Stopping Academic Boycotts Is Part of a Larger Contest for the Soul of the University

Sept. 20 2017

Over the past year, the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) has faced a series of setbacks in its efforts to turn Israeli scholars into pariahs in the academic world. The refreshing success of BDS’s opponents, writes Jonathan Marks, comes primarily from convincing professors “that BDS is not only unjust to Israel . . . but also damaging to the academic enterprise, for which BDS seeks to substitute propagandizing”:

The fight against BDS on our campuses is part of a broader fight to preserve our colleges and universities as homes of reason, in which following arguments where they lead is the aim, rather than, as our moralists are fond of saying, standing on the right side of history. The antidote to academic BDS in the long run, as its most successful opponents grasp, is to foster an intellectual climate in which all participants in a controversy are expected to be rigorous, and to allow their views and lives to be shaped by good arguments. Even in the best of circumstances, such a climate is present only intermittently at our colleges and universities. But it is also the only climate in which serious academic work can be pursued.

For that reason, even those who prefer to sit on the sidelines when it comes to political controversy might become engaged in efforts better to establish and maintain that air of studiousness. Such a climate is one in which BDS cannot breathe.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism

Hamas Sets Its Sights on Taking over the PLO

Oct. 20 2017

Examining the recent reconciliation agreement between the rival Palestinian organizations Fatah and Hamas, Eyal Zisser argues that the latter sees the deal as a way to install its former leader, Khaled Meshal, as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and thereby the Palestinian Authority. It wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened:

Even the former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat . . . took the PLO leadership by force. His first steps, incidentally, were with the Fatah organization, which he cofounded in January 1965 in Damascus, under Syrian patronage. Fatah was meant to serve as a counterweight to the rival PLO, which had come into existence [earlier] under Egyptian patronage. Arafat, however, was relegated to the sidelines in the Palestinian arena. It was only after the 1967 Six-Day War that he exploited the resounding defeat of the Arab armies to join the PLO as the leader of Fatah, which led to his gaining control over [the PLO itself].

Meshal [most likely] wants to follow in Arafat’s footsteps—a necessary maneuver for a man who aspires to lead the Palestinian national movement, particularly after realizing that military might and even a hostile takeover of [either Gaza or the West Bank] will not grant him the legitimacy he craves.

It is hard to believe that Fatah will willingly hand over the keys to leadership, and it is also safe to assume that Egypt does not want to see Hamas grow stronger. But quasi-democratic developments such as these have their own dynamics. In 2006, Israel was persuaded by Washington to allow Hamas to run in the general Palestinian elections, thinking the Islamist group had no chance of winning. But Hamas won those elections. We can assume Meshal will now look to repeat that political ploy by joining the PLO and vying for its leadership.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Khaled Meshal, Palestinian Authority, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, Yasir Arafat