Friday, May 27, 2005

Boycott Overturned: Justice Prevails

Yesterday, following a four-hour debate, the Britain's Associations of University Teachers (AUT), overwhelmingly voted to overturn its recently enacted policy to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities in Israel.

Both sides have reacted in an interesting way. The boycott organizers, in classic Abdul Nasser-Saddam Hussein style, proclaimed victory, noting that the controversy put Israel's violations of international law on the map.

LOL! As if Israel wasn't already the most overcovered story in the world, with virtually every major British newspaper, save perhaps the Telegraph, carrying almost daily stories of Palestinian woe.

They have also claimed, predictably, that they are the victims of a vast Zionist conspiracy to silence them.

The boycott has also taught us, if we didn't already know, that political advocacy is often a profoundly anti-intellectual game. Sue Blackwell, Omar Barghouti and their ilk pulled the wool over the eyes of AUT delegates in much the same way the Presbyterian Church members who passed a resolution to divest from certain companies doing business with Israel. They paraded a few visitors to the territories before the body, cited the support of certain Palestinian organizations, used false evidence, and avoided debate on the issue. Blackwell and Barghouti possibly even held the vote on Passover eve to exclude Jewish delegates from voting. This was enough to trick a collection of intellectuals. I'm inclined to ask just how people who are paid to think dropped the ball on this one. I fear the answer.

The reason the AUT very quickly voted down the boycott yesterday, and in overwhelming numbers, is because a real debate was held on the issue, and the Israeli and Jewish narratives, as well as the narratives of those who were ideologically against cancelling academic freedom for British and Israeli professors, had their say. Debates are, at least hypothetically, intellectual events, and the end result, should a result be desired, is that the better ideas triumph.

There is a lesson here for Israel's supporters, and that lesson is that, even in Europe, where we are vastly outnumbered, the truth can prevail if we make an effort to promote it. Hasbara efforts to this point have been woefully inadequate in Europe. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that Israel's government has all but written off Europe from the standpoint of winning the popular mind. The other, connected to the first, is that Israel's supporters see strong American support as vastly more important. The AUT case shows that this lack of focus has a price. It also shows, concurrently, that Europe's public is not hopelessly anti-Zionist, and that it is possible, by combating bad information, bad speech, with good information and good speech, the cause of Israel may be advanced.


At 8:51 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Israelis should target specific organizations and groups of people in Europe rather than mass media or nations as a whole. Those organizations would probably do a better job of spreading the information in their own territory, than just random speeches of the type most likely to be ignored by the Europeans.


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