Rejecting intimidation, justice for Palestine must progress in 2012

Leading Israeli historian Ilan Pappe offers some thoughts for the coming year:

If we had a wish list for 2012 as Palestinians and friends of Palestine, one of the top items ought to be our hope that we can translate the dramatic shift in recent years in world public opinion into political action against Israeli policies on the… ground.

We know why this has not yet materialized: the political, intellectual and cultural elites of the West cower whenever they even contemplate acting according to their own consciences as well as the wishes of their… societies.

This last year was particularly illuminating for me in that respect. I encountered that timidity at every station in the many trips I took for the cause I believe in. And these personal experiences were accentuated by the more general examples of how governments and institutions caved in under intimidation from Israel and pro-Zionist Jewish… organizations.

In recent years, I have learned firsthand how intimidation of this kind works. In November 2009 the mayor of Munich was scared to death by a Zionist lobby group and cancelled my lecture there. More recently, the Austrian foreign ministry withdrew its funding for an event in which I participated, and finally it was my own university, the University of Exeter, once a haven of security in my eyes, becoming frigid when a bunch of Zionist hooligans claimed I was a fabricator and a self-hating… Jew.

Every year since I moved there, Zionist organizations in the… UK… and the… US… have asked the university to investigate my work and were brushed aside. This year a similar appeal was taken, momentarily one should say, seriously. One hopes this was just a temporary lapse; but you never know with an academic institution (bravery is not one of their… hallmarks).

I do not wish to underestimate the task ahead of us. Only recently did we learn how much money is channeled to this machinery of intimidation whose sole purpose is to silence criticism on Israel. Last year, the… Jewish Federations of North America… and the… Jewish Council for Public Affairs… — leading pro-Israel lobby groups — allocated $6 million to be spent over three years to fight… BDS… campaigns and smear the Palestine solidarity movement. This is not the only such initiative under… way.

But are these forces as powerful as they seem to be in the eyes of very respectable institutions such as universities, community centers, churches, media outlets and, of course,… politicians?

What you learn is that once you cower, you become prey to continued and relentless bashing until you sing the Israeli national anthem. If once you do not cave in, you discover that as time goes by, the ability of Zionist lobbies of intimidation around the world to affect you gradually… diminishes.