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January 3, 2014

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 3, 2014 Stop the dishonest academic boycott By Lawrence Grossman (JTA)--It started as barely a blip on the radar. At its annual conference last April, the As- sociation forAsianAmerican Studies, orAAAS, unanimously approved a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israeli universities to protest the country's treatment of Palestin- ians. While the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement had been active for some time on campuses across the country, it was the first time an American academic organiza- tion had signed on. But since the AAAS is a tiny group of barely 800 members, and fewer than 100 were still around on the final day of the conference when the vote was taken, the step was viewed more as a curiosity than the beginning of a trend. Now the blip is beginning to look more like a wave. This month, the much larger American Studies Association, or ASA--it has nearly 5,000 members--passed a similar resolution by a 2-to-1 margin in an online vote in which about a quarter of the mem- bers participated. The language, previously approved unanimously by the organization's national council, claims there is "no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestin- ian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation" blames the United States for "enabling" the occupation; and endorses "a boycott of Israeli academic institutions." While the ASA has long had a reputation for leftist and anti-Western bias, resolutions to the same effect are expected to be proposed at the upcoming meetings of the large mainstream academic bodies in the humanities, such as the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association. Both will hold their annual meetings in January. Answer to BDS is Jewish power By Ben Cohen On avirtual stroll through the website of the "U. S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel"--a deeply unpleasant experi- ence, I should add--I came across an article that drew an analogy I hadn't encountered before. Intellectually ludicrous and morally ugly, the writer compared the situation of Aida, a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem, with the bombing by the German Luftwaffe of the Basque city of Guernica in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The Aida camp is not the most luxurious place on earth, yet it is far from being the worst. Its residents don't live in tents, but in proper housing that clusters tightly around dilapidated-looking streets, a common enough sight across the developing world, and in certainly far better conditions than prevail in large parts of Africa or Asia. By contrast, the bombing of Guernica--the subject of a famous Picasso painting--was one of the true horrors of the 20th century. The destruction wrought by German bombers, wrote George Steer, a British journalist who witnessed it firsthand, was "unparalleled in military history." Steer described the human cost of the raid in plain terms: "In a street leading downhill from the Casa de Juntas I saw a place where 50 people, nearly all women and children, are said to have been trapped in an air raid refuge under a mass of burning wreckage... When I entered Guer- nica after midnight, houses were crashing on either side, and it was utterly impossible even for firemen to enter the centre of the town." Here, in a nutshell, is why Jews are so rightly infuriated by the movement to boycott Israel. In its quest to portray the Palestinians as the most oppressed, downtrodden people on the face of this earth, there are few comparisons to which Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) proponents won't stoop, no matter how outlandish--whether that's the parallel with Guernica, or the Holocaust, or apartheid South Africa, or the slander that what Israel has done to the Palestinians approximates a genocide. The moral vacuum at the core of the BDS movement has again come to the fore since the American Studies Association (ASA), an academic body with 5,000 members, revealed that itwas signing up to the academic boycott of Israel--the second such announcement in 2013, following the same decision by the Asian American Studies Association in April. A third academic group, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, has now also joined the Israel boycott. What has stood out, unfortunately, in the media coverage of ASA's shameful decision is not the fact that less than 1,000 ASA members supported the boycott, in a vote that attracted only one quarter of the entire membership, or the rank hypocrisy of boYCotting Israel, given the slaughter that has consumed Syria next door. Instead, we are left with the sense that the boycott is a bold new initiative that will, as a New York Times headline put it, be regarded as a "symbolic sting" to Israel. There is, however, another way of looking at this. And that requires us to remember that the academic boycott wasn't launched this month, but 10 years ago. And while its activities have roiled universities in the U.K., Europe, South Africa and Australia, it has signally failed to become a mass movement. We should be heartened by the knowledge that Israel's robust economy and the first-class academic reputation of its universities have easily withstood this propaganda onslaught. Moreover, the American Association of Uni- versity Professors, the closest thing in this country to a representative body of academics, has roundly rejected the boycott as an assault on academic freedom. I don't point to those facts to make the case that we shouldn't be worried--we should be. There is no room for complacency in the face of a movement whose worldview is rooted in the struggle against Jewish sovereignty in much the same way that the Nazis saw the Jews, or the communists saw the bourgeoisie, as the ultimate enemy. But in fighting the academic boycott and BDS more generally, we should not lose awareness of the power we 21st-century Jews have, nor our ability to wield it. Hence, let's by all means ridicule the preten- sions of the BDS movement to be a latter-day incarnation of the movement against apartheid in South Africa. Let's not hesitate in point- ing out its failures. At the same time, let's not permit it to mushroom because we don't think it's a threat. Both Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg have pulled out of ASA since the boycott was announced, and we should push for a similar outcome in the case of similar initiatives. Much as some Jews are uncomfortable with acknowledging this real- ity, we have the power to harass, frustrate, and crush the BDS movement wherever it appears. Let us do so without mercy. Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Com- mentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kirn Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (1SN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER EO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 . Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman Joyce Gore email: news@rlandheritage'cm Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky The professoriate is the most highly edu- cated sector of our society, its members taking justifiable pride in their ability to think clearly and not be swayed by faulty logic. Surely those who come to the subject with no preconceived anti-Israel feeling will see through the two- tiered hypocrisy of the boycotters. First, it is rather odd that the ASA has never before called for severing academic rela- tions with any other country, not even such authoritarian regimes as China, Iran, Sudan or Syria, where no academic freedom exists. Whatever failings can be laid at Israel's door, it is a democracy with free elections, a free press and, yes, academic freedom. Indeed, it was Israel that established the first Palestin- ian universities on the West Bank. Far from seeking to oppress the Palestinian population under its control, Israel is engaged in intensive negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to achieve a peace agreementwhereby Israeli and Palestinian states can live side by side in peace. Acknowledging that Israel is hardly among the worst human-rights offenders, the ASA president insists, nonetheless, that "one has to start somewhere." But why start by boycot- ting a free society rather than a repressive one--unless you come to the issue already predisposed against Israel? Second, for consistency's sake, a boycott aimed at Israeli academia should insist on for- going the use of anything produced by Israeli brainpower--much of it at the very universities targeted for boycotting. That would include computer laptops, cell phones, crops produced by drip irrigation, geothermal power, and a host of biomedical devices and pharmaceuti- cals. At the very least, such a boycott should logically include an end to the enjoyment of the most visible fruits of Israeli intellectual life--the path-breaking accomplishments of its 12 Nobel Prize winners, by far the highest per-capita number of Nobel laureates for any country in the world. ' The fact that none of the would-be boycotters has even suggested taking such a step raises the strong possibility that the entire academic BDS campaign is shot through with another form of hypocrisy, one that decries Israel as an international pariah while at the same time making use of the life-enhancing and life- saving breakthroughs that the objectionable country has achieved. If they remain fair-minded, and look behind the hypocritical rhetoric, American professors can stop the academic boycott in its tracks. Lawrence Grossman is the American Jewish Committee's director of publications. Letter from Israel Busy with many demonstrations By Ira Sharkansky We are now more busy than usual. Perhaps various groups of activists had been sidelined by the storm, which is still evident in piles of tree trash that block sidewalks. Whatever the cause for the pause, there were Saturday night demonstrations in behalf of legalized marijuana, or at least easier access to the refined weed sold by drug stores with prescriptions for the relief of pain. Gays and lesbians had their demonstration, perhaps leaving some loyal to both gays and marijuana wondering whether to parade for one or the other. The best-known demonstrator on behalf of legalized marijuana is Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin. He comes to the issue in keeping with his libertarian posture, but contributes to the complexity of alignments and problems in a clear voice on behalf of two issues. Feiglin is a far right as can be found in the present Knesset. He is religious, and much of his constituency consists of religious and nationalists settlers. He also is among the most outspoken of Jews demanding the right to pray on the Temple Mount. Whatever he may think about gays and lesbians, his stand in favor of marijuana and his religious constituency may limit whatever alliance some might imagine between those supporting the weed and those supporting greater rights for gays and lesbians. There was a separate demonstration on behalf of illegal immigrants/claimants of asylum from Africa, whose issue had reached the headlines a week earlier via two break outs and marches toward Jerusalem by Africans who had been placed in something between open refuges and jails in the Negev, far from where the residents could obtain work during the hours they were allowed to be outside. Somewhat related was a violent demonstra- tion against a speech by the Ambassador from Eritrea. Most of the Africans who made it across the Sinai before the erection of a border fence are Eritreans. This weekend the police had to intervene to protect the Ambassador and themselves from Eritreans protesting the nature of the regime in the country they left. Now there is a fence along the Egyptian- Israeli border, which has virtually stopped the migration. The issue is what to do about perhaps 60,000 Africans in the country illegally, who claim political asylum, but who the establishment is not inclined to view with favor. By one view of international law, they should be transported back to Egypt, which was the country through which they passed before entering Israel. But the Egyptians are likely to treat them worse than their homeland (shooting on sight has been a common response by Egyptian police), so Israelis have not chosen that route. Many claim to come from Sudan, and cannot be sent back to a country with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. Those who say they come from Eritrea generally have no passports or other official forms of identification, and the Eritrean government does not want them. Our dithering regime has let most of those who are here find their own way in the country. Some have established families. Some have found illegal work and stayed out of trouble. But many have concentrated in a poor neigh- borhood of Tel Aviv and make life even more difficult for the Israeli residents of that place. Early news about the new week's Knesset deliberations concerned inquiries against excessive concentration in the economy. The background included two cases involving cousins, one sentenced to prison for a year for various infractions committed while heading one of the country's largest banks, and the other losing control of a conglomerate that could not pay its over-extended debts. The conglomerate (IDB) controls major cell phone, supermarket, insurance, investment banking, real estate, and industrial companies. One of the investors who wants control of the conglomerate is an Argentinian about whom there is some doubt about his connections to Israel, and his partner is an Israeli largely unknown in the business circles. Journalists pursuing his details have found that he made some unknown portion of his fortune in the German sex industry, which may bother those having to decide what to do about the conglomerate. An Arab MK, affiliated with Meretz, filed a request to mark the season by erecting a Christmas tree at the entrance to the Knes- set. He got five minutes of time on one of the popular radio talk shows, and explained that he did not expect the Knesset Chair to approve his request, but made it anyway in hopes of making a statement in behalf of Israel's Chris- tian minority. Lest anyone accuse Israel of being anti- Christian, there was other news indicating that President Peres would take part in a Christmas observance in Ramla. The headline on one of the dailies called on the Obama administration to stop tapping into the communications of leading officials. An inner story told of yet another uptick in the campaign to free Jonathan Pollard, now justified by Americans spying on Israelis. Ranking members of the government are say- ing that the freedom of Pollard is a price that Obama-Kerry must pay for Israel's coopera- tion with the Palestinians, and perhaps even Israel's release of the next round of Palestinian prisoners, which was the Palestinians' price for negotiating. Workers in the Port of Ashdod stopped work for three days, without the two weeks warning required for a legal strike. Early news was that they were protesting management's requirement that they wear brightly colored safety vests. They claimed that management Sharkansky on page 15A