When debate turns to Israel, Zionists often resort to bullying. It’s a tactic produced by an insecure, nervous yet aggressive lobby that simply refuses to accept alternative points of view. During the recent controversy surrounding the British academic boycott of Israeli institutions, similar tactics were employed. The result, unsurprisingly, was counterproductive and generated deep resentment:
The pickle is trying to determine whether the campaigns against such boycotts are actually motivated by concerns for academic freedom, or whether they are using the universalist ideal to stifle critical discussion of Israel.
We have found much more evidence of the latter. Through discussions with anti-boycott campaigners and a trace of the most common emails (not necessarily abusive) sent to the union and handed over by Natfhe, we found the vast majority of the tens of thousands of emails originated not with groups fighting for academic freedom, but with lobby groups and thinktanks that regularly work to delegitimise criticisms of Israel. We spoke to a number of these groups about their aims and the extent of their campaigns against the boycott.
On a more positive note, Max Hastings highlights the fact that Israel can no longer rely on European Jewry:
Whatever the outcome of the current Palestinian chaos, meaningful negotiations with Israel seem unlikely. The most plausible scenario is that Ehud Olmert will proceed unilaterally to draw new boundaries for his country, which will absorb significant Palestinian land, and institutionalise such dominance of the West Bank as to make a Palestinian state unworkable.
If this is the future, it is likely to yield fruits as bitter for Israelis as for Palestinians. The world, far from becoming more willing to acquiesce in Israel’s expansion, is becoming less so. The generation of European non-Jews for whom the Holocaust is a seminal memory is dying. With them perishes much vicarious guilt.
Younger Europeans, not to mention the rest of the world, are more sceptical about Israel’s territorial claims. They are less susceptible to moral arguments about redress for past horrors, which have underpinned Israeli actions for almost 60 years. We may hope that it will never become respectable to be anti-semitic. However, Israel is discovering that it can no longer frighten non-Jews out of opposing its policies merely by accusing them of anti-semitism.
There is also evidence of growing disenchantment with Israel in the Jewish diaspora. Feelings have changed since 1948 and the days when Jews around the world thought it a duty to support “their” nation in the promised land right or wrong, in good times or bad.
It’s a rare sign of hope in the current conflict. The US will undoubtedly continue to blindly support Israeli ambitions, but even this won’t last forever. What will it take for greater numbers of Jews to speak out against Israeli occupation and oppression? Unless, of course, they believe Arabs and Palestinians deserve little else. It may be hard to imagine now, but Israel’s current incarnation is simply unsustainable in the long-term.