April 1, 2011 at 7:23 pm Leave a comment

Telling it like it really is



Ralph Dobrin is the author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”

Available through Amazon

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For a number of years one of the most reviled states in the world is Israel, which is condemned in various United Nations forums more often than all the other nations put together – and that includes repressive regimes such as Iran, North Korea, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe and a whole slew of sub-Saharan African countries where inter-clan killing is a way of life. All over the western world many political parties, labor unions, municipalities, churches and universities frequently call for boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel. In over 50 universities, students and lecturers hold an annual Israel Apartheid Week and the number keeps growing every year. There are a number of reason for Israel’s unfavorable status among the nations, including conquest and occupation of territories belonging to the Palestinians. Also cited is the prevention of granting the Palestinians national independence, for commiting a large range of serious human rights abuses and for being an Apartheid and Nazi-style state.

That this is very far from the truth can be demonstrated by asking one simple question: Does it make any sense for one small nation of six million Jews to provoke and anger over 300 million Arabs, backed by another over billion Muslims. There are many other factors to this grossly lopsided equation that make the odds against Israel even more preposterous. So clearly, it doesn’t make any sense for Israel to have done any of these things – the way they are described. To a very large extent, the root cause of Arab misfortunes is not due to any perfidy on the part of Israel, but their own unrelenting aggression against the Jewish state, which has always resulting in an Israeli response. Indeed, often Israel’s response has been belated in the hope that Arab aggression would simmer down or stop. But most of the rest of the world does not see it this way. Neither do the Arabs themselves.

In actual fact, Israel would do anything to achieve a peaceful settlement with the Arab world and its angry Muslim supporters, short of committing national suicide – which is what agreeing to all the Palestinian demands would more than likely lead to. But the constant anti-Israel protests by some of the most supposedly enlightened, prominent and influential people throughout the Western World continue.

However, there are a number of politicians, religious leaders, journalists and academics who have no family affiliation to the Jewish people or to Israel, yet who stand up to this continuous welter of recrimination, pointing out the misrepresentation of facts regarding the Israel-Arab conflict. In doing so, they risk ostracism and even exclusion from prestigious circles in their various fields.

 One person who does this, is eminently qualified to comment accurately on the conflict. Denis M. MacEoin has studied and lectured on Islamic studies and Arabic since the late nineteen seventies. Universities where he has lectured include the Mohammed 5th University in Fez, Morocco, Newcastle and Durham Universities. He has written many books, research papers and hundreds of articles on Islamic issues, particularly the development of radical Islam. MacEoin is also a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly. In addition to all this, he is a prolific novelist, writing under the pen names of Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe.

When the Student Association of Edinburgh University voted to participate in the Israel Apartheid Week he sent them a letter, expressing his deep disappointment as a former student. Here are excerpts from his letter:
… There has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. This is a fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves.

… I have the impression that those members of EUSA (Edinburgh University Student Association) who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby. Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m … speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for. It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (and elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise Apartheid. For Apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled things in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. … A weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is. That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be Israel’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world centre; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population). In Iran, the Baha’is (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? 

Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no black could do in South Africa. Israeli hospitals, not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters. 

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, because they may be killed at home. It seems bizarre to me that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief. Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak. I do not object to well documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single out the Jewish state above states that are horrific in their treatment of their own populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens. Israeli citizens – Jews and Arabs alike – do not rebel (though they are free to protest).

Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Baha’is. The imbalance is perceptible and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. 

I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument. They are not at university to be propagandised. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state.

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play.

We can only hope, for the sake of the great University of Edinburgh, the alma mater of countless brilliant thinkers for hundreds of years, that Denis MacEoin’s words will be heeded. Indeed, that goes for universities everywhere.

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Entry filed under: Blogroll, dangeous lies and halftruths, How to avoid Armageddon, Solutions for Palestine, Things not mentioned in the press. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Answering Israel’s critics – 1 Things that people say about Jews – 1

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