I and others have often written that many ‘critics’ of Israel who purport to be concerned with issues of human rights, fairness, racism and so on actually have a different agenda. We’ve claimed that they are more concerned with demonizing the Jewish state than helping its alleged ‘victims’.
Sometimes it’s not hard to show that ‘non-political’ human rights groups, for example, actually have a financial interest in bashing Israel. For example, there is the case of Human Rights Watch fund-raising in Saudi Arabia, or the huge sums donated to extremist non-governmental organizations in Israel by the European Union.
But what about the legions of anti-Israel academics who are always prepared to bash Israel in the vilest terms? They claim to be motivated by concern for human rights — but are they?
Now Fred Gottheil, a professor of Economics at the University of Illinois, has devised an empirical test to find out. Dr. Gottheil took the case of a petition addressed to President Obama after the Gaza war in December-January 2008-9:
[Dr. David C.] Lloyd’s petition was notable not only for its criticism of Israeli policy — that is standard fare among the set of academics who subscribe to a post-colonial view of the world — but rather for its demonizing of the Jewish state.
His technique was anything but novel. It associated Israel with pre-Mandela South Africa. Lloyd’s South African-linking brushstrokes were many and crude, citing “collective punishment,” “apartheid regime,” “racist regime,” “besieged Bantustans,” “crimes against humanity,” and “ethnocidal atrocities.” These were layered on his fact-distorting canvas like icing on a poisoned cake.
The petition was signed by nine hundred academics, mostly in the US. Gottheil decided to test their commitment to human rights:
But accepting as genuine the petitioners’ stated goal of seeking social justice in the Middle East, I thought it fitting to contact the signatories of the Lloyd petition to offer them yet another opportunity to express their commitment to social justice in the region, this time by endorsing a Statement of Concern regarding human rights abuses practiced against gays and lesbians and against women in general in many of the Middle Eastern countries, including the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The idea was really uncomplicated: Since they expressed a concern about social injustice in Israel, they might also be willing to express their concern about human rights abuses practiced against women, gays, and lesbians in other parts of the Middle East.
The detailed material for this Statement of Concern was gathered from sources as widespread as U.N. agencies, survey research units, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, scholarly journals, and social justice-related NGOs such as Asylum-Law and Human Rights Watch.
The Statement provided evidence of both the practice and the condoning of the practice by religious, political, and even academic authorities of honor-killing, wife-beating, and female genital mutilations. Documentation was offered for specific countries, for specific practices, and referred to specific authorities condoning the practices identified.
Gottheil carefully checked the credentials of the signers and excluded those who were outside of the US, or who were non-academics. In the case of graduate students, only those with evidence of teaching or published research were included. He ended up with 675 names, to which he sent the Statement of Concern, along with a request for endorsement. He did not indicate any connection between his statement and the Lloyd petition.
You probably know what’s coming, but it is even more outrageous than you think:
Only thirty of the 675 “self-described social-justice seeking academics” responded, 27 of them agreeing to endorse the Statement. But these 27 signatories represent less than five percent of the 675 contacted. In other words, 95 percent of those who had signed the Lloyd petition censuring Israel for human rights violation did not sign a statement concerning discrimination against women and gays and lesbians in the Middle East.
But wait! There’s more:
As many as 25 percent of the Lloyd petition-signing academics were faculty associated with gender and women studies departments. Yet of these, only 5 endorsed the Statement calling for attention to the discrimination against women in the Muslim countries of the Middle East. Put more bluntly, 164 of the 169 faculty who had chosen to focus their life’s work on matters affecting women, and who felt comfortable enough to affix their names to Lloyd’s petition censuring Israel, chose not to sign a Statement of Concern about documented human rights violations against gays, lesbians, and women in the Middle East. [my emphasis]
This does not come as a surprise to me, who often marvels at the sheer insanity of academics, especially those in ethnic or gender studies programs. An example was the Israeli Ph.D. candidate who argued that the fact that IDF soldiers do not rape Arab women proves that they are racists, and won an academic prize!
A common view on the Left is that all of the problems of Palestinian Arab women are a result of Israeli oppression (although many Palestinians themselves are quite clear about their culture’s poor treatment of women). I recall a radio program on Berkeley’s KPFA on the subject of “The Palestinian Women’s Movement”: the presenter explained that this ‘movement’ was all about supporting their men in the struggle against Israel.
Perhaps the academics who signed the Lloyd petition but did not sign Gottheil’s statement held this view. Of course “the occupation” doesn’t explain the violent oppression of women and gays everywhere else in the Muslim Middle East.
Another possibility is that the academics take the racist position that backward Muslim Middle Easterners can’t be expected to know better, and therefore their behavior can be excused. Israel, on the other hand, is held to a standard so high that even self-defense is prohibited.
Or maybe they think that everything Israel does is wrong because it is a ‘colonial power’. It’s interesting that they don’t see the truly imperialist Iran — which controls Syria, is taking over Lebanon by way of Hizballah, and is working to assert its hegemony over Iraq — in that light.
Maybe the simplest explanation is best: while they favor Palestinian nationalism, Iranian imperialism and radical Islamism — and are prepared to keep quiet about the victimization of women and gays so as to avoid damaging these causes — they find the idea of Jewish nationalism, as expressed by the one Jewish state, repugnant.