Israelis play leading roles in London's 'apartheid week'

UK Jewish critics say academics make a mistake of exporting their vehement rhetoric abroad.

eyal sivan 88 (photo credit: )
eyal sivan 88
(photo credit: )
A number of Israeli academics are taking a leading role in the four-day "Israeli Apartheid Week" in London, eliciting criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "Clearly there are Israeli academics and activists who make a valid contribution to political debate in Israel, but who make the mistake of exporting their arguments to forums where their comments may have unintended consequences," said Jon Benjamin, the board's chief executive. "There are others who are either reckless or indifferent to the effect their views have outside of Israel. To those who do care about the future of all Israelis of whatever faith, I would simply say: Be mindful of how your comments may be used - we have to pick up the pieces after you have left." On Friday, Jacqueline Rose, professor of English at Queen Mary College, University of London, and one of the organizers of Independent Jewish Voices, a new group challenging the Board of Deputies and the Jewish establishment on the premise that they don't represent anti-Zionist Jews, will give a talk entitled: "For Freedom and for Justice: The Role of International Solidarity." Among the Israelis taking part in the conference is Yitzhak Laor a poet, playwright and journalist for the New Left Review, who spoke on Monday in London and on Tuesday in Oxford on "European Racism and its Mirror Image: Israeli Apartheid." In an article in The London Review of Books in August, Laor called the IDF terrorists. In 2002 Laor wrote an article for Palestinian Monitor entitled "After Jenin" in which he said: "The IDF's ruthlessness should be read against the background of its defeat in Lebanon, when it was driven out after long years of waging a dirty war. Southern Lebanon was burned and destroyed by artillery and an air force that no terrorist group could fight against. "Yet 300 partisans - should I call them 'terrorists?' - drove us [that is, our army] out twice. First in 1985, back into what our army and press used to call our 'Security Zone' [the foreign media called it 'Israel's self-proclaimed security zone']; and then, two years ago, out of that same Security Zone. "The generals who were beaten then are running the current war. They have lived that defeat every day. And now they can teach them - that is, the Arabs - their lesson. Our heroes, armed with planes, helicopters and tanks, can arrest hundreds of people, concentrate them in camps behind barbed wire, without blankets or shelter, exploit the confusion to demolish more houses, fell more trees, take away more livelihoods." The event is being organized by university Palestinian societies and being held at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies, and Oxford and Cambridge universities. Filmmaker Eyal Sivan, who lives in Paris, has taught at Sapir College in Sderot. His chosen subject at the conference was "Construction of Double Standards through Cultural Representation. Zionism, Israeli Media and Rationalizing Racist Consciousness." Last year, Sivan lost a court case after he tried to sue French academic Alain Finkielkraut, who accused him of "Jewish anti-Semitism." In a 2003 interview on a French Jewish radio station, Finkielkraut described Sivan as "one of the actors of today's particularly hard and frightening Jewish anti-Semitism" and rebuked Sivan for making a link between Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the Holocaust in his film Route 181. Sivan sued Finkielkraut for slander but the court dismissed the case. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, a lecturer in Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, is giving a speech on "The De-Arabization of Land and De-Arabization of Jews." Raz-Krakotzkin advocates a one-state solution. In a 2005 interview during his tenure at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin he said: "We need a new vision, vision of coexistence to replace the concept of separation. We have to struggle against the state of apartheid that is gradually established. A binational vision can be realized in different ways and in several stages. But that is the only option for both peoples." In the same interview he talked about his project "a study dedicated to the critical analysis of Zionist perception of history and the messianic-theological and colonial-orientalistic dimensions inherent in the Zionist myth." "I try to show the way the Zionist historical consciousness is based on suppression and the erasure of history: the history of the land, and particularly the Nakba, the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 - but also the various histories of the Jews," Raz-Krakotzkin said. Last week, Oren Yiftachel, professor of Geography and Urban Planning at Ben-Gurion, spoke about his book Ethnocracy at the School of Oriental and African Studies. An ethnocracy is a regime that facilitates expansion and control by a dominant ethnicity in contested lands, he said. Yiftachel cited a strategy of "Judaization" and colonization of land, and a "creeping apartheid" emerging in Israel as an example of ethnocracy.