Dr. Azmi Bishara is one of the smartest members of the Knesset. When you compare him to Ze’ev Boim and Yehiel Hazan, who carried on about genetic defects, there is no need for a deep discussion of their racial doctrine. They don’t look good, even though their problem is not genetic.

Well, Bishara explained last week, at a closed meeting of the opponents of the fence who went to Hague, the main enemy is the “Zionist left”. How is it that the “left” and not the “right” became the real enemy? First of all, because it was the Zionist left that initiated the “separation”. Secondly, Bishara, who is no fan of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is in fact admitting that he is in the same front as his Israeli partners to the vision of the Greater Palestine, which is the vision of the opponents of separation: the ideological right and the anti-Zionist left. Both groups are leading us all, under the orchestration of Arafat and Yassin, to an irreversible reality of a state that is erroneously called bi-national, but is in fact a big Arab state, where the status of the Jews, after the bloodbath, will be like the status of the Jews in Syria, Bishara’s darling, or Saddam’s Iraq, Arafat’s darling.

By the way, the term “Zionist left” is a little anachronistic. Because Bishara is referring to everyone who supports a two-state solution (Bishara does not support a state for the Jewish people) and that includes a substantial portion of Likud and Meretz voters.

Ahmed Tibi added correctly that Hazan and Boim, in particular, are strategic assets for the Palestinians, reinforcing the image of Israel as a racist country. So it all comes together: Bishara declares who the enemy is: the left. Tibi declares who the asset is: the right. They know why. Too bad a lot of Israelis haven’t figured it out yet.

The politics of academics

The Jewish community in the western U.S. is not happy about what is happening on many campuses, especially the well-known campus of the University of California at Berkley, where the atmosphere is, to put it mildly, extremely hostile to Israel. Therefore, says Dr. Martin Kramer, the former head of the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, the community decided to do something about it, and raised money to pay for an Israeli guest lecturer who would present Israel more fairly against the vocal anti-Israeli stream. Is it okay for Jewish money to dictate academic contents? No more than it is for any other money to dictate them.

However Jewish money is far from the only one in this game. Moreover it is ‘bubkes’ (small change) compared to the vast sums that the Arabs, particularly Saudi Arabia have lavished on western academia, which has succeeded in nurturing an entire generation of anti-Israel academics who head research centers that spew out vitriolic anti-Israel propaganda masquerading as legitimate academic research.

Against this reality, the initiative to raise a scholarship for a guest lecturer from Israel is the least that could be done. The money has been raised. It is mainly a five million dollar donation by Helen and Sanford Diller. Not a small amount. They also donate a lot of money to Israeli organizations. But once the money has been donated, the choice is in the hands of an academic committee. So who is the first academic selected for the task? Prof. Oren Yiftachel from Ben-Gurion University. He is a serious academic. I have read many of his articles. But there is a problem. Reading his articles leaves a heavy feeling. He calls Israel an “ethnocracy”. Loosely translated, it means government on the basis of race. He presents a familiar, trite approach that is popular in certain circles, that blames Israel for the current deterioration. That is his right. But this is a political, not academic position. For someone with that position to take the lead in presenting the mainstream Israeli position as an academic, is tantamount to a fox giving a course in the art of guarding henhouses.

It does not take too much work to prove that Yiftachel’s publications are inaccurate and surely unbalanced. There is something disingenuous about articles masquerading as academic that present the Zionists as guilty of everything, without saying one word about the Palestinians’ long refusal to recognize Israel, their wholesale rejection of any form of compromise, from the various partition plans proposed the British and the UN to Camp David, and their ongoing terrorism. What a shame. It is sad. Criticizing Israel is legitimate. Lying about it is not. Worst of all is political criticism wearing the mask of academic research, which invariably is a mixture of truth and falsehoods, concocted together in order to create the plausible.

In the past Yiftachel himself was victim to the academic boycott of Israel. An article he sent to an important periodical, which he wrote with an Arab academic, was sent back unopened because of the boycott. To his credit, Yiftachel fought the boycott. But anyone who reads his articles, that compare Israel to South Africa, might conclude that the boycott is justified.

And back to the appointment. Is Yiftachel the best choice to effectively counter the ugly anti-Israeli stream that already dominates at Berkley? Common sense dictates not. So what was the point of the exercise? Well, it failed. Which means, Jews are as prone to folly as anyone else, irrespective of whether they live in Israel or the diaspora.

2004-03-07