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March 26, 2014 7:18 am

How Can Kings College Tolerate BDS?

avatar by Asaf Romirowsky

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Israeli Apartheid Week in May 2010 on the University of California, Irvine campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

For nearly twenty years, under the leadership of Middle East historian Efraim Karsh and his Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Programme, Kings College London was a beacon of light with respect to the study of Israel and the Middle East. King’s has a superior reputation as one of Britain’s foremost research and teaching institutions and the third-oldest university in the United Kingdom, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829.

But the BDS movement does not respect an academic pedigree any more than it does Israel. Efforts are again underway to infiltrate King’s with the goal of converting students and faculty to the almost religious viewpoint that the Jewish state is the source of all evil in the Middle East and beyond. At the upcoming Student General Meeting this Tuesday a motion proposed three months ago has resurfaced calling on Kings “to divest from Israel” and to “raise awareness of Israel’s illegal occupation.”

Moreover, the proposal calls to “pressure King’s College London to divest from Israel”, to “promote resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law” and to “affiliate KCL to the Palestine BDS National Committee.” Additionally, advocates of this motion would like “a plaque in all KCLSU student centres acknowledging that KCLSU formally supported the BDS call.”

The BDS movement smacks of anti-Semitism: Targeting Israel and its advocates, it holds the world’s only Jewish state to a far different and unrealistically high standard than any other democracy. Its supporters claim that their criticism is legitimate and is due to their “real concern” for the well being of Palestinians. Amidst flowery anti-imperialist rhetoric, the movement misleadingly implies that ending specific Israeli policies, deemed “apartheid” practices, would satisfy its backers. In fact, BDS supporters explicitly call for the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a bi-national state, the standard euphemism for an Arab/Muslim state in which Jews will be reduced to a status of permanent, underprivileged minority.

Unfortunately, academia is dominated by a loud minority of individuals who support BDS and who shape campus discussions regarding Israel. Consequently, it is the extreme voices that set the tone while the more moderate forces give in without much of a fight. All has led to a stifling environment where, in the name of free speech, sympathizers of the BDS movement have undermined free speech by ignoring, censoring, or white-washing uncomfortable and inconvenient truths.

In-fact, even the Palestinian Authority itself does not support the boycott movement, something that Mahmoud Abbas himself stated quite explicitly. Others Israel critics, like Norman Finkelstein who has accused Jews of using the Holocaust for their own gain, has described the BDS movement as “a hypocritical, dishonest cult” led by “dishonest gurus” who want to “selectively enforce the law” by posing as human rights activists.

That the BDS movement and its supporters, now tacitly endorsed by many departments and professors, have been given a platform to single out Israel as absolutely the worst society on Earth is deeply distressing and is nothing less than a “ready-made conclusion” of the most extreme sort.

BDSers intentionally ignore what Palestinians say in Arabic about their political demands or national identity, much less their attitudes toward Israelis, a common feature of American and European engagement with the Middle East.

The selective prosecution of the Jewish state, the mendacity of its accusers, and their willingness to abuse free speech to single out Israel – even as Syrians die by the thousands – should be a wakeup call to reality. It should also remind Kings College London of its long tradition of research and scholarship and cause the university to stand up against polemicists and abusers rather than legitimize them by offering a platform to promote their racist agenda.

This article was originally published by The Times of Israel.

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  • steve ross

    BDS goals are far to extreme for this university venue. Israel, like most other countries, can go a lot further in supporting and protecting the civil rights of its minorities (in their case the Palestinians). They are far from blameless regarding some negatively held opinions of them worldwide.

  • It’s been almost 16 years since I’ve been at Kings. They’ve always had strong student movements. I’ve never heard of the BDS movement, but it hardly seems radical. Every historian and philosopher, for years, has been pointing out that Israel is both illegally occupying land (violation of 4th Geneva Convention and numerous UN Security Council resolutions) and illegally created. This illegality is historical fact, and has nothing to do with its potential right to exist or the potential of one or two state solutions.

    • rachel

      wrong on every account. “Every historian and philosopher”, really??? Check Ephraim Karsh’s “Fabricating Israeli History” for a starter. Also, “From Time Immemorial” can serve as a good education for ignoramus. Second, “Israel is both illegally occupying land (violation of 4th Geneva Convention and numerous UN Security Council resolutions) and illegally created”. Both wrong. The territories are, according to international law, DISPUTED. And the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to the Israeli case since: 1. it was a defensible war. 2. nobody was forced to move there. As to Israel’s legality, is there legal ground to the creation of the UK, the UK’s occupation of North Ireland and Gibraltar. Talking about legality, Israel has, probably, the most solid legal ground as a state since the establishment of the state has been decided by the UN (for all its worth).

      • Yes, I’ve read Karsh’s book and Peters’, the latter being mostly evil (and infamously faking its references).

        Regardless, the territories, like Jerusalem, are not disputed. There is international consensus, for example, that Jerusalem is occupied Arab land. UN resolutions 242, 252, 267 all outright call much of this land “invalid”. 271 calls Jerusalem “under mlitary occupation” and “inadmissiable”. There were more resolutions in the 1970s that said the same, and then Res 446 in 1979 which stated this bluntly: “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity”.

        UN452, 465 an 471 say the same and elaborate further. In the 1980s, about twelve UN resolutions call this territory “null and void” and “outright occupied”. In 2004, the International Court said “all these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories” and that “Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power”. It went on to say that construction on these territories is “illegal” and “in breech of international law”.

        And the 1947 War, Suez War, 67 and 73 wars were not “defensive wars”. Prime Minister Menachem Begin himself admits this (re 67). 73 was entirely on sovereign Egyptian/Syrian lands. The Suez conflict was just generic European Imperialism. Some aspects of the 1947-8 conflicts were defensive, depending on your point of view on the sporadic violence throughout the preceding decade.

        You say “Israel’s legality” (the idea of a modern Israeli “nation”) is “as legal as the United Kingdom’s occupation of Ireland”, I agree. It’s all based on hot air (ignored Sec Councils and hot air Balfour Declarations, which dished out land which Britain exerted no sovereignty etc) at best, and outright violence/colonialism at worst. But aren’t most, if not all, borders drawn in blood? The Israel/Palestine issue is really one of the worst pieces of modern politics. There is nothing wrong with the idea of “Israel”, it’s just the speed, insensitivity and callousness at which she was created led to decades of conflict. Ironically, if Zionism were more “sensitive” in the 30s/40s, we’d probably still be in the same boat, only reversed, with a majority “Palestinian” “Israel” and a dying Jewish mini-state within or alongside it.

  • King’s College London

    Please see below for King’s College London’s statement on the KCLSU ‘BDS Motion’:

    King’s College London is proud of its diverse and inclusive community, which comprises students and staff from more than 140 countries. Members of the College community encompass a very wide range of political, religious and other points of view.

    As knowledge is worldwide, King’s College London does not support or engage in boycotts of academic institutions. Universities depend on freedom of speech and freedom of enquiry, which are fundamental to both teaching and research.

    King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) is constitutionally separate from, and independent of, King’s College London. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) motion passed at the Student General Meeting on 25 March 2014 is a matter for KCLSU, an independent registered charity and membership organisation, governed by its own Board of Trustees.

  • Note that King’s is officially distancing themselves from the radical minority that passed this motion. Let’s best ignore them. They don’t represent King’s.

  • Kibbitzer.

    How? Because Jew-hatred trumps all else, that’s how.