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Posts Tagged ‘ASA boycott’

UN Group Compares Boycott of Israeli Academics to Nazi Practice

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Of all the surprising opponents of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions by the American Studies Association, perhaps the most surprising is one that has not yet received any attention.

A small but official organization of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) came out with an unabashedly strong criticism of the ASA boycott in one of the very first waves of condemnations.

And, unlike most of the university presidents’ condemnations, this one aimed its spear directly at, and through, the double standard towards the Jewish State, otherwise known as anti-Semitism, that really is the foundation upon which the boycott movement in general, and the ASA’s boycott in particular, rests.

The statement comes from the Board of Trustees of the American Unit of the International Network of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, also known as the American Bioethics Culture Institute.

This diverse board was created three years ago. Its purpose is “to explore and develop materials based upon an understanding of the psychology of clinical and ethical decision making under conditions of uncertainty when there is great moral and personal hazard.”

The statement was issued on Dec. 27, immediately after the ASA stated its boycott intentions.

These ethical pillars did not softly and safely mumble a mere no-vote. The statement expresses the views of the group directly, succinctly and without artifice, starting with being “appalled” by the boycott as “contrary to the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”  It continues:

In many of Israel’s academies, Israeli and Palestinian students of all ages continue to learn and study together. Rather than promoting peace, the ASA’s action promotes further isolation for all peoples in the region and negates the importance and vitality of academic discourse. Their action is to be condemned by all those advocating for stabilization and peace in the Middle East. While ASA may make the misleading claim that its actions are an exercise of academic freedom, in singling out Israeli academics for such a boycott, our Unit’s work indicated that this immoral boycott, though not intended, is far more akin to actions of prominent Nazi academics in the early 1930′s, such as those German physicians who took leadership positions in the Nazi party and singled out their Jewish colleagues for boycott and expulsion from academic life and professional societies.

There are critics who will reflexively leap to a particularly noxious standard response to defending Israel. That position dismissively claims that all criticism of Israel elicits a reference either to anti-Semitism or to the Holocaust. Its ridicule is meant to silence all such references, even when the comparison is apt.

How much more apt is the case here, where the authors of the statement are experts on bioethics in general, whose focus is making sure that marginalized groups are not subject to discrimination, whether in genetics or in academia.

One of the ABCI board members, Dr. Omar Sultan Haque, is the lead author of an academic analysis of why such a large percentage of German physicians entered the Nazi party.

Haque, a medical ethicist, physician and psychologist at Brown University Medical Center, is also on staff at Harvard Medical School. Haque, in responding to a query from The Jewish Press, said that “drawing an analogy between American academics and the German physicians is not too much of a stretch, as both suggest deep anti-Semitism.” He also believes it appropriate to apply a term to today’s academics that was coined by his colleague, Dr. Harold Bursztajn.

The term Bursztajn coined is “ethicogenesis,” and it means “the ability of human beings to rationalize even the most unethical behavior in the name of ‘ethics.’”

Bursztajn is the co-director of ABCI. He is a faculty member of Harvard Medical School and is the co-founder of the program on Law and Psychiatry at the School. A remarkably accomplished man, Bursztajn is closer to the issue of the Shoah than are his colleagues, because both his parents were resistance fighters in the Lodz Ghetto during World War II.

Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.’”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/shushed-and-booed-podhoretz-walks-out-on-92nd-st-y-panel/2013/12/18/

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