Academic BDS and Individual Israeli Scholars

by Kevin Jon Heller

Guardianadvert4palestine-FINALv2-page-001I’ve received a few emails over the past couple of days wondering why I have not joined the now 500 scholars at UK universities who have pledged to boycott Israeli universities. The answer is that although I wholeheartedly support BDS in its economic and cultural forms, I am much more ambivalent about academic BDS. I agree with the boycotters that Israeli universities are deeply complicit in Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians. I’m fully aware that the too many Israeli academics either support that oppression or at least generally remain silent about it. And I know that most people who criticise academic BDS on “academic freedom” grounds could not care less about the academic freedom of Palestinians. But I simply cannot get past my belief that the boycott, at least as it is currently structured, is unfair to the (unfortunately small) number of Israeli academics who are brave enough to speak out against Israel’s policies.

To be sure, those who support the boycott insist that it targets Israeli universities, not individual Israeli scholars. The statement by the UK academics, for example, says that they will “continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities.” Similarly, the PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel provide that “[m]ere affiliation of Israeli scholars to an Israeli academic institution is… not grounds for applying the boycott” and clearly notes that Israeli academics can use their individual research budgets “in support of academic activities, such as attendance of international conferences and other academic events,” as long as they do not have to acknowledge that their funding comes from an Israeli institution.

I’m glad that the UK academics and PACBI are sensitive to the distinction between Israeli universities and Israeli scholars. But I still think the PACBI guidelines (which the UK statement endorses) harm Israeli scholars, including those that are critical of Israel, to an extent that makes it impossible for me to endorse academic BDS. Here, in relevant part, is what Guideline 10 prohibits (emphasis in original):

10. Serving as external reviewers for dissertations, writing recommendations or other forms of refereeing such as advising on hiring, promotion, tenure, and grant-making decisions at Israeli universities. International academics who choose to review the academic work of faculty or students at Israeli universities on a personal basis are not conflicting with the boycott guidelines, so long as their names are not used by those universities in any way (to gain legitimacy). Accepting to be on a dissertation, referee or review committee appointed by or serving an Israeli university, however, directly conflicts with the institutional boycott of these universities, as it legitimates Israel’s academic standing around the world. The boycott also applies to writing tenure or promotion recommendations addressed to university administrators.

I fail to see how  these restrictions target Israeli academic institutions, not individual Israeli scholars. If a left-wing Israeli scholar is already a full professor, academic BDS will not have a profound impact on her career. But any scholar is who is more junior is directly harmed by Guideline 10. If I supported academic BDS, I could not co-supervise a PhD student at an Israeli university or serve as her external examiner. Once she obtained her PhD, I could not help her get a job at an Israeli university. And after she became a lecturer, I could not write a letter on her behalf advocating her promotion or tenure.

These restrictions could easily be fatal to the career of a left-wing Israeli scholar — especially a more junior one. Given Israel’s increasing suppression of even the most tepid criticism of its policies, including (yes) by University administrations, it is unlikely that such a scholar will find many senior Israeli academics willing to supervise her dissertation, help her get a job in the Israeli academy, or support her promotion and tenure. And Guideline 10 prohibits non-Israeli scholars from providing her with that support. So the young Israeli scholar will end up facing a difficult choice: either find a PhD program or academic position overseas — which she may not be able to do, whether for family/financial reasons or because she wants to fight for change from within Israel — or abandon an academic career.

That’s troubling enough, but the systemic effects of academic BDS on the presence of left scholars in the Israeli academy are even more troubling. Academic BDS obviously has no effect on young right-wing scholars, who already outnumber their left-wing counterparts. Young right-wing scholars will have no problem finding more senior Israeli and non-Israeli scholars to supervise their dissertations, help them get jobs, and support their promotion and tenure. So academic BDS will simply ensure that, over time, then, left-wing scholars become more scarce in Israeli universities while right-wing scholars become ever more common.

Perhaps that’s okay. Perhaps the need to pressure Israel to change its policies is worth preventing left-wing Israelis from pursuing academic careers and ensuring that the Israeli academy becomes even more right-wing than it already is. If so supporters of academic BDS should say so openly, instead of claiming that the boycott doesn’t affect individual Israeli scholars. It does — which is why I can’t support it.

56 Responses

  1. Kevin ,

    So , in sum , you feel pity for those left wing individuals ?? How shall they manage?? with their titles and PHD ??

    It didn’t even cross your mind I see , that university , is not a place for any boycott ?? It’s a place which is founded on the idea, that no one has monopoly upon the truth.

    For you , being in the left then , is being right ?? And the right oppresses the Palestinians?? trust me Kevin , many in the right wing , would prove to you , easily , that :

    The Palestinians , are oppressing the israelians , and not vice versa ?? easily so !! how would you know ?? Do you realy master the hell of the complications of that region ?? I know you Kevin, and you are far as hell from mastering the ongoing of that region (it’s not a shame of course).

    The only basis , for even starting to boycott an academy , can be only where :

    Academic freedom , in the whole sense of it , is denied clearly . Can somebody prove , that this is the case in the Israeli state ?? This is outrageous!!

