May 05, 2009

Targeted character assassination of Omar Barghouti?

I put the question mark after the title because the attempted character assassination of Omar Barghouti won't work, rather it will just highlight the antics of the hasbara brigade desperately seeking to undermine the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.

Let's have a look at Engage on this as it seems to be quite pivotal in the anti-BDS branch of hasbara:
Omar Barghouti is one of the leaders of the campaign for the boycott of Israeli universities. He is a founder of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel. He says that the boycott of Israel is “a justified form of international intervention… [and] an imperative one as well”. He spends his time hectoring anyone who has anything to do with Israeli academia, telling them that they are collaborating with a racist and apartheid regime.

But Barghouti has decided not to boycott Israeli academia himself. He is now enrolled to study for a PhD at Tel Aviv University. What is “imperative” for others is, apparently, not quite so “imperative” for himself.

When an Israeli newspaper asked him for comment he said: “My studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting.”

There is a campaign to persuade Tel Aviv University to expel Barghouti, who wishes the institution nothing but harm, and who routinely libels it around the world.

But the libels are not true. Contrary to the lies of the boycott campaign, Tel Aviv University is a real university and not some kind of ideological or pro-apartheid institution. So of course Tel Aviv University does not discriminate against students on the grounds of ethnicity or on the gounds of political commitment and will not expel Barghouti, no matter how many people are outraged by Barghouti’s hypocrisy.

Tel Aviv University is right to uphold Barghouti’s academic freedom. Perhaps he’ll learn something about what a university is while he has the privilege of studying there.

So Dr Hirsh does not support moves to have Omar Barghouti expelled from Tel Aviv University but he is happy to participate in the campaign of harassment of him. So too is Jonathan Freedland who appears to be to the left of Dr Hirsh as far as his lack of support for some Israeli actions goes but, unlike Dr Hirsh, he calls himself a zionist as distinct from a "non-zionist".

Freedland has an article in the Jewish Chronicle and reproduced on Engage, "exposing" Omar Barghouti, for going to a university in his own country which Freedland claims is a "setback" for the boycott campaign. The article is headed A very futile boycott attempt and is actually, ostensibly anyway, about attempts to persuade Leonard Cohen to boycott Israel rather than play there as, at the moment, is his intention.
Tricky business, boycotts. Take the case of Omar Barghouti. In 2004, the graduate of Columbia in New York helped found the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign, urging scholars and researchers around the world to cut ties with Israel’s universities. But, as reported in last week’s JC, Barghouti is studying for a doctorate at… Tel Aviv University.

Asked to explain this apparent inconsistency between words and deeds, he told Maariv: “My studies at Tel Aviv University are a personal matter…” That’s quite a shift from Barghouti’s previous position which held that academic studies were not a personal matter but highly political — at least if the academic in question happened to be Israeli.

After that blow to their credibility,....
There's nothing tricky, shifty or incredible about someone going to a university in their own country whilst calling for an international boycott. I well remember Conor Cruise O'Brien being booed and jeered by South African students because he refused to boycott either the state that ruled them or their university, Cape Town. That wasn't a blow to the students' credibility or to the credibility of the boycott campaign which together with the resistance of the mass of South African's overcame racist rule in South Africa as I believe it will in Palestine one day. Conor Cruise O'Brien's credibility did suffer however and most obituaries recall the outrage his boycott busting antics provoked in liberal circles.

It's a bit of a "by the by" but see this from the Guardian obituary for "the cruiser":
In 1987 he was embroiled in controversy again, this time as a result of a visit to South Africa, where his lectures at the University of Cape Town angered black students. However, as his writings show, O'Brien was no friend to racial (or racist) policies, and his 1986 book on Israel, The Siege, was characteristically independent in its viewpoint.
Er yeah right. A South Africa boycott buster during apartheid and a friend of Israel but "no friend to racial (or racist) policies". However did he manage that?

But anyway, here's PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on the outing of Omar Barghouti for behaving like a black South African student during the apartheid era:
The impressive growth of the Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, particularly after its criminal war of aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip, is testimony to the morality and consistency of ordinary citizens and civil society organizations around the world concerned about restoring Palestinian rights and achieving justice for Palestinians.

The most recent achievement of the Israel boycott movement was the adoption of BDS-- nearly by consensus -- by the Scottish Trade Union Congress [1], following the example set by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU [2] and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU [3].

