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    I wrote to David Hirsh back in April of 2005. I said as follows:


    Professor Hirsh,

    Why would you assert support for the two state solution as the
    organizing context for your opposition to the antisemitic plan to
    boycott Israel?
    While I do not necessarily oppose a two state settlement - subject, of
    course, to such a plan actually bringing an end to the dispute and
    reconciliation between those involved -, I cannot imagine your idea as
    the context for a dialogue or an opposition to an inherently
    Antisemitic proposal.

    Instead, the context of your proposal ought to be opposition to
    racism and antisemitism - plain and simple -, which treats Jews - as
    the proposed boycott does - by different standards than others.

    In effect, what you have done is say that the boycotters are half
    correct when, in truth, they are entirely in the wrong. And they are,
    in fact, entirely in the wrong.

    Very truly yours,

    N. [deleted]

    Hirsh responded and I replied:


    Dear Professor Hirsh,

    What, sir, does anti-Arab racism have to do with Israel's conquest
    of the West Bank and Gaza? Nothing. You are intellectually confused.
    The issue is not racism. The issue is how to share a small strip of
    land without people killing each other.



    The insinuation of anti-racism into a territorial dispute is, to my
    American ears, rather bizarre. But after considering Alain
    Finkielkraut's comment from Haaretz, I well understand how anti-racism
    has truly become the enemy of the good.

    In any event, I cannot imagine how one hopes to build a coalition
    against Antisemites while conceding their views. And, frankly, what
    Hirsh concedes is all nonsensical and ahistorical.

    As I later told Hirsh:


    The first step in defending an interest under attack is to adopt an
    unequivocal position that is limited to the issue at hand. Any good
    lawyer or public relations adviser will tell you that. Then, as we say
    in America, hammer away at your position and only that position,
    staying relentlessly on message.

    Your counter-petition did exactly the opposite of what you intended
    it to do. You thought that by adopting an even-handed position (i.e.
    the boycott petition is bad but occupation is also bad) you might
    somehow peel away some of those who support the boycott. Instead, you
    suggested that the boycotters have a point. That, frankly, had to have
    divided your supporters, not those who support boycotts. Which is to
    say: opposing a bigoted boycott petition is the wrong time and place to
    take a position on Israel's control of the territories - whether such
    control is good or evil -. If you had wanted to peel away undecided
    people, you should have adopted a narrow position regarding which
    differences of opinion about Israel's control of the territories play
    no part.

    At this point, you now need to remind people, over and over and
    over again, what Ms. Blackwell's real goal is. As she stated, Israel
    is an illegitimate country. Which is to say, "occupation" has nothing
    to do with what she and her partners are advocating. A principled
    response that is directed to a narrow issue - rather than sounding
    even-handed - will help you to peel away support for the boycott. And,
    note, you can hold any view you want about the territories and, in a
    different setting under different circumstances, urge the position that
    Israel to cede land, if that is your view. But, when opposing bigots,
    you must fight fire with fire, not with appeasing equivocation.

    To put matters simply, your "engage" website
    ( is a very, very serious mistake that will
    seriously erode support for your admirable goal of stopping a bigoted
    boycott. Very, very foolish. A folly!

    Frankly, fire is not
    fought with appeasement.

    David Hirsh

    I don't think that being for two states, opposing the occupation and opposing both anti-Jewish and anti-Arab racism is an incoherent position.

    Neal quotes the following that he wrote to me in April:

    To put matters simply, your "engage" website is a very, very serious mistake that will seriously erode support for your admirable goal of stopping a bigoted boycott. Very, very foolish. A folly!

    I don't know what will happen in 2007. But so far, the campaign against the boycott in the AUT seems to be going OK, even though nobody followed Neal's advice.


    David: I had some e-mail exchanges with the NAFTHE people and I can't say that they were particularly positive. Indeed, I can't say that they were particularly personal.

    Obviously, I cannot say that all my exchanges with AUT were positive either--but there at least I did not get what "felt like" some sort of "party line".

    That (IMO) is one of the things that happens when a union gets too big--the party line, the (seemingly) important politics replace the very real concerns of the union members.

    In fact, I recently resigned from a union because they were spending my dues advocating for policies in Washington they never told me about; they brought a court case against CA they never told union members about; and (in fact) engaged in all sorts of activities and taken all sorts of stances about which they never bothered to inform union members.

