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(photo credit: Rabbis for Human Rights)
No longer can we bury our heads in the sand. We have become a pariah state, likened to South Africa during its years of apartheid. However unfair the comparisons, the same methods of political, economic and diplomatic isolation that were applied to South Africa are now being slowly but steadily applied to the Jewish state.
Britain's University and College Union (UCU) voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, protesting Israel's policy in the territories. To add insult to injury, the union pledged to arrange for academics from the Palestinian Authority to attend scholastic conferences in the United Kingdom.
South Africa's trade unions will soon launch a campaign against "the Israeli occupation of Arab lands," demanding that Pretoria impose a boycott on all Israeli products and sever diplomatic relations. The president of the Congress Trade Union, Willy Madisha, said: "The best way for Israel to comply with United Nations resolutions is to pressure it by a diplomatic boycott such as the one imposed on apartheid South Africa."
It is relatively easy to deflate the skewed comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Further, it is a slam-dunk to point to the intellectual dishonesty of such boycotts - be they academic, economic or political.
Our academicians are not kosher, but Palestinian intellectuals are? The Palestinian Authority that sees Hamas and Fatah exchange gunfire in hospitals, throw people off roofs, murder each other in the streets execution-style and burn each others' houses to the ground, killing all the occupants including innocent children - its scholars are welcomed guests of the UCU?
Does the UCU see no contradiction in opening its university doors to Palestinian academicians whose leadership tramples human rights with impunity? Extending preferential treatment to Palestinian academics makes a mockery of the UCU's boycott.
Given the UCU's and South African trade unions' objection to occupation, why not boycott American professors? After all, the US is occupying Iraq in a manner far more brutal than Israel's occupation of the West Bank. How many thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed by indiscriminate carpet bombing? We will never know because of the White House's total control of press coverage of a war that was waged under false pretenses. (No comparable censorship exists in Israel.)
What about the security wall that the United States is constructing in Baghdad (and along the US border with Mexico), or systematic torture that is virtually US government policy? Oh, I forgot: If the UCU spurned American scholars from participating in conferences at Oxford or Cambridge, it would have to boycott itself because of its country's willing participation in the war.
China, one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, is hosting the Olympic Games. One does not hear British and South African unions protesting this absurdity. We could literally take a trip around the globe, particularly to countries on the same continent as South Africa, to single out nations whose repression of their own people far outstrips anything that Israel is doing in the occupied territories.
Israel's right to defend itself against suicide bombings, kidnappings and constant threats to wipe it off the face of the earth apparently play no part in the decision by the UCU and the South African trade unions to boycott the Jewish state.
AND YET, we know in our hearts of hearts that while such boycotts are not justified on the universal plain of comparisons, there are more than a few elements of truth in what these hypocrites claim.
For one segment of the population over whom we have responsibility, we have abrogated any semblance of democracy. It is especially painful that some in South Africa have joined the fray of those who boycott us, because of that country's moral authority - given how blacks suffered years of unspeakable oppression under white minority rule.
But how would one describe certain things we are doing in the West Bank that have virtually no security value - checkpoints between Palestinian villages and within Palestinians cities; separate roads for Palestinians; thousands of Palestinians arrested under administrative detention; confiscation of Palestinian property for illegal Jewish settlements; a twisted route for Israel's security barrier that separates Palestinians from their lands and divides villages in half; administrative home demolitions; covert protection for Jewish settlers who harass Palestinians tending their agricultural fields; preventing Israelis who marry Palestinians from living in Israel; banning Palestinians from swimming in natural springs along the Dead Sea?
And yet, despite the above, Israel's present situation is still not politically analogous to South Africa's history of discrimination; and so, we confidently argue that "apartheid" is not an appropriate term to apply to what we are doing in the West Bank.
But what term would one choose to define a privileged protectionism for a few thousand Jews in the West Bank over a separate and unequal existence for over two million Palestinians?
The fact that compared to other countries we are a paragon of moral virtue does not obviate another fact: We have shamed ourselves as a Jewish state that sought to educate the world that we would not be a nation like other nations, that the Zionist enterprise would fashion a society based on a prophetic vision of social justice. Instead, we have created a moral morass - and, if it takes the hypocritical self-righteousness of some foreign pseudo-intellectuals and pig-headed unionists to open our eyes and alter this unacceptable reality, then something positive will ultimately be served.
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