Boycott against civil conduct

Linked with our presentation of Eva Hoffmann – USA-Canada-Poland.

by EVA HOFFMAN, July 7, 2006, on The Japan Times online:

Excerpt in the mid of a long article: … In 2005, the Association of University Teachers called for a more limited boycott, singling out Bar Ilan and Haifa Universities for opprobrium. Before that, a petition, signed by roughly 80 prominent British intellectuals and a few from other European countries, demanded the cessation of European Union funding for Israeli cultural projects and institutions. These campaigns, encouraged by Palestinian groups and nongovernmental organizations, have been accompanied by individual acts of professional ostracism, and an informal boycott of Israeli scholars, publications and cultural projects already exists in some European circles.

Such developments suggest an advanced and deeply disturbing trend, whereby certain segments of the European intelligentsia are willing to violate their own beliefs to target one state for unique stigmatization; and whereby insidious and sometimes illegal forms of discrimination against that state’s citizens are increasingly seen as acceptable.

In a certain ideological mind-set, Israel is perceived not as a political entity, susceptible to prevailing standards of judgment, but as an almost allegorical force, the symbolic center and source of the globe’s evils and ailments. Of course, Israel has been guilty of both bad policies and political sins. The occupation of Palestinian territories has had terrible consequences, and it is necessary to end it. But in today’s intensely charged climate, the Middle East has become a kind of ideological projection screen, a magnet for tendencies to demonization and idealization.

In the putatively “radical” interpretation, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is rarely seen as a conflict between two groups with sometimes tragically opposed interests. Rather, the stubborn complexities of the situation are reduced to a stark struggle between absolute power and absolute powerlessness, the archetypal oppressor and archetypal oppressed.

The rhetoric applied to Israel becomes ever more extreme, and conducive to hatred. Phrases like “apartheid state” and “Zionism is racism,” unthinkable in liberal discourse a few years ago, have become routine.

At the same time, the Palestinians become objects of romanticized identifications — one of the leaders of the NATFHE motion was seen, prior to a meeting, draped in a Palestinian flag — and unwitting condescension. They are seen as the last pure cause, the entirely innocent “Other,” unimplicated in their fate and apparently deprived of political agency or choice.

The possibility that the Palestinians are capable of deliberate decisions, that they have adopted policies that may have contributed to the current situation, or that they have exercised their own forms of power and violence, is, in this framework, never admitted. Hamas was never mentioned in either of the university union’s motions … (Read the rest of this long article on this page of The Japan Times Online).

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