Oct 19, 2010

#BDS: 'Why Israel only' is tired and hypocritical

Robert Fine's piece "Blame Game won't lead us to peace" (October 8), commenting on the rather tepid University of Jo'burg senate resolution to the call by (now more than 270) South African academics, including the vice-chancellors of three South African universities to end its apartheid-era relationship with Ben Gurion University, raises some interesting points.

Desmond Tutu is indirectly, but not so subtly, accused of anti-Semitism because he warns that those who support the severance of ties may lose research funding and, at the same time, urges Jews not to forget their own past as victims of discrimination.

Tutu does not say who might withdraw research funding, so he is not trotting out some canard about "Jewish money power".

He is making the (clearly accurate) statement that opposition to Israeli policies is not popular among those who dole out research money (mostly in Europe and the United States) and that people critical of Israel can be, and often are, penalised. Those who do the penalising are not necessarily Jewish -- most are probably not.

And to ask Jews to remember their past is hardly anti-Semitic. Jewish activists do this all the time.

During apartheid, it was common for liberal Jews to say that their fellow Jews should empathise with the oppressed because Jews had the same experience: no one except the right-wing fringe accused them of being anti-Semitic or "self-hating".

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