The Clash of Worldviews in Gaza

April 16 2018

After explaining why Israel must defend its southwestern border from the combination of attempted infiltration and assault from Gaza, Liel Leibovitz asks why this is so difficult for so many in the West, and some even in Israel, to comprehend. To answer that question, he points to an underlying difference of attitude toward nationalism and the nation-state:

If, like me and like most Israelis, you believe that humanity could hardly do better than to arrange itself by nation-state, you shouldn’t have much difficulty understanding why a border is among the key emblems of national sovereignty, and why violating it brazenly and violently is going to be met with the harshest response imaginable. But what if you believe otherwise? What if you believe, like so many on the progressive left these days, that nation-states aren’t efficient guardians of individual liberties and serviceable embodiments of our collective values but, rather, a remnant from bygone, benighted times? . . .

How to resolve this conflict? Sadly, you cannot, because the disagreement here is ontological, not political. And it is not limited to Israel alone: in America, for example, the proponents of immigration reform too often speak of an American citizenship as if it were a basic human right, not a precious privilege, and of considerations of national capacities and priorities as largely irrelevant to the question at hand. Why not, if nationalism strikes you as useless and frightening, open wide the gate and let the wide world in? . . .

The skirmishes in Gaza, tragically, are likely to continue, as are the quibbles between the two groups that the British journalist David Goodhart helpfully labeled the Somewheres and the Anywheres, the former rooted in a specific nation with specific borders and specific interests and traditions, the latter feeling no gravitational pull save for that of the world at large. We see these battles everywhere from ballots to bookshelves. They’re the ones that will shape the future for us and our children, so we may as well get the reasons for fighting right.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Nationalism

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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