Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
(Review of Avram Bornstein, “Crossing the Green Line between the West Bank
and Israel,” University of Pennsylvania Press)
Perhaps the fastest way to make sense of this book by Avram Bornstein, an untenured “anthropologist” at John Jay College of Criminal Justice within the City University of New York system, is to pay attention to how he uses quotation marks. The book routinely refers to Israel as an apartheid regime, with no quotation marks. And it routinely refers to Palestinian “terrorism” with them. Need we say more? We hope the tenure committee at John Jay is paying attention.
Bornstein is an all-but-invisible member of academia, with a grand total of two anthropology journal articles to his name, both of them, it turns out, also devoted to bashing and demonizing Israel. He claims to know something about prisons and prisoners, although as far as we can tell not as an inmate. Beyond that, his bio lists him as a proud member of assorted left-wing activist groups, and he is a follower of “Rabbi” Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine (Lerner has no rabbinic training nor ordination from any rabbinic institution; Bornstein has no
training in law nor criminology).
Basically, this book is a travelogue of Bornstein’s trips to the West Bank and Gaza in the 1990′s. He had clearly made up his mind about what he would find there long before he booked his plane tickets. He apparently does not speak either Arabic or Hebrew, and he surely was not going to let any facts get in his way. He was going there to show his solidarity with the Palestinians, and he is now peddling his politicized travelogue as a work in “anthropology.”
The only favorable review we have come across of the book appeared in the PLO’s house organ, Journal of Palestine Studies. The book meanders about, based on assorted interviews with Palestinians from various ways of life, although those whose way of life is murdering Jews are conveniently overlooked. It then ends with a concluding chapter entitled “Borders and Apartheid.”
A representative scholarly claim of Bornstein’s would be: “The Palestinians believed that the border closures were intended as punishment to discourage them from sympathizing with the (“terrorist”) attacks” (p. 134). Got that? Israel does not close its borders with the Palestinian zones because Palestinians are murdering hundreds of Jews, but as a way to prevent Palestinians from feeling empathy. Among the “scientific academic” sources cited authoritatively by Bornstein is one from a homosexual activists newsletter entitled “F… the Tourists.” Really.
Bornstein’s book should be taken about as seriously as a book on the sufferings of Germans in post-war liberated Europe living under Allied occupation and prevented from complete freedom of movement, a book that at the same time completely ignores the existence of World War II, Nazism, de-Nazification, and Hitler.
Bornstein’s working axiom is that Palestinians have an automatic entitlement to work in Israel, to use Israeli services (no doubt without paying), all because Israelis have an average higher standard of living than Palestinians (and never mind the standard of living of the Saudis and
Kuwaitis), all regardless of how many atrocities the Palestinians perpetrate. He dismisses mass murders of Jews by Palestinian terrorists as irrelevant, since they do not represent an existential threat to Israel’s existence in his anthropological opinion. The existential murder of
hundreds of Jews is certainly no reason for Israel to have checkpoints and border closures. Terrorism is only a political threat to the Israeli political elite, insists Bornstein, not to school children and pregnant mothers.
In his learned “anthropological” study, Bornstein never quite finds the time to speak to any Jewish victims of irrelevant Palestinian terror and atrocities. He never considers the possibility that Palestinian standards of living rose astronomically from 1967, when Israel “occupied”
them, until Yasir Arafat decided to bankrupt the Palestinians by launching his Oslo war process.
It never occurs to Bornstein that Palestinians have only themselves and their leadership to blame for any “poverty” or “underprivilege” they suffer. And Bornstein never decides to check out how many Israelis would be perfectly willing to have Palestinians hold nice day jobs in
Israel and buy health services from Israeli clinics if they would just first stop conducting mass murders of Israelis.
The biggest mystery here is why the University of Pennsylvania Press saw fit to publish this tawdry and poorly-written piece of propaganda. Now that Egypt has seen fit to broadcast the TV version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps Penn Press can publish the English
version of the screenplay as a piece of anthropology.
Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available through Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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