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I often bemoan the silent majority of Muslims who don't speak out against the fanatical few Islamists. Sadly, I now find myself bemoaning the silent majority of British academics who don't speak out against the fanatical few in their midst. Their group has been hijacked by a minority, and it is time to speak out.
I wrote a letter to the editor of a British newspaper bemoaning the sheer hypocrisy of the latest British boycott of Israel. As a Brit living in Israel, I am finding it increasingly embarrassing and hard to explain to Israelis why people in Britain are so hypocritical when it comes to Israel.
The latest academic boycott condemns the "complicity of Israeli academia in the [Palestinian] occupation." I assume that this apparent "complicity" is the only way they can differentiate between, for example, the US and British occupation of Iraq and that of the Palestinians. Surely, however, by continuing to pay taxes to the British government, which is paying the British army, which is occupying Iraq, British academics are also complicit in occupation.
The last I heard, the Palestinians voted freely and democratically for a terrorist group that has massacred hundreds of Israelis and shows no interest in peace. I assume that the British academia examined whether the Palestinian members of the group who initiated the latest boycott voted for Hamas.
This is only the latest in a series of calls for boycotts against Israel from British groups. The other one that bemused (and embarrassed) me recently was a British journalist group calling for a boycott of Israel (!) after a British journalist was kidnapped in Gaza. He is still being held against his will by a Palestinian terror group.
Surely boycotts are supposed to be based on some sort of moral superiority? Not one of the ongoing or called-for anti-Israel boycotts are based on moral superiority: Britain is occupying Iraq, and yet there are no boycotts. And such groups wouldn't dream of contemplating a boycott of Palestinian groups whose weapon of choice is typically blowing up civilians on buses.
The only country being targeted repeatedly in these boycotts is Israel. It is clearly acceptable to criticize Israel. However, when Israel is singled out and held to unique and far higher standards than everyone else, the criticism turns illegitimate and takes on a demonic nature. The deafening silence by those who are outspoken when it comes to Israel on what theoretically should be similar issues indicates more than mere criticism, and it brings their integrity into disrepute.
Do really I need to list the numerous countries with abysmal human rights records (far, far worse than Israel can ever be accused of) that this British academia group are not concerned enough about to consider taking action against?
The repeated singling out of Israel in Britain for criticism simply indicates ulterior motives. Has anti-Semitism made a come-back? I don't think so, to be honest, and I sincerely hope not. Growing up in Britain, I only experienced one somewhat serious incident of anti-Semitism and that came from a local Arab family. However, it is increasingly hard to come up with another reason why the only country repeatedly demonized in Britain is Israel.
After writing the letter, I found myself wondering why I had bothered: Those who side with the boycott are never going to change their opinions and will merely feel empowered that they managed to achieve their goals. Those who swear that they don't support it, yet remain paying members of such groups, are evidently not going to show enough backbone to do something active. And most people undoubtedly don't care about the issue in the slightest.
I do care, however. It makes me ashamed to be British, since the British do generally have the reputation of moral fairness, and such boycotts are not morally fair. And it also makes me worry about the constant demonization of Israel and increasing anti-Semitism, especially in Britain.
Sometimes I honestly feel that simply writing a letter to the editor is really a waste of my time. It simply makes me feel impotent and increasingly desperate, since it is apparently impossible for the ordinary man on the street to implement change. Perhaps I should consider more serious action - isn't a typical excuse behind 7/7, etc., "desperation"?
No, that isn't a threat. I won't even contemplate violence; I believe that if the only way one can represent one's cause is through violence, then that cause is not worthy anyway. And I can totally justify my cause through words alone - the only problem being that very few are listening. Plus, I don't belong to the right religion for violence, anyway.
Instead, I created a petition calling on the British government to speak out against the demonization of Israel. It's not live yet, but will hopefully appear soon at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/stopdemonisation.
I recently received a chain letter-type email, citing the fact that most Germans were not Nazis (and we all know what the Nazis achieved), that most Russian and Chinese communists were peaceful people who stood by silently while nearly 100 million people were slaughtered in their name, and also mentions a number of other examples of the horrors that happen when the majority remains silent.
When I received the email, I did not envisage that I would shortly be equating the British academia with Nazi-era Germans or Russian and Chinese communists. But the analogy works.
It is time for the silent majority of British unions, academia, journalists, the medical profession and members of all those other groups contemplating singling out Israel for criticism to "stand up and be counted." Their failure to do so amounts to their complicity.
Michelle Moshelian is a Brit living in Israel. She has a B.A. in Classical Greek and a Masters degree in Computer Science, both from the University of Birmingham. As a former university student, her outrage at the hypocrisy of the recent academic boycott of Israel inspired her to initiate a petition to the British prime minister, calling on the government to speak out against the demonization of Israel in Britain.