Hysteria follows LA Times op-ed

What happens when an Israeli professor speaks his mind about the Israeli occupation? Let’s find out.

Take a look at Ben Gurion University Prof. Neve Gordon, who by the way, is a member of the Committee to Support Ezra Nawi.

He published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, titled Boycott Israel: An Israeli comes to the painful conclusion that it’s the only way to save his country.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

His opinion supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and the 2008 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has been met with the kinds of criticism that test the boundaries of freedom of expression and academic freedom in Israel.

Prof. Gordon’s piece offers what Naomi Klein termed the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal to address the Israeli occupation. If anything, the issues he brings up in his piece need to be urgently discussed in Israel and elsewhere.

In Israel they are discussed indeed. This is how…

Israeli Education Minister Education Gideon Sa’ar called the piece “repugnant and deplorable.

Ben Gurion University President Dr. Rivka Carmi expressed shock at the lecturer’s comments and added the university may no longer be interested in his services.

It seems that Ben Gurion University’s interest in academic freedom is limited.

Carmi’s words:

“Ben-Gurion is a Zionist establishment which fulfills the vision of David Gen-Gurion on a daily basis… Statements such as this, which level blunt and inciting criticism at the state of Israel, hurt the excellent work that is being carried out at Ben-Gurion University and all universities in Israel.”

Academics who feel this way about their country are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere.”

In a letter to Ben Gurion University, she insinuated that Prof. Gordon’s words may amount to treason. That letter (in Hebrew) offers the most candid explanation of what is really going on here:

The attack this time is unprecedented in its scope and severity, both because of the extreme line that defines the writing, that is seen by many readers as an act of treason against the State of Israel, and also because the piece was published in a newspaper with a large circulation, including in the Jewish community. I have concrete and truthful reasons to believe that above anything else, this piece may lead to a destructive hit in the raising of funds for the university, and the piece’s potential damages to the university’s budget in this hard period of its history, and maybe in the future, is great.

BDS activists worldwide are paying close attention to the economic dimension of a single, well-placed article. In fact, the Magnes Zionist has already noted with irony that,

Some Los Angeles Jews have responded by threatening to cut-off donations to Ben-Gurion University, which is, of course, what Gordon was calling for!

So maybe this should now be the tactic of supporters of BDS in Israel: Get leftwing academics from all the universities to call for boycotts, and then angry Jews will response by cutting off funds from their university.

In fact, Richard Silverstein adds to the irony, when commenting on the position of Israel’s Consul-General in Los Angeles, Yaakov (Yaki) Dayan on this matter:

What interesting about this story is that an Israeli diplomat, whose job, one supposes is to promote Israel, including its universities, is calling publicly for a financial boycott of Ben Gurion.

The last word goes to Prof. Gordon:

From the responses to the article it seems most people don’t have the courage to discuss the main issues: Is Israel an apartheid state? How can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved? Is the settlement project good for Israel or will it cause the state’s destruction? It’s easy to criticize me while evading the tough and important questions.

We could not agree more, Professor. We need less hysteria and more open discussions on these issues.

-Sydney Levy