22 - 28 April 2004
Jewish voices in Israel and abroad are calling for an immediate halt to Sharon's crimes of war. Emad Gad describes the mood
With increased Israeli assassinations of Palestinian activists, further raids on Palestinian villages, cities and refugee camps, and more destruction, Jewish voices from around the world have begun to express their opposition to Israeli government policies. As time has passed, this opposition has left aside mere protest and has begun calling on the international community to impose sanctions on Israel. International civil society has acted as well, imposing boycotts on their peers in Israel, protesting the lack of opposition to the murder and destruction committed by occupation forces, which have touched the Palestinian people as a whole, not merely activists of members of organisations who practice armed struggle.
A few Israeli writers have also begun to express their rejection of these policies against the Palestinian people, calling for action from peace-loving forces in Israel, particularly the left. But they have been shocked by the tepid response from Israeli society. They have thus concluded that the problem lies in the society which has moved further to the right and supports government operations against the Palestinians.
Following last month's Israeli murder of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Lev Greenberg of Ben-Gurion University published an article in La Libre Belgique accusing the Israeli government of committing genocide against the Palestinians. A member of the university's Political Sociology Department, Greenberg is a former spokesman for Yesh Gvul. In 1987 he went to prison for refusing to serve in the occupied territories. Today, Greenberg is an active supporter of the refuseniks.
"The murder of Sheikh Yassin is part of an Israeli policy that can be described as symbolic genocide," Greenberg wrote, calling on the world "to stop Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately.
"The one group to suffer from the Nazi Holocaust is now committing genocide of the Palestinians," he added. "This is a criminal act. I ask Europe and the international community to save Israel from itself and from its government."
Greenberg continued: "The Israeli government is attacking and destroying the Palestinian people. The Israeli government has invented a bureaucratic language to camouflage its criminal acts, describing murder as targeted killings and occupation and repression as a cease-fire. The Israeli government will push the Middle East to the brink of jihad. The world must stop Sharon immediately."
The article provoked the ire of pro-Israeli Jews and Belgians, and some European donors to Ben- Gurion University threatened to cut their ties with the institution. Reader responses to the article on the Israeli Web site News First Class ( www.nfc.co.il ) were many. "Lev Greenberg may be one of the remnants of the Jewish communists who came to Israel in the 1920s, whom we thought Joseph Stalin eliminated," wrote one respondent. "Perhaps Greenberg was an agent for the Soviet Union (former -- and thank God if he was). He's like the Japanese guy who fled to the jungle so didn't hear about the end of World War II and remained loyal to the emperor. He thinks he's serving communism, which hates Jews."
Another wrote, "Lev Greenberg is mentally ill. He and other leftist professors at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev defame Israel at home and abroad. Some call themselves 'the new historians' while others call themselves 'post-Zionists'. Their academic freedom of expression was seen clearly when one of them, Haim Gordon, opened a lecture with the words, 'Death to Arik Sharon'. The same goes for Nir Gordon. Of course, they don't allow anyone to criticise them; anyone who does is in their opinion a right-wing fascist. By the way, these types account for only about 10 out of 100 professors, but a small piece of mold ruins the loaf."
At about the same time, academics at New York University circulated a petition calling for an academic boycott of Israel due to its behaviour in the territories and demanding academic freedom for Palestinians. The legitimacy of Israeli behaviour in the territories has been the subject of discussion in academia in the past. The petition is published on the Internet, giving supporters the opportunity to sign.
The petition was sent to Prof Menachem Magidor, president of Hebrew University, along with a letter expressing the support of professors from all over the world for an academic boycott of Israel. The following is an excerpt from the letter, as cited by an Israeli news source:
"...Israel makes the life of Palestinian teachers and students unbearable. They cannot reach their educational institutions. Israeli army forces are responsible for harassment during curfews, random shootings and unjustified assaults on the sanctity of Palestinian universities. The occupation itself disrupts the framework necessary for any successful academic structure.
"In order to preserve academic freedom ... we the undersigned defend the academic freedom of Palestinians and support the academic boycott of Israel. We call for an appropriate response to the deterioration of the Palestinian cultural and educational situation resulting from Israeli policies."
The petition includes a call to academics and professors in Israel to join the fight against government policy.
Signatories to the petition include professors from the US, Canada, Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Egypt, Lebanon, Australia, Japan, Argentina, South Africa, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli professors who have signed the petition include Dan Rabinowitz, Dept of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel Aviv University; Prof Elana Wesley, Tel Aviv University; Prof Tanya Reinhart, Tel Aviv University; Rachel Giora, linguistics professor, Tel Aviv University; Anat Even, filmmaker and film lecturer, Camera Obscure; Prof Raad Basem, English Dept, Al-Quds University in Jerusalem; Emmanuel Farjoun, mathematics professor, Hebrew University; Diana Dolev, Wizo College, Haifa; Prof Ilan Pappe, Haifa University; Vered Kraus, professor of sociology, Haifa University; Riva Bachrach, clinical psychologist, Beit Berl College of Education.
As soon as the report was published, letters from Israelis poured into the News First Class Web site insulting and cursing the petition and those who signed it, often using blatantly racist and extremist language.
The details and some responses to the petition can be viewed on the Web site of Arabs Against Discrimination (www.aad-online.org).