    For the rest, the institution, must function in the state it does reside in. If they reside in Israel , they must have bank account in big Israeli bank for example . The fact the such bank , has firms as clients , having factories for example in the west bank , has got nothing to do with the university !! they must function !! they must exist !! they must get services from the state they reside in .

  2. “I’m fully aware that the vast majority of Israeli academics either support that oppression or at least generally remain silent about it.”

    This strikes me as a statement that vacillates between dubious and unsettling. On the one hand … “vast majority”? Really? The line on Israeli academia is that it is quite critical of the occupation (even recognizing recent presses from various political forces that want to rein it in — which, of course, would not be necessary if the academic community was already generally onboard). The Israeli Anthropological Associations overwhelming vote to condemn the occupation just this past summer is testament, and while admittedly I have not done a department-by-department survey, I doubt you have either.

    Second, “or at least generally remain silent.” This is a standard that it is impossible for me to imagine applied in any other context with the sort of critical bite it is meant to have here. To begin, it is unclear what specifically academic obligation (as opposed to a political or social obligation) a, say, theoretical physicist or geologist has to take a stand on the occupation. I can’t imagine that the “silence” of these academics is different in type or prevalence from, say, the silence of American academics on any number of unjust actions our government enacts on a daily basis. This is a brute discriminatory political litmus test; akin to what was demanded of Matisyahu — if you say nothing, you’re assumed guilty. There as here, there’s no indication this demand is anything but a ticket good for this ride only, because it goes without saying this is not an academic obligation we’re willing to impose generally.

    Third, even if we were to think only in terms of avowedly right-wing Israeli academics this would still be appalling. A few years ago you had an exchange on this blog with Eugene Kontorovich (who certainly qualifies as avowedly right-wing). I found both participants illuminating; I thought you got the better of it. But surely from an academic standpoint we can recognize both the value of such an exchange and the necessity of allowing someone like Kontorovich to present his views without sanction. Simply put, the academic freedom issues would be no different even if we were entirely dealing with avowed right-wingers, because academic freedom cannot demand that academic participants be forced to cut their opinions to fit anyone’s preferred fashion. That’s bedrock — an objection to a restriction on academic freedom that rests on a proposed restriction “also” harming academics one likes is no objection at all. I’m sure there are many right-wing (and left-wing) academics, in and out of Israel, whose opinions I would think repulsive. Academic freedom means that my opinion on the matter can’t be a basis of sanctions. This is why I firmly stated that Prof. Salaita’s “unhiring” was an academic freedom breach (even though I do find his expressed — not “silent” — views repulsive); and it applies equally here.

  3. David,

    Thanks for your comment. I think perhaps my rhetoric got the better of me — having thought about it, “vast majority” was a poor choice of words. I’ve changed it to “too many,” which is a better characterization.

  4. Oppression? Who is conducting stabbing attacks against civilians (including, BTW, a man who taught in a joint Arab-Jewish school and went to peace demonstrations who was murdered)?

    As for “occupation”, the San Remo Conference not only gave Judea and Samaria to the Jewish state but the area now known as Jordan as well (the British gave it to Abdulla I for services rendered during WW1) so really the Jordanians can be said to be the occupiers.

  5. It took almost 30 hours for someone to make a ridiculous legal argument on behalf of Israel. I’ll take that as a win.

  6. Avi,
    You can not prevail in this forum; the cards are stacked against any objectivity. Clearly, the anti-Isreal brigade and BDSers use Isreal as their only example of “oppression”. If some jew tries applying for an academic job in numerous Islamic nations you wont even be allowed in. Arent both christiand and jews banned from mecca and medina? Arent gay ppl killed? Did your child misbehave at school – a good bone breaking whopping is “kosher.” Wife fifnt make the cofee just so, well a couple of face slaps will make her remember for next time. But the BDSers dont give a hoot about that stuff. Always Isreal and ONLY Isreal. Didnt some jew sports team from Isreal win a sporting competition in the Gulf country a couple of days ago and they were not allowed to announce Isreal won. (I think judo). Didnt they ex out the Isreali flag in the swim meet at Doha last year? So lets get this straight…ppl in gaza can fire rockets into isreal at civilian targets and Israel is the “bad boy” for hitting back. And they can tell the youth to go on buses and stab jews cause “its permitted conduct.” Meanwhile, they are allowed to study in Isreali universities but if some jew tries to get into Saudi they will block him. Where is the BDS against the discrimination against the jewish folks?
    I guess that doesnt really count.
    Avi, dont even bother…

  7. On the bright side, guest’s “comment” — read: ridiculously silly rant — makes Avi’s comment look positively erudite by comparison.

  8. Why is guest’s comment a “ridiculously silly rant”? I’d say it cuts right into the merits of the BDS movement’s stance.

    Commenters are in no obligation to accept that the BDS movement’s position is legitimate in whole or in part.

