Middle East Scholars Complain of Being Stifled, While Promoting Boycotts of Israel

A recent survey of 513 university scholars who study the Middle East found that more than half of them oppose holding or attending academic conferences and workshops in Israel. Miriam Elman comments:

The survey findings show that the vast majority of these Middle East scholars support holding academic workshops in the UAE (65 percent), Qatar (80 percent), and Turkey (80 percent). The latter result is particularly striking, given the Erdogan government’s unconscionable attacks on higher education and large-scale purges of academics in recent years, which have basically morphed the country’s university system into an arm of the state.

There is no movement among Middle East scholars to boycott Turkey. By contrast, an overwhelming majority of them—91 percent—harbor such an intense hostility toward Israel that they support boycotts targeting it, although a third claim that they oppose boycotting Israeli academic institutions.

It is ironic that Middle East scholars who so strongly favor boycotting Israel also complain bitterly about the silencing of their own speech, even as they work hard to stifle the voices and curtail the academic freedom of Israeli academics. According to the new survey, nearly 60 percent of Middle East scholars report “treading carefully” when speaking out about the region. But when it comes to discussing Israel, it is hard to take this grievance seriously.

There are no professional risks for faculty who passionately advocate against Israel—especially when their senior colleagues are doing so. . . . The reality is that today it is Jewish faculty who increasingly feel a need to self-censor and to hide their attachments to Israel in order to avoid professional costs.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Academic Boycotts, Israel on campus, Middle East Studies Association

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy