July 11, 2010

Israeli academics rebel against "proto-fascism"

Well a "proto-fascist mindset" but it's the same thing. Anyway, two articles on BDS have appeared on The Guardian website today and both of them were in today's print edition of The Observer. One is by Rachel Shabi and Peter Beaumont and is introduced thus:
An academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained rapid international support since Israeli troops stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in May, killing nine activists. Israeli attention has focused on the small number of activists, particularly in the country's universities, who have openly supported an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

A protest petition has been signed by 500 academics, including two former education ministers, following recent comments by Israel's education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government intends to take action against the boycott's supporters. A proposed bill introduced into the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters. Individuals who initiated, encouraged or provided support or information for any boycott or divestment action would be made to pay damages to the companies affected. Foreign nationals involved in boycott activity would be banned from entering Israel for 10 years, and any "foreign state entity" engaged in such activity would be liable to pay damages.

The other is more from the horse's mouth as it is by Neve Gordon who is an Israeli academic:
There is a considerable amount of misunderstanding about Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. BDS is not a principle but a strategy; it is not against Israel but against Israeli policy; when the policy changes BDS will end.

BDS is not about a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the demand that Israel abide by international law and UN resolutions.

It is, accordingly, something that you can support if you are for a two-state solution or a one-state solution. You can even support it as a Zionist.

It arises from the realisation, following years of experience, that the occupation will not end unless Israelis understand that it has a price.

In a sense, the need for a boycott is a sign of weakness following the polarisation and marginalisation of the left in Israel. We are witnessing the development of a proto-fascist mindset. I am, for example, extremely anxious about the extent that the space for public debate in Israel is shrinking.

One of the ways of silencing dissent is through the demand for loyalty, so that a slogan you hear a lot now is "no citizenship without loyalty". This reflects the inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen and is accountable for inequities and injustices. The reversal of this relationship between state and loyalty, and the adoption of a logic similar to the one that informed Mussolini's Italy, is alarming.

Comments are still open on the Neve Gordon article which is interesting because the mods at The Guardian will ban comments that compare Israel to Hitler's Germany but what will happen now that an article has likened Israel to Mussolini's Italy?


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