    Once guest’s point is taken to its ultimate conclusion, it leads to ridiculous measures like this:

  9. There is a significant difference between an irrelevant, punctuation- and grammar-free rant like guest’s and a comment that criticises BDS. Indeed, if you read the post, it explains why I partially reject BDS — in the context of academia.

  10. I would not say that guest’s broad point that the BDS movement is selective with regards on who to boycott is irrelevant.

    But, if you want to narrowly focus on whether the BDS movement would affect individual academics, I wonder if the measures in Guideline 10 would extend to, for instance, Omar Barghouti himself – after all, he’s currently getting a PhD in Tel Aviv University isn’t he? Are they saying that he should be expected, as an Arab, to leave the country and move elsewhere if he wants to practice in Israel? What about the broader Arab population in Israel, would Israeli-Arab students or academics be subject to the same restrictions as well (in practice) or the BDS movement would have a different standard for them and only affect Israeli Jewish academics? Either way, it seems like a minefield to me.

  11. When I write on academic freedom , in the full mean or sense of it , I don’t mean only the ethnic background or origin of students , but also :

    Freedom of speech , freedom of research . Here for example , I quote from ” human rights watch ” report on china ( see link ) , here :

    ” The government censors the press, the Internet, print publications, and academic research, and justifies human rights abuses as necessary to preserve “social stability.” ” (World Report 2014: China ) .

    On the other hand , censoring researches in Israeli university , is not an issue !! in Israel , there is almost , a total freedom of speech , here ( see link )” Illegal Occupation: Framing the Occupied Palestinian Territory ” by Israeli scholars ( Tel aviv university ) published in : ” Berkeley Journal of International Law ” .

    So , how and why to boycott Israeli academy ? would they dare to think to do it to chinese universities ?? Those Israeli institutions , which ethically , must not take side , and they don’t ( but private opinions of course ) are now to be forced unethically to take side ? by a boycott ??

    Links :

    human rights watch report on China :

    Israeli scholars on the occupation :


  12. Just to correct it :

    In my comment above ( second one ) should be :

    In the full meaning of it ….and not :

    ” in the full mean ….”


  13. Kevin –

    I’d like to lend a hand in your boycott of Israel. Would you mind listing the make and models of your mobile and computer devices? Let’s make sure that they are not using Israeli-developed technology.

    Also – are you currently supporting the boycott of any other countries at this time?

    Matt M.
    Stanford Law

  14. I make it a point never to buy products from Sri Lanka, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Rwanda, and a host of other states that, like Israel, are committed to systematically depriving the innocent of their most basic rights.

  15. So when you fill the gas tank of your car, you ask whether the crude oil used to make the gas comes from Saudi Arabia and make sure that this wasn’t the case? Awesome!

    No, but really, one may as well wonder why wouldn’t be several NATO members boycotted as well. Turkey is the most obvious one (FWIW, every criticism of Israeli policy holds for Turkish policy and in some respects Turkey’s policies could be considered as being actually worse), but one might as well extend others to the list (e.g. the US). Non-NATO members such as China and Russia could also be included, I guess.

    In this regard, one would need to define clear, operational criteria on when a State is worthy of being boycotted or not.

  16. Until the Palestinian recognize in the court of International Law the right of Israel to exist as a state and renounce publicaly the program which endorses the violent destruction of every Jew(not to forget what they do to their own people)–stop whining and stop the support of an illegal movement. Arafat and Abbas never wanted peace, just a repeat of what Hitler failed to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. BDS…

  18. Another powerful intervention by Guest! I’m convinced.

  19. Lloyd,

    I’m curious about this “court of International Law.” Would that be the ICJ — the same court that concluded the wall violated international law? The same court that Israel has ignored?

  20. ” committed to systematically depriving the innocent of their most basic rights.”

    Would Ehud Barak’s joining Clinton in getting on his hands and knees and begging Arafat to accept the international community’s consensus peace plan reflective of such a commitment? What about Olmert’s doing the same in 2007. What about Netanyahu’s releasing over 1000 terrorists and freezing the construction of building in territories that the international community acknowledges will remain part of Israel?

    To say that Israel is committed to to denying the basic rights of the Palestinians is like saying a “hostage taker” is committed to keeping his hostage, despite the fact that he has unlocked all the doors in his house, opened all the windows, and swallowed a bottle of Valium rendering him physically unable to prevent escape.

    I would be interested to know what “basic rights” Israel is denying the Palestinians. Does Israel restrict the free speech of Palestinians in a way contrary to the norms and practices of Western democracies? Freedom of religion? Right to *peacefully* assemble? Freedom of the press?

    At any rate, it’s also important to note that what you would hold as “basic rights” are not so basic and in fact run counter to the general norms of the Middle East. I am not sure if it’s for privileged white men (or an international community ran by privileged white men) to impose their conception of “basic rights” on a vast society operating under widely different norms. That comes dangerously close to colonialism.

