Israel’s worst enemies often come from within
National Post - Wednesday February 29th, 2012
The Vladimir Schreiber Institute of Mathematics at Tel-Aviv University.
George Orwell once said, “England is the only great nation whose intellectuals are ashamed of their country.” Orwell never met Israeli intellectuals.
As the Post noted in its Saturday editorial, Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is declining in vigour on North American campuses. But at Israel’s four secular universities — Hebrew University, University of Haifa, Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Ben Gurion University (BGU) — robust anti-Zionism continues to flourish, as it has for decades.
Since the 1967 Six-Day War, and with mounting stridency, the majority of Israel’s already leftist intelligentsia have identified themselves with enemies sworn to their nation’s annihilation.
Every day, anti-Zionist literature pours forth from Israel’s tenured radicals. Every week, an article condemning Israel as an apartheid nation appears. Every month, Israeli academics attend conferences expanding on the evils of the occupation and the moral bankruptcy of the Jewish state. Every year, Israeli historians make their annual pilgrimage to IAWs all over the world, including an one at TAU.
The tone of their attacks can’t be rivalled outside Israel for viciousness. Under the auspices of the University of Haifa, for example, anti-Semitic discourse is distributed by ALEF, an anti-Israel chat forum. It includes endorsements of terrorism, calls for the extermination of Israel and even support for Holocaust deniers.
Occasionally, desperately seeking an original optic in the rabid pursuit of Israeli culpability, an academic arrives at a pathological summit of moral inversion. A 2007 Hebrew University PhD thesis in sociology identified the fact that Israeli soldiers don’t rape Palestinian women (even though Palestinian propaganda routinely accuses them of it) as a form of racism: “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of organized military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences — just as organized military rape would have done.” This ludicrous libel was awarded a prize by the writer’s department.
Off-campus, Israeli elites join in the self-condemning chorus. Amnon Rubenstein, considered the father of Israeli constitutional law, calls for European courts to be given the authority to overturn Israeli law. Celebrated novelist David Grossman opines that the potential terrorism of Israelis is more grievous than the actual terrorism of Arabs. The sensitive, globe-trotting poet and novelist A. B. Yehoshua suggests Jews will only become “normal” by converting to Islam or Christianity.
One of Israel’s misfortunes was the premature birth of an intellectual class. Uniquely amongst the nations, Israel had its own university — Hebrew University — 20 years before statehood. Many of the European intellectuals who formed its professoriat were already infected with anti-Zionism through their discipleship to philosopher Martin Buber, who spun utopian fantasies of a binational state with Arabs and Jews united in civic harmony.
For decades, these thinkers vented their spleen without opposition. That began to change in 2001, when a U.S.-based publication called the Middle East Quarterly, naming names, ran a major exposé of anti-Israel academics in Israeli universities, titled “Israel’s Academic Extremists.” A pent-up flood of indictment followed.
The issue was brought to a dramatic public head when pugilistic Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz received an honorary doctorate at TAU in 2010. In his address, Dershowitz denounced the monolithic domination of Israeli universities by homegrown Israel-bashers. He said teachers that intimidate students who disagree with them ideologically are no better than sexual harassers. The speech inflamed the intelligentsia. TAU academics, who brooked no limitations on their own freedom of speech, shrilly challenged Dershowitz’s right to criticize them, with alarmist references to history’s “dark regimes.”
But the speech had a salutary, galvanizing effect on patriotic non-academics. Public figures, journalists, students, university alumni and donors shook off their long, tolerant torpor. They began challenging the totalitarian grip of far-left anti-Zionists on Israel’s major universities.
Most encouraging was the development of a pro-Zionist youth group called Im Tirtzu — “If you will it” — referring to Zionist movement founder Theodore Herzl’s famous dictum, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Im Tirtzu is a vigorous presence today on most Israeli campuses, successfully documenting and disseminating such indecencies as leftist students at a BGU campus rally giving Heil Hitler salutes to pro-Zionist students.
To students of Jewish history, with its one constant feature of internal divisiveness, it is not at all surprising that both the world’s most passionate Zionists and anti-Zionists should be found … in Zion. There is truth in the old joke that Jews are exactly like everyone else — only more so.