many of you will have heard in the last week the news that renown scientist, Stephen Hawking's has withdrawn from the President's Conference in Israel, effectively joining the academic boycott of Israel.
In his May 3 letter to the organisers of the Conference, Professor Hawking stated:
"I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank. However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference. Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster."
While Hawking's actions have been denounced by Zionists, it has been welcomed by Palestinians and pro-Palestine solidarity/BDS campaigners. Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah and Rafeef Ziadah have also noted that Hawking's withdrawal marks a turning point in the BDS campaign. You can read Abunimah and Ziadah's heir thoughts on this here:
- Ali Abunimah: Stephen Hawking's support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point.
- Rafeef Ziadah: Stephen Hawking is right, it's time to end international support for Israel impunity
The Boston Globe, unlike The Australian, does not see the necessity to vilify either the Palestinian BDS campaign or those who support it in its editorial or reporting. Unlike The Australian's recent editorial on BDS which bore the hallmarks of being little more than a rehash of a Zionist press release, The Boston Globe notes that the non-violent protest, which is the hallmark of the BDS campaign, is a perfectly legitimate way to express political dissent and is something that should be encourage.
The Boston Globe notes in relation to Hawking's protest that:
"Observes need not agree with Hawking's position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means".The editorial goes on to say:
"In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encourage [...] Chance for a peaceful solution in Israel and Palestine are remote enough without overreactions [...] Foreclosing non-violent avenues to give people a political voice - and maybe bring about an eventual resolution - only makes what is already difficult that much more challenging".Compare this to The Australian's editorial on May 1st about the non-violent BDS protest at the University of NSW against Max Brenner and the stance adopted in support of the BDS campaign by the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (see my earlier post here on this).
According to The Australian:
"Given the right of people to go about their legal business, and shop where they please, it is questionable that the University of NSW should even tolerate protests against a chocolate shop being established on its site [...] The BDS movement wins support not just from jejune students eager for an anti-establishment cause but also from some academics, perhaps for the same reason. If it were not so tragic it would be a hilarious paradox that the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies backs BDS, including preventing academic exchanges. It is difficult to think of an act that is more close-minded or less concillatory than banning an exchange of ideas between people in liberal democracies. Still, this is what passes muster in some parts of the academy these days".
The Australian's editorial also sought to disingenuously paint the BDS movement and BDS activists as racist and anti-Semitic without any proof. The basis of The Australian's claims of racism and anti-Semitism rested on comments made not by the pro-Palestine BDS campaign groups or activists involved in organising the protests or on any of their actions.
Instead, The Australian (along with the Australian Zionist lobby) attempted to smear the pro-Palestine/BDS activists and campaign group as racist and anti-semitic based on the comments made by a small number of social media commentators (often anonymous) on some social media sites, despite the fact that these commentators had nothing to do with the campaign or the campaign group, with the comments being subsequently denounced by BDS activists.
The pro-Palestine/BDS solidarity groups organising the Max Brenner protests have categorically denounced any such racism and anti-semitism, precisely because it is at odds with the principles and aims of the BDS campaign. In a statement released by the campaign activists they stated:
We categorically denounce all forms of anti-semitism and are taking and have taken steps to ban and remove people who make any sort of racist comments against others".
The Boston Globe's clear headed and perfectly reasonable stance on Hawking, BDS, non-violent protest and Israel shows up even more how hysterical and ridiculous The Australian's orchestrated campaign and faux outrage against the BDS campaign and its supporters is.
I have include in full below both editorials . For more information on Hawking's actions and stance see:
Initial announcement by BRICUP
(BRICUP is an organisation of UK academics which supports the Palestinian call for Academic Boycott of Israel):
- Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel
- Noam Chomsky hleped lobby Stephen Hawking to stage Israel boycott
- Stephen Hawking: Furore deepens over Israel boycott
- A Brief History of Hawking's Boycott
In solidarity, Kim
THE BOSTON GLOBE:
EDITORIAL, 11 May 2013
When the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking announced his decision to boycott Israel’s Presidential Conference, a gathering of politicians, scholars, and other high-profile figures scheduled for June, the response was as predictable as the movement of the cosmos that inspired Hawking’s career. The conference chair, Israel Maimon, called the move “outrageous and improper,” while Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement that advocates protests against Israeli policies, declared, “Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking’s support.”
In fact, the decision to withdraw from a conference is a reasonable way to express one’s political views. Observers need not agree with Hawking’s position in order to understand and even respect his choice. The movement that Hawking has signed on to aims to place pressure on Israel through peaceful means. In the context of a Mideast conflict that has caused so much destruction and cost so many lives, nonviolence is something to be encouraged. That is equally true of attempts to inspire cooperation on the Palestinian side.
Chances for a peaceful solution in Israel and Palestine are remote enough without overreactions like Maimon’s. Foreclosing nonviolent avenues to give people a political voice — and maybe bring about an eventual resolution — only makes what is already difficult that much more challenging.
EDITORIAL: 1st May 2013
IT says a great deal about the illiberal tendencies of parts of our academic community that the anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions movement - which often borders on the anti-Semitic - finds support in the humanities faculties of some of our universities.
Given the right of people to go about their legal business, and shop where they please, it is questionable that the University of NSW should even tolerate protests against a chocolate shop being established on its site. But it is beyond question that it should take action against protesters using blatantly racist and anti-Semitic language as part of these protests. We expect that, quite rightly, there would be forceful action to stamp out any vilification of, say, Muslim or Asian students. Yet seemingly the targeting of Israeli-linked companies and Jewish people throws up a confected moral quandary.
The BDS movement wins support not just from jejune students eager for an anti-establishment cause but also from some academics, perhaps for the same reason. If it were not so tragic it would be a hilarious paradox that the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies backs BDS, including preventing academic exchanges. It is difficult to think of an act that is more close-minded or less conciliatory than banning an exchange of ideas between people in liberal democracies. Still, this is what passes muster in some parts of the academy these days.
The blatant dishonesty of this campaign should be identified and condemned. The legitimate grievances of the Palestinian people present a worthy cause, yet to couch their campaign in hateful language about "apartheid" and "war crimes" is demonstrably inaccurate and offensive. No objective view of history could fail to recognise Israel's offers to surrender territory to the Palestinians in return for peace. The landmark Oslo Accords cemented this reality but the olive branch has never been grasped, primarily because Hamas, like Yasser Arafat's PLO before it, simply will not recognise the right of Israel to exist. A peace based on two secure states can hardly be delivered without that fundamental acceptance. When Israel evacuated its citizens and withdrew from Gaza in 2005 it wasn't peace that ensued but bloody battles between Hamas and Fatah. Israel was rewarded with indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into its territory, targeting its civilians. Unless Palestinians accept responsibility for their actions, there can be no serious consideration of a peaceful resolution to their rightful claims for territory, statehood and the return of refugees.
As a pluralistic democracy that provides for the security and well-being of Palestinians, Israel is not remotely comparable to apartheid South Africa. For decades Arabs have had greater democratic and human rights in Israel than in any Arab country. They make up about a sixth of Israel's population and Palestinian Muslims hold seats in the Knesset on a platform of creating a viable Palestinian state. Israel is not perfect and the Palestinian issue must be resolved. But demonising Israel and Jews is not only wrong because it is racist, it is also an incorrect and deceptive interpretation of reality. Julia Gillard is right to condemn the BDS campaign, now so marginalised it has been disowned even by the Greens. We are entitled to expect our universities to take a stronger stand both against racism and in favour of facts.