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Hebrew University
[Hebrew University, Business] Israel Academia Monitor responds to Prof. Bernard Avishai's "Monitored And Exposed!"

The response is followed by Prof. Avishai's article.

Dear Professor Avishai,

We were saddened by your accusation that Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) is “sliming” anyone who has different notions of democracy.  We want to assure you that our report about Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement is not motivated by anti-democratic feelings. To the contrary, we support all legal forms of democratic action.  However, two points bear notice. First, in a case dating to 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the two families have no legal rights to the properties, making the eviction legal.  That it took decades of litigation to resolve the issue is a testament to the Israeli justice system. Second, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group has used undemocratic means to smear the image of Israel; it maintains that Israel is a fascist state (some of the demonstrators chanted slogans like "No, no, fascism will not pass", "Don't despair Sheikh Jarrah, we will end the occupation" and "One two three four Occupation no more/five six seven eight, Israel is a fascist state) and that it ethnically cleanses the Palestinians.  At least one Sheikh Jarrah YouTube production asserts as much and, as a result, is grouped with other YouTube documentaries that demonstrate real cases of ethnic cleansing around the world. Whatever your opinion on Jewish settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, this case does not amount to ethnic cleansing as defined by international law and has not turned Israel into a fascist state. IAM feels that such loose use of definitions is dangerous in the sense that it contributes to the view that Israel is either South Africa reincarnate or a fascists European state circa WWII.

Speaking of language, your article in the Nation magazine is a masterpiece of Orwell’s Newspeak.  Under the title “Against Boycott and Divestment” you propose what is known as “smart sanctions.”  You state that you oppose B & D because this is a blunt object that would not further the goals of undermining Israeli occupation.  You also reject the Berkeley model of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) because of the technical difficulties of identifying “companies specifically supporting occupation activities.“  

You profess to advance a more sophisticated model, because, in your view, there is a distinction between the economy of South Africa and Israel. You write that the latter is more advanced and connected to the global economy, and more susceptible to “targeted sanctions.”  Thus, you urge the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on tourism to Israel in response to construction in East Jerusalem and advise the Pentagon to “sanction the Israeli Aerospace Industries if, owing to continuing settlements, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations break down.”   An added benefit of such targeted sanctions, in your opinion, is that it would “gesture toward the larger truth that Israeli managers understand…namely that advanced networked economy is built as much on expanding relationships with global companies as algorithms, and political isolation will naturally lead to economic isolation.”

IAM’s mission is to bring to light activities of academics that receive salaries courtesy of the Israeli tax payer and delegitimize the state and its institutions in the international arena.  Arguably, your association with the “young heroes” [your words] of Sheikh Jarrah who work hard to create an image of Israel as a fascist state bent on ethnically cleansing the Palestinians falls into this category.  Your stand on sanctions is even more injurious.   By your own admission, you oppose regular BDS not because they harm the state of Israel, but because they are not effective enough in inflicting the appropriate harm.

Editorial Staff, IAM


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Monitored And Exposed!

The Israel Academia Monitor has, through tireless investigation, linked me to the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity organization. I might have saved them the trouble. My admiration for the young leaders of the movement is open, long-standing, and more or less boundless. Solidarity embodies my hopes for Israel as a globalist democracy. If I were the kind to follow leaders, these would be mine.

IAM gets almost everything else wrong, however, channeling uncritically some unnamed source at the Jewish Agency, which supposes Solidarity to be anti-Zionist. Most of Solidarity's young activists simply take the great achievement of Zionism for granted, namely, the modern Hebrew language and culture and a Jewish national home in a democratic state. Just last Saturday night, at the J Street conference, Solidarity leader Sara Benninga read, admiringly, the following from Israel's Declaration of Independence:

The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Some solidarity leaders think, as I do, that the Jewish Agency, the JNF, and other residual institutions of the Zionist revolution should long ago have become private NGOs; that they have no place as official organs of a democratic state. For the record, I think the same of the rabbinate, and would feel the same if the kibbutz movement exercised state power. Some in Solidarity think the Law of Return is an anachronism. So do I, and have said as much publicly for 30 years. Then again, these are things one concludes when one takes the principles in Israel's Declaration of Independence seriously. Will IAM's commissars endorse those? If not, and as if anybody cares, should we call them anti-Zionist?

Alas, some good people will care when these epithets are thrown around, which makes IAM all the more disgraceful. For all its pretense as monitor, IAM is really so eager to slime people whose democratic standards pinch that it cannot even be bothered with fact-checking. Had IAM called me, I would have told them that I was not against bringing Israeli flags to Solidarity demonstrations, though I don't much like bringing any flags, not even the Skull & Bones, whose presence week after week still amuses (and mystifies) me. IAM was relying on a post on Palestine Note attributed to me. It is a fabrication. (The part about flags was pretty obviously posted after a Nili Osherov article on Ynet, April 3 2010. Then again, thank heavens for IAM! How would Israeli scholars learn about sham blog posts and counterfeit claims if IAM were not so quick to circulate them?)

As for my position on BDS, finally, IAM defies gravity trying to find things in my Nation article to hate. I strongly urge people who think IAM is somehow tough but credible to read the article and then IAM's account of it.
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Your Responses
    1.  Excellent response to Prof. Avishai.
     From , Sent in 27-04-2011
    2.  excellent letter to this little shnook
     From , Sent in 27-04-2011
    3.  Your reply to Avishi is superb.
     From , Sent in 27-04-2011
    4.  shimon haTsadiq / sheikh jarrah movement
     From , Sent in 28-04-2011
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