Scholars for Undermining Israel
An array of academics, self-identified as Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP), have signed and circulated a statement proclaiming their “Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace” agenda. Familiar names abound: Michael Walzer (Princeton); Todd Gitlin (Columbia); Michael Kazin (Georgetown); Steven Zipperstein (Stanford); Alan Wolfe (Boston College). They are bolstered by another twenty lesser known colleagues from the provinces. Collectively, they comprise the adult version of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), dedicated to “the struggle for the liberation of Palestine” by maligning the Jewish State.
Their statement opens with the bedrock trite trope of the Left: “A central obstacle to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the continuing occupation of the West Bank.” Really? Why was there was no “just peace” during the nineteen years of Jewish statehood preceding the “occupation” that followed the declaration of war against Israel by Egypt, Syria and Jordan in June 1967? To say nothing of whether Israel is “occupying” Judea and Samaria (formerly Jordan’s West Bank), which just happens to be the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. There, in Hebron and Jerusalem, Jews established their first national commonwealths more than two thousand years ago.
But it gets worse. The SIPsters hallucinate that UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted in the wake of Israel’s stunning victory in the Six-Day War, required an end to Israeli “occupation.” Hardly. It called for Israeli withdrawal from “territories” – not “the territories” or “all the territories” – won by Israel in its defensive war for survival. But it also required “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State” (including Israel) by its sworn Arab enemies, who preferred to launch yet another attempt to annihilate the Jewish state six years later, on Yom Kippur. Are you listening: Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah?
SIP recommends the imposition of personal sanctions on a cohort of Israeli “political leaders and public figures” whose policies fail to meet its moral standards. Instead, they “plainly violate international law” and “prevent the kind of negotiated peace settlement,” also known as surrender, that the signees favor. Leftist clichés abound: “occupied territories”; “creeping annexation”; “violation of international law.” But to demonstrate how fair-minded and liberal they are, the signees concede that campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli “academia,” that “indiscriminately target Israeli society and institutions,” are “unjust and politically counterproductive.” If they were politically productive, perhaps the SIP signees would approve.
Humane and thoughtful as they proclaim themselves to be, they would confine draconian sanctions to “political actors engaged in . . . sabotage” of their sacred principles. They identify four targets: Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, who had the temerity to previously serve as director of Yesha, the council of Jewish settlements; Uri Ariel, Bennett’s Jewish Home Party colleague and Minister of Construction and Housing, and Zeev Hever, secretary of the Amana settlement movement, who (gasp!) advocates accelerated settlement construction; and Moshe Feiglin, a Likud Knesset member who stands for “undisguised extremism” (e.g. strolling on the Temple Mount).
Anyone beguiled by the moral preening of “Scholars for Israel and Palestine” might reasonably anticipate a word or two about Palestinian obligations toward promoting a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Or the role of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to say nothing of Hamas, in promoting “peace.” No such luck. That would constitute an astonishing display of intellectual integrity, objectivity, and other obsolete virtues from the liberal credo that are conspicuously missing from SIP rhetoric.
One would need to return to the 1920s to find a similarly self-deluded cohort of academic celebrities prepared to jettison Zionism to preserve their own moral purity. The luminaries of Brit Shalom, including philosopher Martin Buber, Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem, and historian Hans Kohn were joined by Albert Einstein and Henrietta Szold. Standing outside the group, while avidly promoting its efforts, was Judah Magnes, first Chancellor of the fledgling Hebrew University. Their advocacy of bi-nationalism consigned Zionism to oblivion. But their dismal failure to persuade anyone beyond their tiny circle set a low bar for the moral preening of SIP.
To be sure, SIP signatories exude moral purity when compared with some Israeli academics on the far Left who, in any other country, might be labeled traitors. The fictionalized history of Professor Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University has enabled him to flee “tribal Judeocentrism.” Professor Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer at Ben-Gurion University, identifies Israel as an undemocratic “ethnocracy.” Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling explored the “colonialist” origins of Zionism.
Whether or not intentionally, SIP signees have exposed themselves as collaborators in the world-wide campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner