Archive | Israel

Canadian Prime Minister Harper on Israel

I think President Obama has been better to Israel than his critics acknowledge, and has been very pro-Israel by any standard except perhaps that of the prior two presidents, who were the most pro-Israel of any American presidents. But it’s hard to imagine him giving a speech like this:

“It is a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular,” he said to the Israeli parliament.

But “support today for the Jewish state of Israel is more than a moral imperative. It is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own long-term interests,” he elaborated, praising Israel’s record on human rights and economic freedom. “Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These are not mere notions. They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish. These values are not proprietary; they do not belong to one nation or one people. Nor are they a finite resource; on the contrary, the wider they are spread, the stronger they grow.”

“Likewise, when they are threatened anywhere, they are threatened everywhere,” Harper continued. And “what today threatens the societies that embrace such values and the progress they nurture? Those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others, and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt. Those who often begin by hating the Jews, but, history shows us, end up hating anyone who is not them. Those forces which have threatened the State of Israel every single day of its existence, and which, today, as 9-11 graphically showed us, […]

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CWRU President and Provost Reject Academic Boycott of Israel

In a statement e-mailed to faculty and other members of the university community, Case Western Reserve University President Barbara Snyder and Provost Bud Baeslack forcefully rejected calls for an academic boycott of Israel.  As they note, academic boycotts of this sort run contrary to principles of academic freedom and “seek to subvert one of higher education’s core values in service of other ends.”  I’ve reproduced their entire statement below the fold. […]

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Northwestern Can’t Quit ASA Over Boycott Because it is Not a Member

Northwestern University recently condemned the American Studies Association boycott of Israel. Unlike some other schools that quit their institutional membership in the ASA over the boycott, Northwestern has not. Many of my Northwestern colleagues were about to start urging a similar withdrawal.

Then we learned from our administration that despite being listed as in institutional member by the ASA, the university has, after checking, concluded it has no such membership, does not plan to get one, and is unclear why the ASA would list us as institutional member.

Apparently, at least several other schools listed by the ASA as institutional members say they have no such relationship.

The ASA has been spending a great deal of energy on political activism far from its mission, but apparently cannot keep its books in order. The association has yet to explain how it has come to list as institutional members so many schools that know nothing about such a membership. The ASA’s membership rolls may get much shorter in the coming weeks even without any quitting.

How this confusion came to arise is unclear. ASA membership, like that of many academic organizations, comes with a subscription to their journal. Some have suggested that perhaps the ASA also counts as members any institution whose library happened to subscribe to the journal, ie tacking on membership to a subscription, rather than vice versa. This would not be fair on their part. A library may subscribe to all sorts of journals for academic research purposes (ie Pravda), without endorsing the organization that publishes it. That is the difference between subscription and membership.

I eagerly await the ASA’s explanation of the situation. […]

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Northwestern University Rejects Israel Boycotts

I am proud to say Northwestern University has strongly rejected the American Studies Association and other proposed boycotts of Israel, and reaffirmed its ties to Israel institutions. The following statement was released Friday by Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and Provost Dan Linzer (emphasis mine):

Recently the membership of the American Studies Association approved a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli higher education institutions. Two other U.S. academic associations have also advocated that stance. While we support the right of academicians to voice their viewpoints, Northwestern University disagrees strongly with the boycott vote of the ASA. Northwestern also rejects the actions suggested in the resolution. In fact, we believe the ASA resolution directly contradicts the values of academic freedom and advancing scholarship for which Northwestern stands.

Northwestern University faculty and students should have the ability to pursue academic collaborations with their colleagues at institutions around the world, including Israel. Northwestern for years has had highly successful and valued joint degree programs and extensive partnerships with Israeli institutions and scholars. We intend to maintain and strengthen relationships such as these.

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American Studies Association Faces Consequences from its Boycott

I previously posted about the proposed boycott of Israeli institutions by the American Studies Association, which was approved by a vote of its membership over the weekend. The boycott is pretty lame; it’s supposed to be in solidarity with the international boycott movement advocated by Palestinian “civil society” organizations, which calls for a complete cultural and economic boycott of Israel. Instead, the ASA is only boycotting official Israeli institutions, and announced that it is inviting Israeli and Palestinian scholars to its next meeting–the exact sort of cultural exchange that opponents of the boycott typically advocate. (Hopefully, no self-respecting Israeli will show up).

Nevertheless, the boycott vote is intended to aid the cause of delegitimizing Israel, and raises the question of whether American universities should continue collaborating with the ASA–by the very logic of the boycott, any individual or organization that works with the “official” ASA, as opposed to individual American Studies scholars, is complicit in the ASA’s attempt to aid the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. The question is especially pressing for American universities that have formal ties to Israeli universities, as the ASA is implicitly boycotting the joint programs. Moreover, given that the boycott of Israel has nothing to do with American Studies, the association seems to have revealed itself to be a political, rather than solely academic, organization, which raises the issue of why university funds should be flowing to it.

Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson is organizing a campaign to lobby the universities that are institutional sponsors of the ASA to drop their memberships. So far Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg have announced they are doing so, pretty impressive given that the boycott was only announced two days ago. Look for more universities to follow, substantial resignations from the rank and file, and more. But don’t worry, […]

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Israel, Palestine, and Democracy

At Commentary, I have a new piece on the common argument that Israel must make a deal with the Palestinians to save itself as a democracy. Here is an excerpt:

The “democracy” argument has become the central justification of the diplomatic process, incessantly invoked by Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli peace envoy Tzipi Livni. What makes the democracy argument effective is that it plays on deep-seated Jewish sentiments. Israelis are a fundamentally liberal, democratic people who desperately do not wish to be put in the role of overlords.

The problem with the democracy argument is that it is entirely disconnected from reality. Israel does not rule the Palestinians. The status quo in no way impeaches Israel’s democratic identity.

It is true that the Palestinians are not represented in the Knesset. But Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria are similarly not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Simply put, both the Palestinians and Israelis vote for the legislature that regulates them. That is democracy (though obviously it does not play out as well in the Palestinian political system).

The Palestinians have developed an independent, self-regulating government that controls their lives as well as their foreign policy. Indeed, they have accumulated all the trappings of independence and have recently been recognized as an independent state by the United Nations. They have diplomatic relations with almost as many nations as Israel does. They have their own security forces, central bank, top-level Internet domain name, and a foreign policy entirely uncontrolled by Israel.

The Palestinians govern themselves. To anticipate the inevitable comparison, this is not an Israeli-puppet “Bantustan.” From their educational curriculum to their television content to their terrorist pensions, they implement their own policies by their own lights without any subservience to Israel. They pass their own legislation, such as the

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BDS Advocate Roger Waters Holds Some Strange Views about Jews

Last week I wrote about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel and the tenuous foothold it is getting in the American academy. I also happened to read an article that led me to think about how some individuals are so convinced that Israel is obviously evil that he believes that something must be amiss with “the Jews” if so many of them not only can’t see what he sees, but actively defend the evil state. Whether the fact that it doesn’t occur to him that a reasonable person might disagree with his understanding of Israel is itself a reflection of preexisting latent anti-Jewish prejudice or is simply the hallmark of a dogmatic ideologue who is not immune to anti-Jewish feelings assumedly depends on the individual in question.

Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame) has helpfully pulled the two things I was thinking about together. Waters is perhaps the most outspoken Western artist who supports the BDS movement, and is very active in attempts to get others to boycott Israel.

Given some controversial imagery he has used at his concerts, has been at pains to deny that he is at all motivated by anti-Semitism. Here he is in September, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahoronot:

“I absolutely defend my right to express myself in my artwork in the way that I find the most appropriate and fitting. The Star of David is the symbol of the state of Israel. If you start to throw around the term “anti-Semite” at everyone who criticizes Israel – and that’s what they’re actually doing – that weakens your next attack on people who really are anti-Semites, ones that really don’t like Jews or Judaism or anything connected with it. I’m not an anti-Semite.”

“Two years ago, I explained […]

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Interesting Essay on Jews who Oppose Israel

Shlomo Fischer in the Times of Israel:

I suggest that in fact, they [ultra-Orthodox and leftists who are hostile to the existence of Israel] do share a common Jewish theme. This theme was articulated by the great Israeli scholar of the Jewish religion, Gershom Scholem, who argued that the price that the Jewish people paid for their development of the Messianic idea was their own “exit from history.” During the long history of the Exile the Jewish people imagined a Messianic, redeemed world of perfect justice, perfect national restoration, perfect relationship to God and religious observance. They could develop this idea precisely because they were removed from “history” – they could not participate as a national collective in world politics, in world culture and in the endeavors of building a state, developing a national economy etc. Thus, on the national level they did not have to deal with the inevitable, mistakes, compromises and wickedness which is necessarily part of any concrete action in the world. Instead they could develop one of the most important Jewish contributions to the human spirit – The Messianic Idea. But, as Scholem points out, there was something profoundly unreal about Jewish life in the Exile.

Zionism was one of the most profound revolutions in Jewish life. It constitutes, as Scholem defined it, a departure from the Messianic Idea to the realm of history. Once Jews enter the realm of history by building a Jewish state they necessarily become implicated in a life that is less than ideal – they become implicated – simply by the fact of action in the real world – in injustice, in moral compromises, corruption and other ills and wrongs. They can no longer cling to the perfect justice and perfect religion of the Messianic Idea. But here is the rub:

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The American Studies Association and the Pending, Watered Down, Israel Boycott

I wrote this for the Manhattan Institute’s excellent Minding the Campus site, and figured I’d repost it here.

