Tuesday, 9 April 2013

THE CLOSING OF THE ACADEMIC MIND IN IRELAND.


In recent months, when I have been highlighting various anti-Israel acts emanating from the Emerald Isle, I have been rebutted by people in Ireland who claim that their country is strongly supportive of Israel.  Now, they have their work cut out as they have been seriously challenged by the recent boycott of Israel by the Irish Teachers Union.
With the adoption of a full boycott of Israel, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) became the first educational trade union in Europe to take such a full-bodied step. Not even the powerfully left-wing educational unions in Britain managed to pass such a sweeping academic boycott.  The heinous part of the Irish decision is it did not isolate Israeli academics living or working in the “disputed territories,” ( as if that wouldn’t be wrong) rather, and specifically, it targeted all of Israel, and only Israel, for its wrath.
Despite the high-minded claims of Jim Roche, a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and an avid activist for the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Gaza Action in support of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, that the BDS Movement “is a noble non-violent method of resisting Israeli militarism, occupation and apartheid” the action of the Irish Teachers Union was aimed at sovereign Israel with no differentiation, and with no adherence to truth and full facts.

The TUI may look on this as a success but, to quote Booker Prize winning author, Howard Jacobson, their decision constitutes not enlightenment but “the closing of the academic mind” in Ireland.
Jacobson addressed the left-wing Engage group back in 2007. To slightly paraphrase his words,  boycotting and gagging Israeli academics, teachers and scholars, is a more brutal act than silence. It is a brutal act that you perform on yourself, knowingly, purposefully, and on principle. Not to listen to others is to wage war on your own faculties. To deny yourself, if you are a reasoning and thinking person as academics and teachers must be, the tools by which you reason. Once you announce to the world, as did the TUI, that you stop listening is the moment when you cease to be a scholar or a teacher. An academic union that denies other academics causes more damage to itself than the union it will not listen or communicate with.

When it is applied against one nation and one nation only, namely turning the Jewish state of Israel into a nation of pariah teachers, it becomes aggressively disproportionate. It exposes the manipulation of those that impose the ban. It victimizes those who have been banned.

Israel will continue to prosper with its free exchange of ideas despite the TUI ruling. The true victim is the reputation of Ireland as an open-minded and enlightened society. It has taken a backward step. It has done so because their leading teachers union has been hijacked by people of an unthinking and unreasonable extremism.

This Irish boycott of Israel is a double-edged sword. It is not only meant to damage and isolate Israel, it also has a purpose to manipulate public opinion against Israel. It is important to acknowledge and act to counter the creeping annexation of public opinion. Their boycott proposal was dressed up in the language of lies, half-truths, and disinformation, as are most anti-Israel campaigns. If we are to claim the relegitimization of Israel we must challenge the disinformation methods and false narrative of those who act to harm Israel.
The actions of the Teachers Union of Ireland leap off the pages of a KGB official, Ilya Dzirkvelov, who wrote in the 80s, “Disinformation is not just a well-presented lie – which is, easy to recognize – but a compilation of facts and events which must not only be difficult to refute but which must result in serious consequences for the opposing side.”

The Soviet Union is the foremost proponent of disinformation for political purposes. The infamous Durban slogan of “Zionism is Racism,” that was adopted by the United Nations, is straight out of the Soviet disinformation manual. Its activists and advocates continue their efforts by attempting to brand Israel as an apartheid state.
The adoption of the Irish boycott is a further act against Israel, namely dehumanization. By attempting to remove Israel from the society of the intellectual, cultured and academic world making it fair game for all sorts of incitement and violence, and by designating it as a legitimate target for legal recourse and abuse, the TUI have acted to dehumanize the Jewish state on fallacious grounds. Gregory H. Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, placed “dehumization” in third place in his “Eight Stages of Genocide” briefing paper to the US State Department. As Joel Fishman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs pointed out in his noteworthy The Relegitimization of Israel and the Battle for the Mainstream Consensus” there is real danger in the link between dehumanization and actual violence. Fishman is also a member of the board of “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” and must surely find the Irish teachers boycott an antithesis to the notion of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

It is clear that those who manipulated the anti-Israel boycott do so as part of their agenda to delegitimize Israel. The late Ehud Sprinzak, a past associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem described delegitimization as a process involving ideological and symbolic manipulation whereby an accepted political entity that is recognized as having the right to exist is transformed into an unacceptable entity without such a right. This political entity is not only seen as misguided and wrong but altogether undeserving of existence. Sprinzak goes on, “The loss of legitimacy effectively means the loss of the right to speak or debate in certain forums….At best, they will be indulged as members of a sub-human species.”
Can anyone doubt that this is not the intention of the Irish Teachers Union with activists such as Jim Roche?

In Palestinian, and pro-Palestinian, circles public diplomacy Israel is adopted as another form of warfare against Israel. So it is with the TUI. The Irish teachers do not act against gross Muslim hate, violence, and genocide against fellow Christians and Catholics in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Despite their declared love of the Palestinians, they fail to apply the same assault against the Arab regimes that oppress Palestinians in places like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, oppression that truly includes apartheid and deadly measures. Neither do they speak up and pass boycott resolutions against Turkey for oppressing and occupying Cyprus and the Kurds, or China’s human rights offenses against the Tibetans, or Russia against the Chechens. No, it is only Israel that gets their goat.
Noted jurist, Anthony Julius, aligned himself with Howard Jacobson when he described boycotts in his book “Trials of the Diaspora” thus; “The boycotted person (or state) is pushed away by the ‘general horror and common hate.’ It is a denial, among other things, of the boycotted person’s freedom of expression. To limit or deny self-expression is thus an attack at the root of what it is to be human…Boycotting is thus an activity especially susceptible to hypocrisy. It implies moral judgments both on the boycotted and the boycotter.”

When the Irish Teachers Union picks out one set of teachers and loathes them above all others, of simplifying politics and history to  fit a biased ideology of victim and oppressor, of imposing a twisted view of good and evil on events that defy such categorization, is the time when academic thinking, open-mindedness, and reason has been abandoned. As such, it should have no place in an academic union anywhere that purports to represent scholars and teachers.
In the end, as Jacobson reminds us, it is not about Israel at all. It is the way they practice free thought in Ireland. It is about the idea and concept we have of academia and those who think differently to you. It is about a voice that desires to be heard but has been blocked out by closed ears, ears that refuse to listen to reason. It is the closing of the academic mind in Ireland.

Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegimitization Issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at the Netanya Academic College. He is also the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’ www.israelnarrative.com