Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
Professor Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University (BGU), says she’s “shocked” by the call to boycott Israel made in a Los Angeles Times op-ed written by Dr. Neve Gordon, the chairman of her Department of Politics and Government.
As Carmi told the Jerusalem Post, “We are shocked by Dr. Neve Gordon’s irresponsible statements, which are morally deserving of full condemnation. We vehemently shake ourselves of the destructive views [advocated by Gordon], who makes cynical use of freedom of expression in Israel and Ben-Gurion University.”
As for me, I’m shocked that she’s shocked.
Is Carmi the only one at BGU who hasn’t been watching – and reading, and listening to – the vicious anti-Israel propaganda Gordon has been spewing for years? Was she unaware of his “destructive views” when just last January she made him chairman of the Department of Politics and Government?
Is she the only one who doesn’t remember how Gordon barricaded himself with Yasir Arafat during the siege of Ramallah? How – for years – he’s posted his “destructive views” on Holocaust denial websites? Can the head of the university possibly have been unaware that Gordon regularly denounced Israel as a fascist, terrorist regime, one that “resembles Nazi Germany”?
Has she completely forgotten last winter’s war, when Hamas rockets and missiles rained down on much of southern Israel, some hitting the BGU campus? Did she forget how Gordon, rather than denouncing the Hamas terrorists, lambasted Israel for “targeting” the building called “Gaza University,” a structure used as a repository for the rockets intended to kill Israelis?
So it seems. Apparently, Carmi isn’t much interested in anything her Politics and Government Department does. According to Prof. Fred Lazin, who teaches political science at BGU, before Gordon submitted his commentary to the L.A. Times he told his colleagues what he was going to say and offered to step down as chair if they thought his words would prove too embarrassing. “There was a unanimous decision not to let him do that,” Lazin said.
Even if she doesn’t pay attention to internal faculty affairs, it’s hard to see how she – or anyone who reads a regular newspaper in Israel – could have missed the legal skirmish that ensued when Gordon sued University of Haifa Prof. (and longtime Jewish Press contributor) Steven Plaut for libel. Especially given that not only did Gordon lose, but one of the appellate judges, Abraham Abraham, made the astonishing ruling that even if Plaut had described Gordon as a “Jew for Hitler” – which he hadn’t – Plaut would have been within his rights.
All right, let’s suppose Carmi was oblivious of the litigation itself. She could not possibly have missed the highly colorful newspaper battle that came afterward, when American legal lion Alan Dershowitz jumped into the fray with a fiery op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. “Neve Gordon,” Dershowitz wrote, “belongs to the class of the rabidly anti-Israel far-left professors whose trademark is the delight they take in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”
Really, wouldn’t you think a university president would sit up and take notice at that? Be a little bit concerned about how one of her department heads is being portrayed in the international community?
After Dershowitz took his parting shot – writing that “Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers and anti-Semites” and terming him “a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and self-hating Israeli” – wouldn’t you think the head of a normal university would be a little leery about having someone like Gordon teaching politics and government?
The truth is, I can’t imagine how anyone reasonably aware of university politics could be shocked or surprised by Gordon’s most recent broadside. For years he’s been calling Israel an apartheid state. The only new element he added was a few specifics about his proposed boycott of Israel.
“Nothing else has worked,” Gordon lamented in his L.A. Times op-ed. “Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians – my two boys included – does not grow up in an apartheid regime.”
Gordon wept crocodile tears over how difficult it was for him, as an Israeli citizen, “to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel.”
That part I understand. I, too, find it difficult to put to paper the suggestion I’m going to make. Unlike Neve Gordon, I actually live in Beersheba, home of BGU, which happens to be one of the biggest employers in our fair city. Many of my friends work for or are associated with BGU in some way. Normally, I’d fall on my own sword before doing anything that would hurt them or their families in any way.
But, as Gordon himself notes, the situation is serious. If we want to save BGU, some tough action is required. Gordon suggests a boycott as a way to gain Israel’s attention. So why not a boycott of BGU, to get Carmi’s attention?
Not only has Carmi not taken steps to reprove or reform her wayward department head, she’s done precisely the opposite, not only promoting him but endorsing him, supporting him, defending him, repeatedly terming his vicious hate propaganda “serious and distinguished research into human rights.”
This can’t go on. So here’s my proposal: In order to save BGU from itself, I think a boycott is in order. If we want to save Beersheba’s much-loved Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, we must boycott it.
Don’t send students to BGU. Don’t send money. Send a message. Enough is enough.
About the Author: Yocheved Miriam Russo practiced law in California for three decades before making aliyah in 2002. She contributes to publications in the U.S. and Israel and authors The Bagelnosher Blog (www.bagelnosher.blogspot.com).
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