From the bowels of academia comes news that the National Council of the American Studies Association has voted in favor of boycotting Israeli institutions. The boycott resolution goes to the full membership for an up or down vote.

The National Council’s vote has been hailed as a huge victory for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It’s not. As originally proposed, the boycott was to apply to individual Israeli scholars, who, for example, wished to participate in the ASA’s annual conference, if they received Israeli government or university funding. Since few Israeli scholars would have the means to travel to the U.S. without funding from their university, that would have been a meaningful means of exclusion.

Instead, the final resolution is limited to a refusal to by “the ASA in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions.” So there is no call for a boycott by the membership acting as individuals, and no exclusion even by the ASA of normal cooperation with Israeli scholars.

Pretty Thin Gruel

Compared to the BDS movement’s official call for a “comprehensive and consistent” boycott of anyone affiliated with an Israeli academic or cultural institution, this is pretty thin gruel, unlikely to affect almost anyone. Even then, to get the resolution through the executive committee advocates had to agree to a membership-wide vote.

So the good news is that even in the far-left reaches of American academia, in an organization proud to name one of its awards in honor of ex-Black Panther and ex-Soviet stooge Angela Davis (two-time vice-presidential candidate for the Soviet-controlled Communist Party USA), […]

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New Paper on International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction over Israeli Settlements

My paper, Israel/Palestine — The ICC’s Uncharted Territory, has just been published in the Journal of International Criminal Justice. It explains that the International Criminal Court does not have jurisdiction over the oft-threatened and much-discussed Palestinian referral of Israeli settlements, despite the General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state. In brief, the relevant conduct does not occur “in the territory” of Palestine as required by Art. 12 of the Court’s Statute. Abstract here.

The article also provides perhaps the most comprehensive analysis thus far of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction, which has thus far not caused much controversy, but could have significant implications for American forces in Guantanamo Bay, border incidents in the Koreas and elsewhere in Asia, and numerous other contexts.

The timing is fortuitous: Nabil Shaath, a top Palestinian official and negotiator, last week reemphasized threats to attempt to bring Israel before the ICC after the current negotiation period ends this spring. OK, not that fortuitous, as such threats come with considerable regularity, and it does appear this is Abba’s next move.

A separate article will explain why such a case might not satisfy the ICC’s requirement of dealing only with the gravest of the world’s atrocities. (I say might, because it is anyone’s guess; though the gravity threshold is a key component of the Court’s jurisdiction, it remains entirely undefined.) Thinking about calling it “When Gravity Fails” but that might be too cute. […]

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The EU Supports Exploitation of Resources in the Occupied Territories

The Occupied Sawahari Territories that is (aka Western Sahara).

Global Post runs my commentary today on the European Union’s new treaty with Morocco, which does everything the EU has been claiming in its increasingly hostile recent dealings with Israel that international law forbids. The EU’s position regarding Western Sahara is consistent with its practice in Northern Cyprus and elsewhere.

The European Union recently affirmed that there is no international legal problem in signing a deal with an occupying power that extends to the territory it occupies, or from foreign companies doing business in occupied territory.

It did so when it provisionally approved a fisheries agreement earlier this month with Morocco that extends into the territory of occupied Western Sahara, which is beyond Morocco’s recognized sovereign territory.

Moreover, the EU actually pays Morocco for European access to Western Saharan resources. On all these points, the agreement directly contradicts what the EU, in negotiations with Israel, calls fundamental principles of international law.

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Forgetting the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

My wife and I just attended a tour at the National Archives of the exhibit of Iraqi-Jewish documents that were rescued and preserved from the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in 2003.  My Iraqi-Jewish wife, along with many others, is very upset that these documents, having been stolen from the Jewish community, are being returned to Iraq. I wonder whether there is some law dealing with looted artifacts that can be invoked by a plaintiff (maybe someone who had owned one of the documents) to enjoin the documents’ return.

Meanwhile, in a book review today of a book about Israel, Thomas Friedman writes, “[The author] then weaves in the next waves of immigrants, the broken survivors of World War II who joined up with the idealistic Zionists to rebuild the Jewish commonwealth in its ancient homeland.” As in unfortunately often par for the course in discussions of Israel and Zionism, Friedman casually treats Israel in its early year as a conglomeration of early European Zionist immigrants and later European Holocaust refugees and survivors, neglecting the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced to flee Arab countries and make their way to Israel, including my parents-in-law. It’s perhaps relatively easy to forget them, because unlike Arab refugees from the Israeli War of Independence they weren’t herded into refugee camps and denied citizenship to better serve as political bargaining chips and human fodder for war and terrorism. But they and their descendants also constitute around half of Israel’s population, and are, for obvious reasons, on average rather more suspicious of peace deals that rely on the Arabs’ good will then are their Ashkenazi fellow citizens. The consistent neglect–even often in Israel–of their collective refugee trauma isn’t conducive to peace. After all, how would you feel about, for example, proposed massive compensation […]

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Australia Anti-Discrimination Law and BDS at the University of Sydney Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (UPDATED)

[I’ve rewritten this post to eliminate unwieldy updates and improve it–I relied too much on an incomplete account from Ha’aretz–but I’ve preserved the original at the end for anyone who’s interested.]