    Matt M.
    Stanford Law

  21. The recidivist BDS holds Isreal up to a global “best practices” standard which no country follows let alone is held up to. Does anyone boycott Russia over the Russian bombers hitting syrian hospitals as reported in the Guardian (hint KJH – it is a UK paper). What about China’s treatment of the Falun Gong religious followers? Russian persecution of political dissidents is legendary. Ditto China’s human rights record.
    Why arent the BDSers boycotting China and Russia?
    Saudi Arabia is a prime example of a repressive regime where govt critics, gays, and “religious infidels” are sentenced to death by stoning or beheading. A bunch of other middle eastern nations act the same way. Rights for women? Ha – slap that wife around and keep her in line. But to BDS that stuff is okay. Why is Isreal held up to a standard that no one else is? To BDS its always and only – Isreal.

  22. There are two ways to interpret Guest’s banal and time-worn “what about Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia?” objection. The first is that Guest acknowledges that Israel’s policies toward Palestinians are murderous and discriminatory, but wants to remind us that we need to care about other states that pursue similarly murderous and discriminatory policies. The second is that Guest couldn’t actually care less about Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia’s murderous and discriminatory policies, but simply wants to use the supposed failure of BDS supporters to criticise those policies to delegitimise any and all criticism of Israel on the bizarre ground that the existence of worse crimes makes Israel’s crime somehow less criminal. The first is a noble position; the second is profoundly cynical and ugly. My money is on #2 for Guest.

    But let me address people who might be tempted by #1. There are, of course, sound reasons for people who care about all systematic human-rights violations to focus on Israel instead of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. First, many BDS supporters, like me, are Jewish, so we have an obvious reason to focus primarily on Israel — especially when a nightmarish leader like Netanyahu claims to speak for all Jews, not just Israelis. Second, many BDS supporters are Palestinian, so they cannot be expected to care about murderous and discriminatory policies by states other than the one that is responsible for their oppression.

    Which leaves us with BDS supporters who are neither Jewish nor Palestinian. It is fair to ask those supporters a sincere “why Israel?” question. The answer is that different states require different kinds of political strategies for progressive change. As a small state largely economically dependent on the US and the EU, Israel is uniquely susceptible to the effects of economic BDS, making boycott a smart political strategy. By contrast, BDS could have no effect on states like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. (I don’t have any idea what products I even buy that are made in Russia and Saudi Arabia.) Promoting change in those states can only be brought about by political pressure at the international level, which is why European and American critics of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia focus their activism on governments, the UN, IGOs, etc. So the fact that they do not engage in BDS against those states tells us precisely nothing.

    As for the comment that BDS supporters are fine with Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women — that tells us far more about Guest than it does about supporters of BDS. See #2 above…

  23. ” First, many BDS supporters, like me, are Jewish, so we have an obvious reason to focus primarily on Israel — especially when a nightmarish leader like Netanyahu claims to speak for all Jews, not just Israelis.”

    So because you are the same ethnicity as the people of a foreign population, that bestows upon you some sort of paternalistic right to deliberately attempt to subvert the democratic will of these people by pressuring their duly elected leaders to make policy decisions not in line with the will of their electorate but rather yours?

    There is a unwarranted sense of entitlement on the part of diaspora Jewry that they have a right to attempt to dictate the policies of Israel. Anyway you spin it, any justification you attempt to give (such as that of shared ethnicity), it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is sheer colonialism. There is an undue meddling on the affairs of a foreign people based on dubious paternalistic goals.

    Netnayahu doesn’t speak for all Jews, but diaspora Jewry does not speak for Israel. The Israeli people speak for Israel.

    Diaspora Jewry would have us believe that Israelis are illiterate sand dwellers, barbarians incapable of rational thought and leadership. They need the enlightened guidance of privileged white men from the West.

  24. It is colonialism for me to try to influence decisions of the Israeli government? That’s the most bizarre use of the word “colonialism” I’ve ever heard. So I take it you’re against any external effort to reform the policies of Russia, China, and others? Like Israel, they’re “democracies,” too.

    Kind of curious, given your contempt for non-Israeli Jews, that you nevertheless choose to attend an American law school. As a proud graduate of the same law school, I can’t imagine Stanford’s heavily Jewish law-student population has become any more sympathetic to Israel over the past 15 years. Quite the opposite, I imagine.

  25. PS: I’m assuming you wrote this article criticising Obama’s Middle East policies. What gives you the paternalistic right to deliberately attempt to subvert the democratic will of Americans by pressuring their duly elected leaders to make policy decisions not in line with the will of their electorate but rather yours? Smacks of colonialism and undue meddling in the affairs of a foreign people based on dubious paternalistic goals to me…

  26. “Which leaves us with BDS supporters who are neither Jewish nor Palestinian. It is fair to ask those supporters a sincere “why Israel?” question. The answer is that different states require different kinds of political strategies for progressive change. As a small state largely economically dependent on the US and the EU, Israel is uniquely susceptible to the effects of economic BDS, making boycott a smart political strategy. By contrast, BDS could have no effect on states like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. (I don’t have any idea what products I even buy that are made in Russia and Saudi Arabia.) Promoting change in those states can only be brought about by political pressure at the international level, which is why European and American critics of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia focus their activism on governments, the UN, IGOs, etc. So the fact that they do not engage in BDS against those states tells us precisely nothing.”

