Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deligitimization of Israel: widespread academic ignorance?

The anti-Israel obsession throughout academia has been tackled widely elsewhere. What intrigues me is how much of this is due to pure anti-semitism and how much is due to just latent anti-semitism mixed with  ignorant  'group think', driven by the relentless anti-Israel narrative in the main stream media. A very interesting example of the latter casual anti-Israel demonisation is reported at the end of the full report found here from a recent academic legal conference (which actually featured Lord Justice Leveson who is the judge appointed to head the phone tapping enquiry). The Professor reports:

On a less positive note, there was one part of the conference that I found uncomfortable.The last thing I would expect to have to contend with at a conference like this is ignorant deligitimisation of Israel (as a Jew with family ties to Israel I am particular sensitive to this and attuned to the extent to which it is perpetrated). Yet this is what happened during a session on “Picturing the truth? Drawing, seeing evidence”. Jill Gibbon (Open University) gave a talk entitled “Unveiling the arms trade: satire, seeing and evidence” in which she described her experiences of making drawings at arms fairs. I was not exactly sure how the talk fitted into the conference theme, but that was not what concerned me. What concerned and upset me was that Dr Gibbon took the opportunity to make political statements condemning Israel that were not only completely out of context from her own talk, but were completely false. Specifically, following on from comments and drawings ridiculing Israeli representatives at the Paris arms fair (which at least fell within the context of the talk) Dr Gibbon stated that “only 6 months after this fair Israel attacked Gaza and killed over 1000 civilians on the pretext of stopping arms smuggling tunnels”.I was forced to point out, at the end of her talk that a) Israel’s actions in Gaza were not as stated, but in response to over 5000 rockets fired at civilian targets in Israel; and b) it has now been definitively proven that over 800 of the people killed in Gaza were Hamas members – with the proportion of civilians killed far less than in any other comparable war in history, showing the extraordinary lengths Israel went to avoid civilian deaths. To be fair, Dr Gibb did apologise afterwards and said that she should have checked the facts better. What we both agreed on was that she was simply repeating the kind of standard anti-Israel narrative that dominates the British media.
 Note how, even though the speaker admitted to having no real knowledge or understanding of the conflict, she felt entirely comfortable and natural in selecting Israel as the country to demonise. It is inconceivable that she would have singled out any other country in the world without thinking more carefully about the facts and who she might possibly offend.

1 comment:

Brian Dickson said...

Nice post, and good work on your blog in general.

It is all too common these days for people to jump on whatever bandwagon fits in with peoples political, social and religious world-views, WITHOUT giving objective criticism to the subject matter, before bloviating. Same goes for so-called 'man made' global warning, the recent phone hacking scandal in my home country, Britain etc etc.

Israel unfortunately has been a country kicked and poked more than most, and that out of pure hate and prejudice.