An Israeli NGO, Shurat Ha’din, is suing an Australian academic, Jake Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, for discrimination under Australian law because he refused to sponsor an Israeli professor, Dan Avnon, for a fellowship. Avnon, against whom Lynch discriminated, is, like many Israeli academics, apparently something of a lefty peacenik. Lynch sent Avnon the following email: “Your research sounds interesting and worthwhile. However, we are supporters of the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and that includes the call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities.”

This raises several interesting issues. If a public university offers a fellowship to anyone worldwide, can it constitute ethnic or national origin discrimination to refuse the fellowship only to individuals teaching at a certain nation’s universities when the government in question maintains normal diplomatic (indeed, friendly) relations with that country? Does it matter if, for example, almost everyone who teaches as Israeli universities is Israeli? Does it matter if the policy would be applied to Israeli Arabs affiliated with Israeli universities and not just Israeli Jews (I’m pretty sure that if it only applied to the latter, it would constitute ethnic discrimination).

Lynch has publicly stated that “This center does not discriminate on the basis of ‘national origin.’ It acts by pointing to the policies of the Israeli government in the occupied territories … which offend Article 5 of the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.” Let’s say Lynch otherwise has a solid defense to discrimination charges. But given that he’s stated this rationale, let’s […]

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New Report on EU’s “Settlement Guidelines” for Israel

The Kohelet Policy Forum, a Jerusalem think tank, has released a legal and policy analysis, by Prof. Avi Bell and myself, of the European Commission’s recent “settlement guidelines” – a ban on funding Israeli entities located across, or, more importantly, conducting any “activities” in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and Gaza. I’ve previously explained how the Guidelines’ are not about either international law or the Palestinians, and how they contradict and undermine the EU’s own practices elsewhere.

Israel and the EU are currently in the throes of negotiations about the document. The paper presents important new information for discussions of business and academic activities in occupied territories.

The report is available here; and this is from the Executive Summary:

•The Israel Grants Guidelines adopted by the European Commission are singularly discriminatory
against Israel. They contradict international law as established in U.N. documents and leading
court cases, as well as the European Union’s own interpretations of international law.

• The EU provides aid and financial cooperation to numerous countries that maintain settlements
in what Europe considers occupied territory, such as Morocco, Turkey, and Russia. In none of these
cases has the Commission imposed limitations on the aid akin to the Guidelines for Israel.

• The Commission’s position that the Guidelines are mandated by international law are further belied by EU programs that provide grants specifically for settlers in belligerently occupied territory, such as the EU’s programs in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

• Under international law, there are no prohibitions regarding organizations engaging in “activities” in occupied territories, yet the Guidelines bar funding solely on the basis of such “activities.”

• In pretending that the Guidelines fulfill the requirements of international law, the Commission
exposes the EU to legal challenge for EU funding of

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How the EU Continues to Fund Settlements in Occupied Territory

The EU recently issued guidelines blocking research and other grants to Israeli institutions with activities (archeological digs, etc.) across the Green Line. In the yesterday’s Jerusalem Post I reveal that the EU continues to actively fund settlements in occupied territory, against their own understanding of international law:

Under guidelines prepared earlier this summer, euros would not be allowed to go to Israeli entities located cross the Green Line – or to those that have any operations there. All Israeli entities applying for funding would have to submit a declaration that they do not have such operations.

Europe claims that such a move – unparalleled in its dealings with any other country – is mandated by international law. The EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, and thus has an obligation to keep its money from going there. Those who celebrated the move said that Israel is finally paying the international price for its occupation.

Yet it turns out that despite the guidelines, the EU still knowingly and purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is. So the EU funds the occupation of an EU member state. . . .

Projects include study abroad scholarships for students at the numerous Northern Cyprus universities (imagine such funding for students at Ariel University!); developing and diversifying the private sector through grants to small and medium- sized businesses; various kinds of infrastructure improvements (telecom upgrades, traffic safety, waste disposal); community development grants, funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, and so forth. They even put on a concert.

Amazingly, this information has never been discussed in the debate over the EU action. On the contrary, academic supporters of the EU measure have falsely stated that “There is no significant difference in the […]

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