    I find the argument that Saudi Arabia depends less than Israel on its trade to be rather odd considering that international trade and exports represent a higher percentage of Saudi Arabia’s GDP (see: and for data on the matter). Of course, much of those exports consist in basically crude oil, though even then it would be far from impossible for costumers to demand labelling on where does the oil input used on all oil-based products comes. Also, I’m not sure of the relevance of final consumer goods in the Israeli exports basket.

    Furthermore, it’s not like the BDS movement focuses narrowly on economic sanctions but it also includes a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, so why wouldn’t such measures (including Guideline 10 or not) be extended to Saudi Arabia and other countries as well if the BDS movement was impartial with regards of the crimes committed?

    Moreover, I also think that the reasoning behind this argument itself is also… Poor. After all, if Israel should get a special mention because it is vulnerable to the means proposed by BDS advocates, wouldn’t the same reasoning be used to justify the ICC’s focus on Africa? Or even better, couldn’t the same argument be provided in the realm of domestic justice? Oh I could imagine the reaction if some American judge said that African Americans get heavier sentences than Caucasian Americans because they are less powerful and that it’s a okay because “you have to start somewhere!”

    I actually find it more logical and believable to say that a Jew or an Arab have an intrinsic interest in boycotting Israel specifically over their respective ethnorreligious origins and Israeli policy, but of course this is not a compelling argument for anyone else (and it seems to me it isn’t even a compelling argument for most Jews either).

  27. KJH: “Israel’s policies toward Palestinians are murderous and discriminatory”

    Response: Tell us how Isreali policies are “murderous” … Self-defense is “murderous”? Again, a prime example of an absurd standard no one else is (or should be) held up to. Only left wing extremists or those that admire nazi ideology would hold Isreal to a standard that equates shooting someone who is stabbing.
    Pursuant to BDS any Isreali (read jew) defense equals “murder”. This just proves there is no satisfying the anti-Isreal folks. Enemy stabbing jewish people on buses and streets and then Isrealis whack ’em – if you call that “murderous” you dont know a thang about real life.

    A year or so ago, I saw on the news that when the Isrealis responded to the gaza rocket fire they dropped leaflets warning the gazans to leave their homes as they would be attacked. Sounds like they were saving their enemies’ lives.

    As to discrimination – I read that arabs can and are indeed in Isreali law schools and have become lawyers and judges. The nation you label discriminatory allows the alleged victims to become judges. Aint there arab members elected to the knesset? What discrimination are yyou talking about?

    KKJH: “First, many BDS supporters, like me, are Jewish, so we have an obvious reason to focus primarily on Israel”

    Response: —“focus primarily” — where else do you focus on?

    KJH: “As a small state largely economically dependent on the US and the EU”

    Response: Isreal is no more economically dependent than any other nation in a globalized economic environment. Isreal has huge amounts of natural gas and is essentially energy independent or close to it. Isreal manufactures a very large amount of its military systems such as Iron Dome, missile tech and tanks. Indeed, the US buys and derives much from Isreali military tech – see US Defense Secy Carter’s recent comments.

    You claim you are a jew but have you ever been to Isreal and for how long and when? Do you know the conditions and the middle east neighborhood it lives in or do you sit in London making judgment about your brothers’ who valiantly defend themselves?
    God Bless Isreal

  28. I am a US citizen, voter, taxpayer etc.. etc..

    I have no problem with the Israeli people criticizing their government and trying to influence its political direction. Likewise (and
    obviously) I wouldn’t have a problem with an American (me), criticizing his government.

    I do have a problem with non-Israeli Jews completely disregarding the political will of a foreign people based on the justification of (1) belonging to the same race and (2) the foreigners being too stupid to know the best direction for their country.

  29. Yes, Kevin it the same court with its dual standards and political correctness that allows Palestinians to kill Israeli women and children but condemns Israel government for excessive force in repulsing these attacks.

  30. Yeah, it’s not like Israelis burn babies to death or anything. Oh, wait:

    Guess that must have been self-defense.

  31. Kevin – why is it interesting to you that there have been some Israeli actions that are the type that Israeli supporters condemn on the part of the Palestinians? I’m not seeing any deny that these things happen. Instead, they are pointing to broader trends.

    Also – I remain curious to know on what grounds you believe Israel is hellbent on depriving the Palestinians of their “basic rights” given the fact that on multiple occasions, Israeli leaders have done everything or near everything the international community has asked of them and the Palestinians have said no. The best example is Barak accepting the Clinton Deal in 2000. Then we have the Olmert offer in 2007. Then we have Netanyahu releasing countless terrorists and freezing building in neighborhoods that the international community agrees will be part of Israel.

    And of course we can also talk about the unilateral withdraw from Gaza.

    If Israel unilateral withdrew from the bulk of the West Bank, would that be sufficient for you?

    I am just curious what more must Israel do to satisfy you. I’d say that the 2000 and 2007 offers demonstrate a clear desire to be done with this issue. The unilateral withdraw from Gaza also demonstrates this.

