A London hysteria
By Amnon Rubinstein, The Jerusalem Post
"Zionism, not the occupation, is the enemy"
The British Association of University Teachers (AUT) is scheduled to hold a special session today to reconsider its Pessah decision to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities.
Whatever decision AUT takes, the issue is a larger one.
The week the academic boycott was declared, London's famous Barbican arts center hosted a Palestinian Film Festival which featured Road 181, directed by an Israeli, Eyal Sivan, and a Palestinian, Michel Khleifi. The film compares Israel to Nazi Germany. It ignores the fact that the UN Partition Plan incorporated in United Nations Resolution 181 – which inspired the title of the film – was rejected by the Arab world's invasion of Palestine in order to crush the fledgling Jewish state.
At the Royal Court Theatre, My name is Rachel Corrie plays to full houses and rave reviews. The play tells the story of the International Solidarity Movement activist who was accidentally killed by an IDF bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.
Time Out's reviewer says Corrie was "riveted by the horrors she witnessed" against the Palestinians. No mention, of course, is made of the horrors suffered by Israelis. As Tom Gross wrote in these pages, several British reviewers compared Corrie with Anne Frank and Primo Levi.
Recently, the National Theatre put on David Hare's hare-brained Stuff Happens in which legendary Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, who died in 1934, is given dialogue which has him claim that only a murderous Israel would be normal.
And Luciana Berger, a Jewish activist in the National Union of Students, also writing in these pages, explained why she resigned from being its coordinator against racism because of the union's indifference towards anti-Semitism.
In British bookstores, one finds it hard to find a pro-Israel work – with the exception of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel. The shelves are laden with books written by Israeli and other academics vilifying the Jewish state.
THAT IS not to say that Britain is anti-Semitic or even anti-Israel. British Jews are to be found at the very top of society and there is a commitment to Israel's existence in a substantial part of the media. Though a public debate, initiated by the Evening Standard on the thesis that "Zionism is the worst enemy of the Jewish People" shows what we are up against.Yet it is in the cultural-arts arena and among the fashionable Left that Israel is most made a perpetual object of hysterical hatred.
A Martian landing in today's London would assume that the earth is a haven of peace and human understanding – except for a country called Israel, which clings to a fascist-Nazi philosophy, infringes on human rights and endangers world peace.
In this make-believe world, only Palestinians are victims. Even British casualties of Islamic terror are ignored. Last year, Muslims in Saudi Arabia murdered Simon Cumbers and badly wounded Frank Gardner who was left to bleed ignored by passersby.
One cannot imagine a London play telling their story or depicting a wheelchaired Gardner's brave fight to remain alive.
How does one explain this hysteria from the so-called Left?
There is no doubt that it is fanned by the harsh realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. But how does one explain its exacerbation when there is a growing Israeli consensus for a substantial withdrawal from these territories, when disengagement from Gaza is imminent and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is accepted by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?
The answer lies in the fact that we are dealing not merely with opposition to the occupation of areas Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, but with a rejection of the basic tenet of Zionism – the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland and self-determination.
In that debate organized by the Evening Standard Zionism – not occupation – was seen as the enemy.
Haaretz's Amira Hass came especially to defend this thesis. Her opponent was Shlomo Ben-Ami, the former Labor minister. But Hass won the debate.
A recent book, The Question of Zion by Jacqueline Rose, a British Jewish academic, describes Zionism as "collective insanity" and the creation of Israel as an aggressive offense against international law and morality.
The book, which is dedicated to Edward Said, of stone-throwing fame, attacks not Gush Emunim but Herzl, Weizmann, A.D. Gordon, Moses Hess and other founders of Zionism. Its hatred is matched only by its ignorance of everything Israeli.
Even our making the desert bloom is seen as an act of Zionist aggression. And such unmitigated rubbish is published by prestige publishers such as Princeton and Oxford, endorsed by Ilan Pappe and Amos Elon.
Indeed, without the support of Israelis, such hysteria on the "Left" would not have acquired the force it has. This, and the weakness of the small Jewish community in Britain, explains why, despite legends to the contrary, Paris is less hostile to Israel than London.
There is no boycott by French lecturers and Eyal Sivan's film was banned by the Centre Pompidou at the urging of Jewish bodies. Unbelievably, Jerusalem's Bezalel School of the Arts screened the film, invited its director as a guest speaker, and thus sabotaged French Jewish efforts to stymie such anti-Semitism.