As a country with more than enough real enemies, the last thing Israel needs is for its supporters to start attacking its friends. But that’s what seems to have happened to the University of Texas – which has been attacked as an anti-Israel boycotter for taking a courageous stand against the boycott.
It began when Israel National News published a perfectly fair article with an unfortunate headline: “New Boycott: U. of Texas Cancels Book Including Israelis.” The headline seems to accuse the university itself of boycotting Israelis, and that’s how many people evidently read it: Comments such as “U of Texas Press bows to boycotters,” or the more generic “scandalous!” and “shameful,” soon appeared on Twitter and Facebook.
What actually happened, as the news story makes clear, is that the university’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies wanted to publish a collection of women’s writing about life in the Middle East that would include both Arab and Israeli authors. The problem began when a Palestinian woman who had been invited to contribute threatened to withdraw her own article if the two Israelis contributors weren’t excluded.
The university, quite properly, told her to go ahead and withdraw; the book could live without her contribution. But she countered by persuading other contributors to withdraw their manuscripts as well. Ultimately, according to Inside Higher Ed, 13 of the 29 authors did so, and a few others were wavering. That left the university with four choices:
This weekend Jonathan weighed in on the letter signed by a number of UK artists calling for a boycott of Israel’s Habima theatre company.
Had the letter not contained the names of celebrities Emma Thompson and Mike Leigh, I doubt it would have made the splash it did – and, to further Jonathan’s point about Peter Beinart and the role he plays in delegitimating Israel, the letter’s signatories include the usual suspects among the Jews-for-Justice-for-anyone-but-the-Jews, whose fame, in the world of the performing arts, is more closely linked to their anti-Zionist crusades than their artistic talents.
Still, one point deserves to be added to Jonathan’s excellent take-down.
Yesterday, Seth ran down the background of that evening’s Park Slope boycott vote. The motion asked the unintentionally hilarious members of the popular Brooklyn, New York, food co-op to vote on whether they should vote on boycotting Israeli products.
In the end it wasn’t even close:
Initially discussed at a co-op member board meeting over two years ago, the proposed boycott was brought to a vote on Tuesday night, with 1,005 members voting against the boycott and 653 voting in favor. Public Advocate and Brooklyn resident Bill de Blasio said he was proud of his neighbors for doing the right thing, calling the proposal inflammatory and destructive.
“When we talk about hummus,” the Israeli academic Dafna Hirsch tells New York Magazine’s Matthew Shaer, “we talk on the material level and also the symbolic level. There is a mythology that completely surrounds hummus that doesn’t surround a lot of other foods. It’s a fascinating thing.”
Shaer was writing on the occasion of tonight’s vote-on-a-vote among the Park Slope faithful: whether the socially-conscious members of a popular Brooklyn food co-op should take another vote at a later date on whether to boycott Israeli products. Hirsch was not speaking specifically about this proposed boycott, but her comment about symbolism was appropriate: the food co-op isn’t exactly filled to the brim with products made in Israel. But the number of items isn’t the point. It’s the symbolic importance of expressing a chic hostility to the Jewish state. As Ruthie Blum put it in Israel Hayom last week:
The Jews of Park Slope are living very near to where their great-grandparents settled after getting off the boat at Ellis Island. However poor and dirty Brooklyn was in those days, it constituted freedom from an actual evil occupation – that of the Nazis. And however gentrified much of the New York City borough has become, many of its Jewish residents still care enough about the quality and price of their kosher food to join a food cooperative.
With a threat as great as Hitler’s annihilation machine looming large today, they should be ashamed of themselves for tolerating any assistance whatsoever to its enablers. In so doing, they are dishonoring their heritage and endangering their future.
Abe’s post about the hypocrisy of rock stars who preach morality while cozying up to dictators inevitably brings the anti-Israel cultural boycotters to mind. Take, for instance, Grammy-winning jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, who canceled a planned performance in Israel last week at the behest of pro-Palestinian activists. But somehow, she discovered her moral conscience only one day after having received full payment for the scheduled show – of which she has so far agreed to refund only part. In other words, this paragon of morality used her newfound passion for the Palestinian cause to commit robbery in broad daylight.
Or then there’s indie pop group, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, which recently canceled their planned performance in Israel. They, too, cited “political” reasons, in addition to scheduling pressures. But somehow, their moral conscience awoke only after they had managed to book a more lucrative gig in Malaysia for the same time.