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Boycott Calls Against Israel
BDS, Black Lives Matter, Cecil Rhodes and Pastor Niemoller: Reflections on the Colonial Paradigm


Editorial Note

In her article in Haaretz, Baroness Deech quoted Pastor Martin Niemoller, who had gradually turned against Hitler and ended up in a concentration camp.  After liberation, Niemoller wrote a famous poem that captured the cowardice of the intellectual classes in Germany because they did not stand up to the widespread rewriting of history carried out by the Nazis. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—

and there was no one left to speak for me.

For more than thirty years now, liberal arts on campus have used the colonial paradigm in a massive rewrite of history.  The paradigm is quite simple; the white race has dominated the world, wrote its history and shaped its culture while oppressing the non-white natives.  As a result, it is incumbent on the descendants of the colonial victims on campus to rewrite the history to fit the colonial paradigm.    To placate the protestors, universities introduced new programs such as African-American studies, ethnic studies, and women studies - decreed to be the “honorary victims” of the male, colonial oppressors.

Following the Six Day War, the Palestinians became the poster children of the colonial paradigm, generating a huge wave of history rewriting.  In the process, the history of the 1948 War became totally rewritten to suit the colonial paradigm.  Later on, research on every facet of Israeli society and politics was likewise distorted to fit the same paradigm; once depicted as a fairly well functioning democracy, Israel became the apartheid state par excellence.

Though there was a certain amount of discomfort about such intellectual excesses, academic and intellectuals have refrained from getting involved in the debate because the colonial paradigm did not impinge on their field of work.  There was also little protest from mainstream academy when the BDS spread on campus since it did not threaten its interests.   

But they should have known better. Once a paradigm takes roots, in tends to colonize (no pun intended) everything around it. 

The new wave of campus protest is a case in point.  Black Lives Matter on Campus (BLM) has launched high profile protests against perceived racism and colonialism. As a rule, BLM demands more diversity among the faculty, code name for hiring black and minority professors.  This hit home since most faculty in liberal arts are white, threatening their shrinking academic pie (Science and engineering is not affected because affirmative action hiring is not practiced).  

Across the Atlantic, the colonial paradigm hit Oxford.  Brian Kwobe organized a group called Rhodes Must Fall to demand the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from a building in Oriel College.  Kwoba, ironically, a Rhodes Scholar himself, stated that Rhodes was a “Hitler of Africa” and should not be honored with a statue.  Moira Wallace, the provost of Oriel College, initially authorized a lengthy “consultation” process to discuss the removal of the statue.  But the “consultation” outraged prominent donors, jeopardizing future gifts and donations.  

The financial shortfall threatens clerical, and junior faculty positions, mostly in liberal arts.  Wallace’s own job is at stake, as many called for her resignation.

The recent developments suggest some lessons for those who fight delegitimization of Israel and BDS.  It would be a mistake to explain BDS as an expression of anti-Semitism, although there are some anti-Semitic undertones in the debate. At the root of the problem is the neo-Marxist, colonial paradigm that has colonized liberal arts on Western campuses.  Out of indifference or intellectual cowardice, academics and intellectuals did not speak out.  But as Pastor Niemoller stated, they need to speak out now or it would be too late.

Of course, contemporary dangers do not include one way ticket to a concentration camp where many of the pastor’s colleagues died.  What is at stake today is arguably more important. Scholars and intellectuals need to speak out against presenting history and contemporary reality in ways that fit a certain paradigm.  Respect for facts and objectivity should matter more than a political ideology whether left or right. 

Oxford University Will Keep Statue of Cecil Rhodes

By   JAN. 29, 2016

The statue of Cecil Rhodes. Born in 1853, Rhodes attended Oriel College in the 1870s before founding the De Beers diamond empire in South Africa. Credit Steve Parsons/Press Association, via Associated Pres

LONDON — An outspoken group of students wanted to pull it down, and many alumni wanted it to stay. For months, the authorities at Oxford University have struggled with an awkward dilemma over the fate a statue of Cecil Rhodes, an imperialist benefactor seen by many as an architect of apartheid.

Now, after a vigorous debate, Oriel College, one of 38 largely self-governing colleges at Oxford, has decided it will keep the monument to its famous, if divisive, former student.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the college said that it had received more than 500 comments on the subject and that “the overwhelming message we have received has been in support of the statue remaining in place, for a variety of reasons.”

“Following careful consideration,” the statement continued, “the college’s Governing Body has decided that the statue should remain in place, and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there.”

The decision represents a defeat for a group of students who had sought to follow the example of their counterparts at the University of Cape Town, who last year achieved the removal of a statue of Rhodes.

The petition and protest in Oxford had provoked an intense discussion about whether Britain’ s colonial past should be judged by contemporary standards, and whether Rhodes should be remembered more as a ruthless colonialist or as a benefactor.

The dispute was characterized on one side as an exercise in political correctness and a desire to erase history, and on the other as a test of the university’s willingness to acknowledge the sensitivities and values of minority students.

Rhodes died in 1902, and his educational legacy includes a prestigious scholarship that bears his name. About 8,000 Rhodes scholars — including a former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, who said removing the statue would be an act of “moral vanity,” and former President Bill Clinton — have studied at Oxford thanks to the program set up with money left by Rhodes.

On Friday, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that a leaked copy of a report prepared for the governors said that wealthy alumni were angered by the “shame and embarrassment” brought on the college by efforts to take down the statue, and that donations were at stake.

The college now fears that a proposed gift of 100 million pounds, or $143 million, “to be left in the will of one donor — is now in jeopardy,” the newspaper reported.

The group behind the campaign to remove monuments to Rhodes reacted angrily to the college’s announcement, describing it as “outrageous, dishonest and cynical.”

“This is not over,” the group, Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford, said on its Facebook page. “We will be redoubling our efforts and meeting over the weekend to discuss our next actions,” it said, adding that “the struggle continues!”

Last year, Brian Kwoba, a doctoral student, told the newspaper The Independent that Rhodes was responsible for “stealing land, massacring tens of thousands of black Africans, imposing a regime of unspeakable labor exploitation in the diamond mines and devising pro-apartheid policies.”

But R. W. Johnson, an author who is an emeritus fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford, compared the campaign to remove the monument to what Al Qaeda and the Islamic State “are doing in places like Mali when destroying statues.”“The significance of taking down the statue is simple,” he added. “Cecil Rhodes is the Hitler of southern Africa. Would anyone countenance a statue to Hitler?”

“They are destroying historical artifacts and defacing them,” he toldThe Daily Telegraph. “I think you have got to respect history. In addition, there are many people in history that are far worse than Rhodes.”

Born in 1853, Rhodes attended Oriel College in the 1870s before founding the De Beers diamond empire in South Africa, where he rose to be prime minister of what was then the Cape Colony, from 1890 to 1896.

Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was named after Rhodes, but he was also known for beginning racial segregation in southern Africa and for his belief in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race.

This month, Oxford University’s vice chancellor, Louise Richardson, told The Financial Times that the discussion was “a distraction from the much bigger issues.”

“What’s positive about this whole Rhodes Must Fall movement is that it’s drawing attention to our history,” she said. “We need to confront our history. We can’t pretend it didn’t happen, and I think if this encourages students to go to the Bodleian and look at the archives of the Rhodes period, there are some fabulous archives there both about colonialism and about the contemporary anti-Rhodes movement when he was alive.”

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