    When I phoned the HQ to ask why this was the case, they told me that it's "too expensive" to tell union members about all this. So when I asked what percentage of my union dues were going toward "bread-and-butter" issues (which do in fact concern me) the figure they gave was so astounding that I resigned on the spot.




    Professor Hirsh,

    Anti-Arab racism has exactly nothing to do with what is occurring in the dispute between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. There may be Jews who are racist but racism has nothing to do with the policy in place by any large number of Jews or by the Israeli government.

    Moreover, the occupation, as you call it, has nothing to do with what your opponents are up to. What they are up to is rendering Israel into a pariah state - and not because it has done wrong but because of its very existence -. Such is done by de-legitimizing Israel.

    You, with your approach, help with the program to delegitimize Israel. Their project is not an easily defeatable campaign that you have deflated like a popped tire.

    And, along the way, the likely losers in the affair will be Jews in Europe, including Britain, who will be asked to sign onto the Anti-Zionist war as a condition for employment. You will recall I also told you that in a subsequent email letter.

    Which is to say, your approach not only helps those who mean Israel harm but also helps those who want to harm Jews more generally.

    I suggest you give more thought to what is occurring as defeating one boycott vote will not de-rail the Jew haters anymore than a set back de-railed Arabs after the 1967 war. One need only consider the subsequent war of attrition and Yom Kippur war and the current Jihadi war in which Jew haters world wide have given support. And such has nothing to do with whether Israel controls an extra bit of territory. Nothing at all.


    Neal: I don't think Engage's approach is counter-productive. I do think that Engage's approach is perhaps the most effective way (to date) of involving the Left in this debate.

    The Left is currently split between those who (as you point out) are delegimitizing Israel and many other countries and causes (and in the process embracing all sorts of tyrants and generally unpleasant peole), those who stand back and do nothing about this (because after all we need "unity" to defeat ____; and those who are saying that hate is not the best way of defeating much of anything.

    A group such as Engage can (and has) energized the Left that has stod by and done nothing and the Left that has been combatting the racist-in-the-name-of-justice Left. Ad, if you care about how news about any number of topics, including Israel are portrayed, that is quite important.

    You may be able to find a person of the Right here and there in the media, I grant you that. But (unless you watch and "read" Fox and Fox only) you are watching and reading predominantlt the Left side of the argument.





    I understand that the AUT boycott proposal was defeated. And I understand that Professor Hirsh's organization did much to defeat the proposal. However, they defeated the proposal in a manner which assists, long term, in the very same campaign they thought they were opposing.

    Here is my understanding. Britain's educated class traversed, from the period beginning in the 1960's and up to now, from being rather supportive of Israel to being a main source of both Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism. Such was the result of a tireless campaign, well supported by moneyed interests, to de-legitimize Israel and not limited to the territories.

    In the US, the same campaign has been waged. The results of the delegitimization campaign, however, have not been quite the same as the disaster that has befallen Israel's cause in Britain and Europe.

    While there is some hostility toward Israel on the US campus, it has not leaked very far into society and, moreover, it has not been the only voice on campus or in society. Instead of conceding ground to enemies of Israel, Israel's friends in the US have waged a principled campaign of education. That campaign has not conceded anything about the territories (or any other issue) as the territories are, in fact, irrelevant to Israel's enemies. The campaign has instead focused on the fact that Israel's enemies do not consider Israel legitimate and the fact that the Palestinian cause employs illegitimate tactics to the point of making the campaign entirely illegimate - as in an unjust war -. And it has reminded people that Israel obtained the territories in a defensive war.

    Despite what is said in Europe, the press in the US is quite good and covers the dispute in Israel in a manner applicable to a dispute in a foreign country. So that is not the difference which makes the difference in result. I might dare to say that the press in the US has, in fact, done a far better job than in Europe and Britain. One need only consider that the coverage of the Jenin "massacre" is rather a good demonstration of the fact that coverage in Europe and Britain is actually rather poor. In the US, no major paper even hinted that there had been a massacre. Instead, it was reported that an accusation had been made but that such accusation lacked corroboration - which was the truth -. And the poor coverage in Britain and Europe exists despite the fact that the coverage in your part of the world - at least when I have been there - is provided as if it were local news.

    In any event, the issue is to build a counter-campaign to fight the enemies of Israel on a principled ground, not by arguing that Israel is bad but not as bad as its enemies claim. That is a loser over the long term. As I said, if one opposes Israel building on the captured territories, one can do so. But that is separate business from defending a country from a scurrilous defamation campaign.

