the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization.
The PNGO has indeed played a central role in the assault on Israel’s legitimacy and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. This goal is reflected in many activities that PNGO supports, such as the December 2004 conference at the School of Oriental & African Studies, London on "Resisting Israeli Apartheid Strategies & Principles." This theme advanced the boycott process, accompanied by the justification of Palestinian terror.
As documented in NGO Monitor’s detailed reports on PNGO, this umbrella organization and its constituent members (real and virtual) receive funding from the British Department for International Development, parallel groups in Europe and Canada, and from private sources such as the Ford Foundation.
BADIL, which focuses on refugee claims, uses money from the Canadian International Development Agency, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Swiss Foreign Ministry for anti-Israel incitement rather than humanitarian assistance.
To spread propaganda, the PNGO created Al-Marsad and the Palestine Monitor. Another branch – the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People (GIPP) – uses its resources to repeat demands for a "civilian boycott of all official Israeli organizations and institutions,"
expulsion of Israel from "intergovernmental organizations," and demands that foreign states refuse entry to Israeli officials.
Their reports use demonizing terms such as "colonization," "the Judeaization of Jerusalem," "ghettoize," "land grab" and "apartheid" as often as possible.
Slogans of hatred and rejectionism that create support for boycotts are also promoted by the major international NGOs. For the past two years, Christian Aid has focused its main Christmas campaign around themes such as "Child of Bethlehem" and "Peace Under Siege," which highlighted Palestinian victimization at the hands of Israel, while essentially ignoring Palestinian terror.
War on Want also uses "charitable" contributions to promote incitement against the "apartheid wall." And Human Rights Watch joined the extremist pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement to advance the boycott campaign focusing on the Caterpillar machinery sold to Israel and used in fighting Palestinian terror.
The evidence – for those who care to look – is clear.
Now that their eyes have been opened, if the members of the Association of University Teachers act morally to unconditionally repeal the academic boycott, they would be setting an important example in halting this assault.
The writer is director of the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University, and the editor of www.ngo-monitor.org