Wednesday, February 05, 2014

"Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Nazi party?"
"A German state for a German people"

Boycotts are a form of discrimination. BDS stands for Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions, the last being an expression of state power.

The Center for Constitutional Rights: The Legality of Academic Boycott: Frequently Asked Questions [PDF]
2. Does the academic boycott violate anti-discrimination laws? No.

Detractors of the academic boycott allege that singling out Israeli academic institutions amounts to anti-Semitism, that is, discrimination against Jewish people because of their religion or ethnic background. This allegation aims to deflect from the discrimination and racism that Israel practices by mislabeling those who advocate for justice for Palestinians as the offending parties. The academic boycott is politically motivated, targeting institutions. The individuals who could be affected by the boycott are those who directly represent Israeli state institutions in an official capacity. The boycott does not target institutions or individuals based on their Jewish identity or Israeli citizenship. To equate criticism of the Israeli state, or a boycott of Israeli state institutions, with anti-Semitism is as absurd as calling criticism of or sanctions against the Iranian government anti-Muslim or anti-Persian, and as illogical as classifying criticism of the Chinese occupation of Tibet as hateful against people of Chinese ethnicity. Common sense makes clear the distinction between anti-Jewish bias (based on the race, ethnicity or religious identity of Jewish people as individuals or as a group) and criticism of Israeli state institutions. The law also recognizes the distinction.
The law as mind-reader. It doesn't work. The problematics of liberals' fixation on their own original intent.

Crooked Timber
Anti-Boycott Bill Discussion Post
by Henry Farrell And Corey Robin On February 4, 2014
This post has been put up to allow commenters to engage in discussion on the academic freedom issues raised here. We ask commenters to debate the issues here, not there: the comments section for the original post is reserved for signatures to the letter.
The introduction to the linked post, also by Farrell and Robin.
Academics and commentators—including Crooked Timber bloggers—disagree over the American Studies Association’s decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. There should be far less disagreement over two bills recently proposed in New York’s and Maryland’s state legislatures. These bills prohibit colleges and universities from using state monies to fund faculty membership in—or travel to—academic organizations that boycott the institutions of another country. Designed to punish the ASA for taking the stance it has, these bills threaten the ability of scholars and scholarly associations to say controversial things in public debate. Because they sanction some speech on the basis of the content of that speech, they run afoul of the US First Amendment.

We write as two academics who disagree on the question of the ASA boycott. One of us is a firm supporter of the boycott who believes that, as part of the larger BDS movement, it has put the Israel-Palestine conflict back on the front burner, offering much needed strategic leverage to those who want to see the conflict justly settled. The other is highly skeptical that the ASA boycott is meaningful or effective, and views it as a tactically foolish and entirely symbolic gesture of questionable strategic and moral value.

This disagreement is real, but is not the issue that faces us today.
Henry Farrell, and Eric Rauchway on academic freedom, in 2008.
Farrell: I’ve suggested that academic freedom is a good thing on pragmatic grounds, but also made clear that it fundamentally depends on public willingness to delegate some degree of self-governance to the academy. If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom. 
Rauchway:  Academic freedom predates free speech. Although Prussia gave constitutional protection to Lehrfreiheit in 1850 (“science and its teaching shall be free”) academic freedom generally does not enjoy legal protection outside of contractual guarantees; rather, it rests on the authority and ability of a community of competent scholars to police their own discourse and on the willingness of universities to affirm this authority and ability. ...
[Perhaps Bollinger] knows the history and sources of academic freedom, but he thinks it uncongenial to assert them in this anti-elitist day and age. 
Most of the authors at CT, European liberals, believe in the banning of political parties. They would certainly defend a blacklist of fascists. And Israel was founded on the logic of European nativism.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Israeli daily Maariv published an interview with Interior Minister Eli Yishai, in which he stated that most of the "Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man."

"I will continue the struggle until the end of my term, with no compramises [sic]," Yishai continued, stating that he would use "all the tools to expel the foreigners, until not one infiltrator remains."
Anyone defending the two state solution is defending ethnic separatism. Opponents of BDS should be forced to admit that's that they're doing.

The subtext of the debate in the US and UK is that the morality of Zionism is part of normative assumption. That's changing. Once you accept Zionism for what it is it becomes easier to see that Israeli policy not Palestinian "intransigence" has undermined any chance that the two state solution might succeed.

The one state solution was always the only model that fit the definition of a modern liberal state; the failure of liberals to recognize that fact is responsible more than anything for the last 50 years of conflict. If they had admitted that a Jewish state was both illiberal by definition and a practical necessity then liberals could have bargained from strength. Instead they defended it as liberal, encouraging the right wing to demand even more, leaving liberals to argue from weakness. And of course the opinions of the Palestinians themselves were ignored.  The Likudniks were never the main obstacle to peace. Reactionaries are predictable. Liberals should not be in love with their own brilliance.

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