Anat Biletzki, a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at TAU currently teaching in Quinnipiac University, is no stranger to controversy. A highly active Marxist, Biletzki has been involved with the International Solidarity Movement that advocates the Palestinian right to return to Israel proper and chaired the B’Tselem, an organization dedicated to monitoring human rights in the territories. While these are legitimate activities, critics accused Biletzki, who specializes in the philosophy of language, of politicizing her academic work and of using sophistry to delegitimize Israel.
In a panel dedicated to commemorating the 9/11 attack, Biletzki clearly crossed the threshold between sophistry and outright misrepresentation and demagoguery. While acknowledging that both 9/11 and suicide bombings in Israel are terror attacks, she proceeds to tell the audience that the United States and Israel have seized upon such events to create a huge “anti-terror industry” and suppress human rights. A number of points in her presentation warrant scrutiny.
· Biletzki stated that counter –terror and human rights are antithetically opposed. This is obviously not true, as legal experts and respectable human rights analysts have acknowledged that free societies have a right to respond to terror attacks, though there is an ongoing discourse what the acceptable limits are. Governments have a duty to protect the rights of all its citizens and this entails freedom to ride a bus, to shop in a mall or work in an office without being blown up by a jihadist.
· Biletzki claimed that the new Zeitgeist of fighting the war on terror in the United States paints all Arabs and Muslims as terrorists. This is a blatant violation of the truth; politicians, intellectuals and scholars have consistently emphasized that the two should not be confused. In fact, a day after 9/11 President Bush warned his countrymen that they should refrain from stereotyping all Arabs or Muslims as terrorists. The Obama administration went further, essentially banning the term war on terror in official communications.
· Biletzki alleged that the same Zeitgeist has pervaded the Israeli society to the point that all Palestinians are routinely perceived as terrorists. To prove her claim, she relates a story of a solider at a checkpoint that blocked pregnant women from travelling to a hospital, a delay that resulted in a stillbirth. She alleges that in a subsequently interview the solider showed no remorse, stating at the age of eighteen “he [the baby] would become a terrorist. “ An Internet search found no evidence of the alleged radio interview and Biletzki “conveniently “forgot to mention that the IDF not only removed the solider from checkpoint guard- duty but also jailed him. But even if the solider gave such an interview, it is highly misleading to imply that the he represents all Israelis. As the former chair of B’Tselem, Biltezki must know that thousands of Israelis in scores of organizations have monitored IDF’s conduct towards the Palestinians to prevent human rights abuse. Opinion polls and surveys indicate that the vast majority of Israelis do not label all Palestinian as “terrorist;” surprising, this attitude is quite consistent, even when the Palestinian “street” responds with joy following a suicide bombing and sweets are distributed in Gaza to celebrate the occasions when civilians die. All that when Gazans and Palestinians from the West Bank are treated in Israeli hospitals.
· Biletzki read from an announcement for a conference organized by the IDC Herzliya Counter-Terrorism Center in Israel. Using a sarcastic tone of voice, she denounced the meeting as emblematic of the total preoccupation of the Israeli society with terror. Nothing could be further from the truth; the annual meeting hosts top terror experts from around the world to discuss effective way of foiling future terror attacks including nuclear and radiological ones. Again, Biletzki failed to note that counter-terrorism has prevented scores of attacks both in the United States and Israel and was behind the killing of Osama bin Laden and a number of his top aides in recent months.
· Biletzki repeatedly used language that equates Israel with the apartheid regime of South Africa. Her references to “apartheid roads” the Wall and hundreds of checkpoints were chosen with particular deliberation. Not once did she bother to explain that Israel was forced to institute the separation fence and other security measures after enduring years of suicide bombings at the hands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Brigades of Fatah. As critics have pointed out, she chose to describe Palestinian terrorism as a political struggle, reserving the harshest term for Israel’s defensive steps. She has not bothered to tell the audience that at times, preventing attacks is extremely hard as suicide bombers have been known to dress as pregnant women and drive ambulances to deliver their deadly cargo.
Ironically, Anat Biletzki is the Albert Schweitzer professor of philosophy at Quinnipiac University. This legendary theologian, medical doctor and missionary was a man of great moral probity and integrity, passionately seeking to create a universal ethical philosophy. Biletzki needs to be reminded that using misleading language, deception and demagoguery, even in the service of human rights, falls woefully short of this vision.