    Julie Morel

    Is typepad playing up? Judy, every time I look at this post, large chunks of the comments - which were there previously! - are missing, is this normal??

    Jonty Goodson

    I've just left the AUT because the whole anti-Israel boycott thing has left a lasting bad taste in my mouth, especially since no-one at AUT HQ ever apologised for (1) getting the union into such a mess in general and (2) adopting a policy that was effectively antisemitic in particular.

    Indeed, even the overturning of the boycott at Special Council (to which I contributed as a local rep) showed merely that AUT members loved academic freedom a bit more than they hated Israel.

    And because I didn't share the naive optimism of Engage (which thinks the merger will make future anti-Israel action less rather than more likely, even though NATFE is even more anti-Israel than AUT), I voted against the merger just before I left!


    Julie-- sections of a post were edited to remove information from a private email which the sender wanted kept private (as is their right)

    Jonty-- I also voted at the AUT Council. In my view there was a majority of people there who did not hate Israel.

    I also feel the merger will make anti-Israel action virtually certain, because of the track record, greater numbers and radical politicization of NATFHE activists.

    However, the merger will not be established till 2007, and it is in my view best to stay to ensure that any policies which have more to do with gesture/radical politics than members' interests are highlighted and opposed. This is by no means confined to policies around Israel.

    There are potentially very damaging proposals in a range of areas which are likely to be developed as the merger draws nearer, such as the proposals for flat funding for all further and higher education.

    This would have the effect of devastating the best research universities.



    How does resigning help? Pulling out of an organization allows you no influence over it.

    Jonty Goodson

    It's always difficult to work out how bad things have to get before one leaves an organization (trades union, political party, religious denomination etc) as opposed to fighting from within it.

    But I now just feel so negative about the AUT - and even more negative about the AUT/NATFHE merger - that I don't feel I've got anything positive to offer by continuing my membership.

    I disagree with Judy above, for it seemed to me at the Special Council that the boycott was overturned merely because most folk loved academic freedom a little more than they hated Israel. The reason I say that is that, among all the applause for speeches expressing legitimate support for ordinary Palestinians, there was virtually no expression of sympathy for what ordinary Israelis have gone through since 2000.

    And now that one of the prime instigators of the boycott fiasco - someone who actally believes that the only Jewish state in the world should, alone of all states in the world, be dismantled! - has ended up on the special commission, I'm confirmed in my impression that western liberal-left intellectuals have totally lost the plot on Israel and Jews in the modern world.



    There are always people professionally connected with a position, whether by conviction or by source of funding. Most other people, when forced into an unconfortable position in public, support positions that do not raise eyebrows as that is bad for careers.

    My bet is that most of the silence regarding Israel has more often to do with avoiding contraversy than conviction. Which is to say, what is needed is an education campaign.

    The Israeli cause is not that difficult to explain. A story:

    In May of 2004, I visited Europe in order to take a cruise (out of Dover) of Baltic capitals. There were many people from England on the cruise. My wife and I befriended an English couple. The man was a physicist.

    We had a discussion regarding nuclear power, as such was the man's specialty. I mentioned that the spread of weapons is much in the news, especially regarding the Middle East. He, out of nowhere, noted that Israel has nuclear weapons. I said that were she to give them up, she would likely be destroyed. He replied (and I recall his exact words because no one had ever before said anything quite like that to me): "Why do they [meaning Israelis] need to be there [meaning in the Middle East] anyway?"

    I do not let such things go. Being an American - crass, stupid and all that -, I said rather calmly that the right of oppressed people to migrate where they can find refuge is a basic human right and the right to engage in politics where one lives or migrates to is also a basic human right. I said that Jews did exactly that in the land we now called Israel. I said that they were attacked by local Arabs and, rather than be run out of the area, Jews stood their ground which is how Israel came to be.

    The physicist accepted my explanation, told me he had no idea how Jews ended up in what is now Israel and told me that my explanation made sense to him.

    Which is to say: Israel's cause is not lost among educated people. It is only lost if people concede that Israel is in the wrong and fail to educate people.


    I just got my oil in the mail today. I ordered it on June 3rd and reveiced it today, the 7th. Great packaging too, the tip applicator bottle will make using it easy. The scent really doesn't bother me at all. It's not foul or strong. I've heard that some of these products can really smell bad. I'll post results later.

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