  32. I was simply responding to Lloyd’s ridiculously tendentious description. Of course all serious people, progressives and conservatives, acknowledge violence on both sides.

  33. Kevin,

    The idea that BDS is likely to have any positive impact on the prospects for peace is ludicrous.

    At the end of the day, you have yet to fully acknowledge and deal with the fact that large majorities of Israelis both support a 2 state solution AND oppose concessions to the Palestinians right now. That would seem to indicate cognitive dissonance, but it doesn’t: it indicates the Israeli consensus that concessions to the Palestinians are simply not likely to lead to peace.

    So long as Israelis view withdrawal or concessions as suicidal, no external pressure is going to lead them to make those concessions or withdrawals; you can’t pressure Israel into suicide. To get Israelis to make concessions, you need to convince them that the concessions will lead to peace.

    Adopting the BDS tactics of a movement led by people who expressly call for the destruction of Israel isn’t going to help reach that goal. Failing to call out the Palestinians for their conduct and antisemitism isn’t going to help reach that goal.

    If you want peace, pressure the Palestinians.

  34. Akiva – I think you are missing the point. Kevin says he supports the non-academic portions of BDS. As you know from your comment above when you look at the details of what BDS is, it rejects a two state solution, at least where one of those is a Jewish state. That is also probably why Kevin is not responding to Matt’s question about earlier Israeli peace offers. It is simply irrelevant to him. Perhaps I’m misreading Kevin’s position on what a fair resolution of this conflict might be but in the absence of a clear statement by him I’m relying on the general thrust of BDS which opposes the occupation dating from 1947, not 1967.

  35. Israel has not seriously attempted to negotiate peace in years. Netanyahu is not interested in a two-state solution, as he has openly admitted. Israel only talks about “negotiations” as a way of buying time to expand the settlements, making a genuine two-state solution even less possible.

    If you want peace, pressure Israel.

  36. And I realise that those who oppose BDS are simply trying to delegitimise any and all criticism of Israel, not trying to engage in any kind of good-faith dialogue, but the idea that “the general thrust” of BDS is to seek return to 1947 and that BDS is led by “people who expressly call for the destruction of Israel” is so unbelievably ridiculous that there is no point in responding.

  37. Let’s say that Israel and the PA negotiate in good faith and reach an agreement. Then what? Would Hamas suddenly put its arms down and say it will respect the agreement? I somehow doubt so.

    The most likely action would be to do its best to derail any negotiations by using violence if necessary, just as it did in the ’90s. And just like then, the PA would not really be in a position to stop them.

    So, what’s the point of talking at this stage? Israel can and should stop building settlements, but that alone won’t really solve the issue. Unless and when Hamas and maybe the Islamic Jihad actually agree to talk to Israel, or be part of an unity government that does so, there will not be any serious prospects of peace. If anything, there are plenty of ways to solve the settlement issue that don’t negate a two-state solution and that are perfectly viable now and in the foreseeable future (territorial swaps, compensated voluntary resettlement of settlers who take such offer and either the removal of the remaining settlers or allowing them to live as a Jewish Palestinian minority just like Israel has its own Arab minority).

    As for the goals of the BDS movement, what’s its interpretation of paragraph 11 of UNGA resolution 194? Why pick that particular resolution on the refugee issue and not others such as UNGA resolution 394 for example? And why shouldn’t one take the statements on the two-state solution by people like Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the movement, seriously?

  38. Speaking of dialogue between academics, there have been different, violent raids of the IDF in West Bank University Campuses in the last weeks (Birzeit and Al-Quds university buildings were heavily damaged, 40 persons were injured as a result of gas suffocation and dozens were hit with rubber coated bullets). Well, I don’t find ONE message of criticism or dissent or support to students, faculty and staff systematically attacked and raided (and permanently sieged) from any Israeli academic.
    Would be interesting to understand, from the perspective of anti-BDS critics , why on earth these students and scholars do not deserve the same solidarity that would be proclaimed if those episodes were against any other academic institution in the world.

  39. Certainly one can profess solidarity towards innocent Palestinians affected by the actions of Israeli forces, though I don’t see how it logically follows that Israeli academics should be boycotted as a result.

    No Palestinian academic institutions were called to be boycotted as a result of, for example, the Hebrew University suicide bombing in 2002 (which was far, far worse than injuries as a result of rubber bullets and tear gas), even though I don’t recall any condemnations by Palestinian academics either.

  40. Luigi, you are upset about “violent raids”? What is the other side’s viewpoint? Are the terrorists using these academic institutions as human shields as they often do. See the storing of weapons and rockets in Gazan schools, hospitals and homes. Are they hiding in the academic institutions? You leave out the other side…how convenient.
    Do you watch the news? Do you see the video of the Arab terrorists stabbing people and running over people in cars? Do you care? These “nice students” are probably involved in harboring and supporting knife attackers and shooters of civilians on busses and streets. As a devout BDSer that doesnt bother you but like BDSers in general you are bothered when the Isrealis respond and kill the people shooting and stabbing them.
    Go look at the news of the Russians bombing Syrian hospitals – that is okay because they are not Israel, right?
    Typical BDSer.

