A Response to Emanuel Goldman’s Academe B.D.S. Article

BY PETER N. KIRSTEIN

Emanuel Goldman’s, “Why an Academic Boycott of Israel is Wrong,” appears in the May-June 2016 issue of Academe: Magazine of the A.A.U.P. The article is needlessly inflammatory and dismissive of ethical challenges to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Professor Goldman claims that its supporters, which includes many tens of thousands of students and professors, are trying to “delegitimize Israel” through supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (B.D.S.) movement. This has become the latest codeword for anti-semitism and a desire to destroy the State of Israel, one of the world’s most powerful nations that is bristling with American-manufactured armaments, and an atomic and thermonuclear weapons arsenal. Mr Goldman does not cite a single statement from any professional organisation such as the American Studies Association, African Literature Association, Association for Asian American Studies, or the Native American Indigenous Studies Association that has even remotely suggested that Israel should cease to exist, or that its security should be undermined by external or internal-resistance movements. To suggest otherwise is simply a propaganda tool to delegitimize opponents of Palestinian suffering with random killings, restriction of movement, and endless interruptions of water and electricity during a fifty-year occupation.

It is not the B.D.S. movement that has declared both the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Golan and East Jerusalem, and a Trumpian wall throughout the West Bank as illegal and illegitimate. United Nations Security Council Resolution 446 (1979) and the International Court of Justice have carefully adjudged the illegality of these actions. A nation that seeks legitimacy within the international community should adhere to international law, and rulings within the various regimes that encompass the laws of war and international humanitarian law.

Professor Goldman is either misinformed or purposefully distorting the efforts of historians within the American Historical Association to seek justice in Palestine. The Historians Against the War led the most recent effort to bring the issue of Palestinian suffering before the A.H.A. It did not, despite Professor Goldman’s inaccurate attack, seek a B.D.S. resolution at the 2016 annual meeting in Atlanta. The Historians Against the War did not attempt to “place constraints on the free exchange of ideas.” It sought to enhance academic freedom with a resolution, “Protecting the Right to Education in the Occupied Territories.”  It did not support a boycott of Israeli institutions of higher learning, but instead challenged Israel to stop its attacks on academic freedom within West Bank and Gazan universities. I was a signatory of the resolution as were other A.A.U.P. members.

I think Professor Goldman also revealed a callous misunderstanding of the history and gravity of the situation in Palestine. He states that “some” Palestinians were expelled from their homeland in an effort to minimise the ethnic cleansing during the 1947-1949 Nakba tragedy. According to most sources, between 500,000 to 750,000 Palestinians were either expelled from Israel or forced to relocate within Israel so that Jews could fulfill their Zionist crusade for a state in an area that an indigenous Palestinian population had settled.

Only in his final paragraph does Professor Goldman refer to “many indignities associated with Israeli control.” Yet he is more concerned that Israeli high-tech companies may lose market share, and that Israel’s intellectual elite might be trapped within a country with international airports and a non-blockaded Mediterranean coastline.

While Professor Goldman is accurate in citing the A.A.U.P. opposition to B.D.S., its members, unlike those in other professional societies and organisations, have never been asked for their opinion. However, the A.A.U.P. defends the academic freedom of higher-ed faculty to support B.D.S. It opposes legislative efforts to sanction those organisations that support saving the Palestinians from endless occupation and misery in U.N.R.W.A.-run refugee camps.

From Finkelstein to Salaita, we have seen the emergence of a New McCarthyism that is a clear and present danger to academic freedom. Individual professors, students and collective-organisation campaigns are nobly attempting to reverse the humanitarian crisis in the occupied or blockaded territories. They are met with contract revocations, denial of tenure, charges of anti-semitism and attempting to destroy the State of Israel. One has to persevere, resist the disinformation, and keep the eye on the prize: to protect academic freedom and to overcome what John J. Mearsheimer has called, “one of the great crimes of modern history.”

9 thoughts on “A Response to Emanuel Goldman’s Academe B.D.S. Article

  1. ANTISEMITISM IS BAD, DELEGITIMIZING ISRAEL IS GOOD – and we should not be afraid of saying so.

    BDS goals, when achieved, will result in delegitimizing Israel’s political system and its Zionist ideology, which embody a brutal military colonial, apartheid political order. BDS goals address the abuse of Palestinian fundamental human rights resulting from the Nakba and the illegitimate founding of the state of Israel by colonial Jews for Jews worldwide (with help from Western allies) through the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and their ongoing suppression and persecution. Delegitimizing Israel is a good thing.

    BDS goals are:
    1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
    2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
    3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

  2. I agree with your statement. I have mixed feelings about the B but not D or the S. I avoided taking a position on the B although I joined the A.S.A. to support their efforts. I guess I would support boycotts of institutions who are benefiting from West Bank occupation. I would not bar professors from entering the country. I would not prohibit any nationality from presenting research at an academic conference. Yet Israel banned Norman Finkelstein; they banned the great Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank from Jordan. They have their own boycott of American professors they construe as being too actively in favour of Palestinian liberation.

    • Professor Kirstein, you stated in your reply to Rima Najjar that – but for the “B” – you agree with her “statement.” Part of her statement included the assertion that the founding of the State of Israel was “illegitimate.” Is it correct to infer that you agree with that position?

      • Again, yes. The formation of a state through the process of ethnic cleansing, followed by 70 years of brutal occupation and mass suffering renders that formation for a privileged race or religion as illegitimate. The same can be said of the US, Australia, NZ, Canada and many states that slaughtered indigenous peoples for the privileged statehood of a race. Yet a permanent two-state solution is the policy I support.

  3. “I think Professor Goldman also revealed a callous misunderstanding of the history and gravity of the situation in Palestine. He states that “some” Palestinians were expelled from their homeland in an effort to minimise the ethnic cleansing during the 1947-1949 Nakba tragedy. According to most sources, between 500,000 to 750,000 Palestinians were either expelled from Israel or forced to relocate within Israel so that Jews could fulfill their Zionist crusade for a state in an area that was populated with an indigenous Palestinian population.”

    So the author is really upset that the Jewish people have a single state. And that is anti-Semitism.

    • Nice try. You can call me any name you want. Been there, used to it. I think any state that privileges an official religion lacks appropriate inclusion. Read the First Amendment.

      • Israel does not have an official religion. Jews are a people. We are not all religious. I called you no name. I described what you said, which is that Israel’s existence is awful. And that idea is why most Jews don’t like BDS and view it as discrimination against us as a people.

  4. Jews are at least as much indigenous to Israel and the surrounding area as any other people. And we are used as a symbol of what many other ethnic groups have done so people can feel virtuous picking on us rather than on any of the more numerous people who do worse than we have done.

    The Israel is awful people seem to see two states as a stepping stone to one Arab dominated state which they would view as the way things should be and the righting of what they view as a historic wrong.

    All of that is tremendously unfair to Jews as a people. I would guess that in many cases it goes with a certain amount of disdain for Judaism as it has been practiced through the ages and for those of us who view such Judaism as just as good as any other religious tradition.

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