In despair over their evident inability to stop or even hold back the growing tide of BDS across the globe, Israel apologists have resorted to an old tactic at which they seem to excel: witch hunts and smear campaigns. A self-styled McCarthyist academic monitor group in Israel has launched a petition calling for the expulsion of Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), from Tel Aviv University, where he is enrolled as a doctoral student. The Israeli campaign urges the university administration to expel Barghouti due to his leading role in the BDS movement that calls for boycotting Israel and all institutions complicit in its occupation and apartheid

To date, more than 65,000 persons have reportedly signed this right-wing Israeli petition that depicts Barghouti as an “especially strident and persuasive voice” against Israeli colonial and racist policies. Several media columns by Zionist journalists in Israel and the United Kingdom, among others, have tried to use the “revelation” that Barghouti, “now enrolled” at an Israeli university, is politically inconsistent for calling for the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions while he is a student at one of them. Other than the clear dishonesty and underhandedness of these same media in presenting the case as if Barghouti has just -- or recently -- enrolled in an Israeli university despite themselves having reported years ago that he was already enrolled then [4], the reports have made some glaring omissions about the Israeli apartheid context, the widely endorsed criteria of the PACBI boycott, and the system of racial discrimination in Israel’s educational system against the indigenous Palestinians.

While consistently calling upon academics around the world to boycott Israel and its academic -- and cultural -- institutions due to their entrenched collusion in the state’s colonial and apartheid policies [5], PACBI has never called upon Palestinian citizens of Israel and those who are compelled to carry Israeli identification documents, like Palestinian residents of occupied Jerusalem, to refrain from studying or teaching at those Israeli institutions. That would have been an absurd position, given the complete lack of alternatives available. Successive Israeli governments, committed to suppressing Palestinian national identity in their pursuit of maintaining Israel’s character as a racist state, have made every effort possible to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian university inside Israel. The only choice left to Palestinian students and academics in Israel, then, is to go to an Israeli university or leave their homeland to pursue their studies or academic careers abroad -- often not possible due to financial or other compelling reasons. In fact, the Israeli authorities have consistently worked to strip Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem of their Israeli ID cards and thus their residency rights while they study abroad, thereby prohibiting them from returning.

Palestinians in Israel are treated as second-class citizens in every vital aspect of life and are subjected to a system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination,” as admitted even in US State Department reports on human rights [6]. In the field of education this discrimination is dominant throughout the system, as the following conclusion from a ground-breaking Human Rights Watch study published in 2001 states:

“The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes. At each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than Jewish students. ... . And Israel‘s courts have yet to use ... laws or more general principles of equality to protect Palestinian Arab children from discrimination in education.” [7]

Palestinians, like any people under apartheid or colonial rule, have insisted on their rights, including their right to education, even if the only venues available were apartheid or colonial institutions. Nelson Mandela studied law at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, one of the most notorious apartheid institutes then. Similarly, leaders of the anti-colonial resistance movement in India and Egypt, among many other countries, received their education at British universities at the height of the colonial era.

PACBI has always made a distinction between the forms and range of academic boycott it urges the world to adopt and what Palestinians themselves can implement. The former have a moral choice to boycott Israeli universities in order to hold them accountable for their shameful, multifaceted complicity in perpetuating the occupation and racist policies of the state; the latter are often left with no choice but to use the services of the oppressive state, to which they pay taxes.

Finally, we stress that it is precisely PACBI’s five-year-old record of moral and political consistency and the growing influence of its principles and the campaigns it and its partners have waged around the world that have provoked Zionist anti-boycott forces to try, yet again, to rehash old attacks of inconsistency, failing to understand or intentionally and deceptively ignoring the boycott criteria set by PACBI. We urge all academics, academic unions, cultural figures and cultural associations to adopt whatever creative form of BDS their context allows them. This remains the most effective and morally sound form of solidarity with the Palestinian people in our struggle for freedom, dignity, equality and self determination.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

[4] See for example:
[7] Human Rights Watch, Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel‘s Schools, September 2001.

Posted on 03-05-2009

Hmm, it's been about for two days and still no sign of it on Engage. It's funny they were keen for people to know about Barghouti at TAU and yet there's no sign of the PACBI statement on the Engage site. I don't comment there because it gets too unpleasant and you haven't a clue who you're talking to so I'll post it to the Just Peace UK list. I know that's monitored by Engage and the Zionist Federation so surely one or both of them will write it up soon.


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