  41. Guest criticising someone for leaving out the other side is truly priceless. Talk about projection!

  42. Kevin – I see in your response to my comment that you once again have neatly avoided stating what you think is a fair solution. As to BDS there is plenty out there demonstrating its goals as I am sure you know.

    As to your accusation that I am “simply trying to delegitimise any and all criticism of Israel, not trying to engage in any kind of good-faith dialogue”; I am not a fan of Netanyahu and think the settlements on the West Bank were a mistake. Israeli governments have made plenty of other errors and used to think those were material to the conflict but the lesson for those of us with high hopes after the Oslo Accord is that we now know the actions of the Israelis are irrelevant. It is clear the Palestinians will never accept a definite settlement that involves recognition of a Jewish state.

  43. The reason that supporters of Israel are opposed to the BDS movement is simply that its work is targeted at Israel, solely. It’s creation was not prompted by the ethical and moral angst of men and women around the world troubled by the immoral treatment of subjugated and occupied peoples. If that was the case, the BDS movement would be targeting academics from a slew of other countries. Yet, the BDS movement, as a movement, limits its focus to Israel.

    This narrowed focus on Israel alone perpetuates the belief among existing supporters of Israel, that the parties involved in the BDS movement are motivated by anti-Israel and anti-semitic sentiment first and pro-oppressed people a very distant second.

  44. Shorter Adam: if you don’t boycott states I think are more deserving of being boycotted than Israel, you’re an anti-Semite.

  45. To KJH: the point is you folks only and exclusively focus on Isreal leading to the conclusion that bds capriously and arbitrarily picked Isreal to target. Quite discriminatory.

  46. “you folks only and exclusively focus on Isreal” [sic]

    One of the great ironies of this “discussion” is that the people who make claims like the one above appear to be interested only in protecting Israel from criticism, not widening the reach of criticism to include similarly oppressive practices by other states, whereas the supporters of BDS are precisely the kind of people who criticise oppression everywhere and focus (as I explained above) on economic pressure in Israel because it is an unusually productive political strategy there.

  47. And yet some of the other countries mentioned ITT (such as Saudi Arabia) are just as vulnerable to the same kind of economic pressure as Israel is, based on the importance of international trade for their economies. I would also question the movement’s effectiveness in changing Israeli policy – if anything, it seems to me that the Israeli position has actually hardened ever since the movement began.

    I am also curious as to whether the BDS movement has similar guidelines in its relations with other states. To me, at least, it seems to be focused on Israel specifically.

    At last, talk is cheap and would love to see BDS supporters to campaign for a boycott, divestment and sanctions of other States such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, China or (why not) the UK or the US with the same intensity and publicity they have done so with regards to Israel. It’d be great for comedic value.

  48. @Guest my point is: if you justify those raids and their violence on the basis of you personal presumption/suspect that some terrorist (probably ‘stone throwers’ too fulfill your personal definition of terrorism) was hiding into Uni buildings (because “they often do so”)… why you write comments on IL blogs? You can open your own blog, an “International Law-free zone” in which you can freely develop your arguments about force and violence without the bother of considering their legal restraints.
    PS: if “typical BDSer”means someone who asks to boycott state powers and companies considering law as you do, well I thank you sincerely for this ‘label’.

  49. “Israel has not seriously attempted to negotiate peace in years…”

    So I guess Netanyahu just woke up one day and said “you know what would be a really groovy idea? Releasing hundreds upon hundreds of those who have deliberately killed our civilians. And as an added bonus, let’s randomly prohibit our citizens in some areas from building kindergartens in their neighborhoods.”

    “If you want peace, pressure Israel.”

    Because it was Israel who has repeatedly refused peace plans in accordance with the international community’s guidelines?

  50. @Luigi:

    Well, I would actually question your own understanding of IHL in your criticism of Israeli raids on Palestinian universities based on “suspicions”. After all, isn’t fog of war inherent to warfare and much behind the legality of the actions by belligerents depends on what they knew or thought they knew to assess the military necessity of an attack, their intent in doing so and a proportionality calculation on whether the direct advantage of the said attack is balanced by the harm on civilians affected by it?

    If the Israelis had intelligence suggesting that a terrorist was inside the premises of an university and thus decided to raid it using non-lethal means (unless, I assume, they found someone carrying arms inside the campus), how would it be an illegal act? All in all, the attack would seem to be justified by military necessity, the initial use of non-lethal measures seems to show an intent to avoid civilian casualties and the tactical advantage of capturing a terrorist seems to outweigh the expected damage to students and faculty as well.

    Furthermore, as an occupying power it seems like they have the authority (if not the right) to raid the university if there is a terrorist hiding within it. In fact, even if they were only chasing stone throwers into the university’s premises, it also seems to me that Israel has a right to raid the university as essentially a heavy-handed police action which can be perfectly criticized but I’m not sure if the said criticism is a matter that has anything to do with IHL provisions – and, if it is also outside the norm on how States operate in a similar situation that takes place within their territory.

