How Israel Took a Stand against Apartheid

Yesterday Frederik Willem de Klerk, who as president of South Africa oversaw the end of apartheid, died at the age of eighty-five. As it happens, this week also marks the 60th anniversary of an impassioned speech at the UN by Israel’s then-ambassador Arieh Eshel condemning the racism of the South African regime. Eshel’s stance, writes Colin Shindler, was typical of the Jewish state’s attitude:

In July 1961, Ben-Gurion told the visiting president of Upper Volta [now Burkina Faso] that Israel condemned the South African government’s policy of apartheid as well as the Portuguese dictatorship for its conduct in its colony, Angola. . . . Golda Meir later contemplated the closure of the Israeli diplomatic mission in South Africa and the cessation of El Al flights. For both Ben-Gurion and Meir, this was a founding principle of the Zionist experiment. In May 1901, Theodor Herzl, influenced by the Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, had confided to his diary: . . . “Once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”

Menachem Begin [later] argued that it was not in Israel’s interests to antagonize the South African government. Begin condemned apartheid, but was more concerned that the Jewish community might come to harm. Sections of the Afrikaner press at the time were adamant that Jews in South Africa had to choose either Pretoria or Tel Aviv—but not both.

The Afrikaners had looked upon Israel after 1948 with admiration and viewed its rise mainly through the lens of religion. They erroneously understood Israel as similarly taking the path of racial separate development. [After Eshel’s 1961 speech, the South African foreign minister Eric] Louw described Israel as “ungrateful and hostile.”

Yet Louw was no friend of the Jews. He had told [his country’s] parliament on the eve of the Second World War: “I am convinced that if it were possible to remove Jewish influence and pressure from the press and from the news agencies, the international outlook would be considerably brighter than it is today.”

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: apartheid, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus