Speaker Urges Boycott of Israel
Tel Aviv University professor Tanya Reinhart condemns Palestinian terrorism, supports non-violent resistance to "classical conflict" over land and resources
By James Todd
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004 -- Professor Tanya Reinhart, an Israeli linguist and political activist, voiced her skepticism about Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s intention to trade land for peace with the Palestinians in a Monday talk at the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies.
Sharon’s government is using talk of pulling out of Gaza to buy time while it pressures Palestinians to quit parts of the occupied territories, Reinhart told the 35-member audience.
"This is a classical conflict, like all conflict in history," Reinhart said. "It’s a conflict over land and resources."
Reinhart called for a general boycott of Israel, including its military, businesses and universities. She also appealed for protests to impede Israel’s construction of the wall of separation in and along the West Bank.
The talk was sponsored by the Franklin Center for International Studies, Franklin Humanities Center, Cultural Anthropology, Literature, Women's Studies, Hiwar, Durham Jews for a Just Peace and Asian and African Languages and Literatures.
Reinhart is a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University where she still teaches; she also teaches at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. She received her Ph.D. in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Professor Noam Chomsky served as her thesis advisor. Chomsky also endorsed her book "Israel/ Palestine: How to End the War of 1948."
During a question-and-answer period, Reinhart condemned the use of terrorism by Palestinians. But she added that she believes Sharon’s government "provokes" terrorism and gains support for its policies because of it.
Armed resistance, even against the Israeli military, is not the right approach for the Palestinians, she said. "They should really stick to non-violent resistance. That’s the only hope."
In response to a question, Reinhart clarified that the boycott she advocates applies to academic conferences put on by Israeli universities, but not individual Israeli faculty members. Thus, she explained, she was not breaking her own boycott by accepting the invitation to speak at Duke.
The talk raised many of the issues pressed during the weekend of the Palestine
Solidarity Movement (PSM) conference, held at Duke in October. Additional
speakers and programming will be brought to Duke throughout the academic
year aimed at promoting ongoing dialogue on the Middle East, terrorism and
Junior Adam Yoffie, president of Duke Friends of Israel, asked Reinhart why she makes common cause with people seeking a combined Israel-Palestine state, when she favors a two-state solution.
"It’s not the time now to discuss the solution," Reinhart replied. "The first thing that should happen is that Israel should get out of the territories with its settlements."
Yoffie said he supports Reinhart’s right to express her opinion and acknowledges that Israel sometimes employs "questionable tactics" in the occupied territories, but said her views are "definitely to the far, far left."
Graduate student Yosi Oldak, a member of Duke Graduates for Israel, challenged Reinhart’s assertion that the Camp David peace talks in 2000 broke down because Israel would not agree to concede more than 60 percent of the land in the West Bank. Reinhart based her claim on a map she distributed at the talk, which Oldak contested.
"How could she call for a boycott based on a map that was not official" when other accounts of the Camp David talks claimed the Palestinians were offered at least 96 percent of the land the West Bank, Oldak asked.
Most of the other comments and questions from the audience were sympathetic to Reinhart’s position.
"A lot of the [discussion on campus] has been reduced to: ending the occupation equals anti-Semitism," said Alvaro Reyes, a graduate student in literature who attended the PSM conference.
"Bringing an Israeli both clarifies the facts on the ground" about the spectrum of Israeli opinion and shows that being anti-occupation isn’t the same as being anti-Semitic, he said.
Junior Emily LaDue, who attended the PSM conference and previously worked on a campaign to divest from Israel, said the talk confirmed her suspicion that Prime Minister Sharon’s plan for handling the conflict "is not to be trusted."
However, "I’m always wanting to learn about both sides," she said. "We’re students so we’re supposed to be learning. That should be our primary goal."