  51. Anon, if the violences of these months are operations of law enforcement, then at least Israel has violated the right to life and to a fair trial of all the ‘stabbers’ and ‘suspected stabbers’ summarily executed when they were not, or no more, posing any imminent threat.
    If, instead, it’s warfare, seems to me that Israel in those attacks in the campuses has used riot-control agents as a method of warfare against protected persons within civilian premises, in blatant breach of customary IHL norms.
    However, I am not a fan of the confusion between legality and morality, therefore for me it’s sufficient to mention those raids. Their pertinence to this discussion, their meaning and moral implications, are beyond their (NON)compliance with IHL.

  52. Luigi, I would not really claim so quickly that the stabbers were summarily executed, as the said stabbers were wounded in some instances and it is also not rare for stabbers to get shot and killed by the police in other countries (e.g. the US). I am not sure that there is a policy in that regard, despite all the debate within Israel on changing the rules of engagement to deal with rioters (changes that were rejected by Israel’s Attorney General IIRC).

    I would also say that, if you assume the Israelis raided Palestinian universities because they were in fact searching for a terrorist who broke inside, it is hard to say the Israelis were targeting the students and faculty there. I would not say that it is unreasonable to use riot control measures in that case – particularly since the IDF is not precisely welcome in those premises.

    All in all, I’d say that the law enforcement scenario would seem to be more apt in this particular context (i.e. dealing with stone-throwers and stabbers who are not, in the vast majority of cases, affiliated with any armed groups).

    And yes, I also agree one should not confuse IHL with morality. In this case, though, I don’t see the immorality of chasing stone-throwers into a campus using riot control gear if the security forces are met with resistance there (though if they used lethal means, it’d most certainly be immoral). I also don’t think it is particularly wise to just let them go unabated.

    As such, and as it usually happens, much of the moral and legal analyses depend on the facts of the situation, and of course those are also not clear – even more so in a heavily politicized conflict like the Israeli-Arab one.

  53. You like to tag people with pithy criticisms. I am not hypocrite merely because you think I am. I don’t lack a valid point simply because you’re witty enough to reframe what I’ve said.

    You have a valid point. I am a supporter of Israel and I think the BDS movement is wrong. I have no interest in a boycott of other countries that are enemies of Israel.

    You state “whereas the supporters of BDS are precisely the kind of people who criticise oppression everywhere and focus (as I explained above) on economic pressure in Israel because it is an unusually productive political strategy there.” That is itself a subjective judgment that you use to simplistically attack Israel supporters. The fact that BDS supporters are “the kind of people who criticise oppression everywhere” and merely focus on Israel “because it is an unusually productive political strategy” is substantiated by evidence of these people’s boycott and disinvestment from these other countries? The fact the BDS movement only focuses on Israel proves this point?

    If people involved in BDS had an actual interest in supporting opppressed people wouldn’t there be more than just you? Or are they the silent majority?

  54. @Luigi if you are upset that the terrorists stabbing Isreali civilians are “summarily executed” you have squarely placed yourself – and given further proof – of the anti-jew tint to BDS. Really, you expect the jewish people to not shoot and kill assailants in the act of murder and to prevent imminent injury to others? The terrorists who survive when the Isreali cops shoot them are treated in Isreali hospitals.
    Funny, how the Russian bombing of syrian hospitals is hailed as “heroic” and “far-reaching” because ISIS forces lodge there but these accolades are “forbidden” to be associated with an arrest by Isreali forces inside a school or hospital. According to BDS jewish actions of self-defense are “immoral”, “illegal” “outrageous”. The russian air campaign where civilians by necessity are killed and injured is of course to the BDSers “heroic” – and never ever criticized let alone done so meaningfully.

    @Luigi II – as to your complaining about the hospital raids – it is fact that the hamas organization utilizes schools, hospitals and pvt homes to store arms, missiles and rockets and when the Irelia hit them they show pics of “Isreali aggression against schools”. What a PR stunt and people like you eat it up or worse you dont like Isrealis or jews so you use it to sterilize your hate as to most BDSers.

    @KJH: with regard to expanding the horizons of BDS – well, can you point to any other instance of BDS doing so …again, BDS is focused only on Isreal – when in truth there are many worthy BDS targets all of whom are conveniently ignored. Why?

  55. @Guest I repeat: I think that shooting to kill an offender that is NOT posing an imminent threat, that can be unarmed and arrested, or that has deposed his weapon, it’s a crime, whether committed by US, UK, France, Russia, Italy or Israel security forces. In my view, many episodes of this kind, too many, have taken place in the West Bank in these months.
    However, I urge you not to be despicable mobilizing anti-jew claims for at least two reasons. First and most importnantly, don’t disrespect the tragic implications of anti-semitism in our history exploiting it as a cheap dispositive to label interlocutors whose arguments you don’t like. Secondly, coming from an antifascist family with jew origins, [I am deleting this part of the comment because it is not acceptable for this blog — KJH].
    That’s all. Take care

  56. [I am deleting this comment because it is nothing more than invective — KJH.]

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