[Freemanlist2] Israel is not on trial in the Divestment Movement - its proponents are by Hanan Alexander
Freeman Center For Strategic Studies
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Thu May 20 11:35:31 CDT 2010
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Sunday May 02, 2010
Classroom Battlegrounds: Israel is not on trial in the Divestment Movement - its proponents are
Posted by Hanan Alexander
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The State of Israel is not on trial in the ASUC Berkeley initiative to divest from US companies that sell arms to Israel. Fair minded people realize that Israel acted in self defense in Operation Cast Lead, after withdrawing from Gaza unilaterally, watching Hamas seize power by suppressing its opposition, and then launching a war against innocent Israelis in which hundreds of daily rockets paralyzed the country's southern region. Left with no alternative, Israel's military exercised the force necessary to protect its citizens, which is how international law understands proportionality. Tragically this caused the deaths of many innocent Palestinians because Hamas cynically launched its assault from within religious, educational and medical institutions using its own civilians as human shields.
Rather, the supporters of the initiative stand accused of seeking to deny Israel the basic human right of self defense by singling out Israel rather than opposing arms sales in general; of seeking to deny Jews the right to cultural self-determination in a country of their own by minimizing Hamas treachery and supporting its aim to destroy Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; of seeking to deny Jews self respect by attributing to the Jews alone the power to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict; asserting a false analogy between democratic Israel and Apartheid South Africa; shamelessly asserting the vicious libel that the IDF intentionally targets innocent Palestinian children; and of seeking to deny supporters of Israel the right to feel welcome at their own university by ignoring hundreds of students who have complained that this initiative marginalizes them.
Supporters of divestment claim to harbor no ill will towards Jews, and that any disparaging rhetoric is unintended. But more than half of the world's Jews live in the State of Israel today, and many more identify with its cause. They embrace a national and political form of Jewish identification. To deny them this fundamental right in fact does unjustifiable harm to those Jews.
Supporters complain that it is an insult to the many Jews in favor of divestment to call it hateful. But the measure should not be granted immunity from criticism because Jews endorse it. Israel is a pluralistic society whose citizens are free to criticize their government and the Jewish community represents a diversity of opinions on most matters. It is a sign of respect for Jews who support the measure to subject their ideas to hard criticism; to do otherwise would be intellectually dishonest.
Supporters also claim that the evidence of Israel's crimes is overwhelming, endorsed by the UN Commission on Human Rights. But many organizations that claim to speak in the name of human rights, including the UN Commission which was previously headed by such serial human rights violators as Syria and Libya, have hijacked the human rights agenda to engage in a sustained, systematic and biased assault against Israel. Neither the mob nor the majority can prove that this assault is grounded in truth or justice. Only the preponderance of evidence can do this, beyond a reasonable doubt.
This question here is not about a particular group of students, but all people everywhere. For if one country is denied the right to self defense, all countries can be denied that right, if one national culture is forbidden then all cultures can be subjected to ideological discrimination, if one people is despised then all peoples can be despised, and if one group is unsafe then everyone is unsafe.
The brave student senators at Berkeley who withstood extraordinary pressure to block divestment grasped the true meaning of the struggle for free speech and social justice that began there many years ago. Their deeds embody the message of the Hebrew Prophets who called for justice to flow like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream. They deserve our sincere thanks and our deepest respect.
Hanan Alexander is Goldman Visiting Israeli Professor at UC Berkeley and Professor of Philosophy of Education, University of Haifa.
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