Hundreds of academics call for boycott of genocide conference in Israel

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In a letter to the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS), 270 academics from 19 countries have called for the cancellation of the 5th Global Conference on Genocide taking place on 26-29 June at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The letter sent to the organizers of the conference on the 3rd of May points at the hypocrisy of having the conference in Israel at a time when Israel’s actions are “increasingly being viewed through lenses of ethnic cleansing and genocide linked to settler colonialism”. The signatories call on scholars and professionals to boycott the conference should it go ahead.

John Dugard, former UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT and a signatory to the letter, commented: “There are serious allegations that Israel committed crimes against humanity in its 2014 assault on Gaza. In these circumstances it is highly inappropriate to hold a conference on genocide in Israel.”

Citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, the letter expresses shock “that INoGS plans to hold its 2016 Global Conference at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University that is partially built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem”. The INoGS conference website bills Jerusalem as part of Israel, defying international consensus on the issue and ignoring Israel’s ongoing and systematic campaign of displacement of Palestinians from the city.

According to Professor John Docker, who has written extensively in the fields of genocide and massacre studies, “Genocide studies is now, it seems clear, actively seeking opportunities to be complicit in Israel’s flouting of international law, not least the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

INoGS did not respond to the joint letter and it had ignored an earlier appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

Dr. Haidar Eid, a member of PACBI, said: “I am an academic living in besieged Gaza. I have witnessed three massacres committed by Israel, I almost lost my own life and saw my comrades, colleagues, relatives, and students perish in them.  I have read with agony the names of 44 of our students and colleagues who lost their lives and 66 families wiped out by Israeli weapons. INoGS is lending its name to the perpetrators of these crimes in a move that is not unlike holding a conference on racism in apartheid South Africa.”

The conference is sponsored by five Israeli academic institutions, including the Hebrew University, which have been deeply complicit in Israel’s decades-long oppression of Palestinians. Thousands of academics in the UK, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, US and Brazil have signed national pledges to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The pledges are part of a growing movement to hold Israeli universities accountable to their role in systematic Israeli state violence against the Palestinian people.

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David Lloyd Lecture: Conditions for Palestinian Scholars in Israel and the West Bank – A Report-Back

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Academics for Palestine in association with the Irish School of Ecumenics, TCD

Invite you to a lecture by

 Professor David Lloyd

(University of California Riverside)

Conditions for Palestinian Scholars in Israel and the West Bank – A Report-Back

Tuesday 28 June 2016, 7-9 pm
Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin

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David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English at UC Riverside, is one of the most influential and innovative Irish literary and cultural critics today.  His discipline-shaping books include Anomalous States: Irish Writing and the Postcolonial Moment (1993), Culture and the State (1997), and Irish Culture and Colonial Modernity: The Transformation of Oral Space (2011).

David Lloyd’s is one of the most powerful US voices on the question of Palestine and the value of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.  In 2009 he was a founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott, and campaigned within the Modern Language Association for passing a motion endorsing the 2005 call for boycott by Palestinian civil society organisations which started the boycott movement. He has spoken in the US and Palestine in support of the boycott and his numerous articles on Palestine and Israel include “Settler Colonialism and the State of Exception: The Example of Israel/Palestine”, “It Is Our Belief That Palestine is a Feminist Issue…”  ; and, with Malini Johar Schueller, an essay on the rationale for the academic boycott of Israel in the  Journal of Academic Freedom.

‘Criticising Israel is not the same as being anti-Jewish’ – Op-ed by AFP members in the Irish Times

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Academics for Palestine members Ronit Lentin and David Landy wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Irish Times on Monday 2nd May.

Criticising Israel is not the same as being anti-Jewish

Opposition to Israel must not be confused with the evil hatred of Jewish people

The recent calls to expel former London mayor Ken Livingstone from the British Labour Party have created a worrying alliance between those who use accusations of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel and those who use them to attack supporters of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The calls for his expulsion came after Livingstone said in a BBC interview that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. The claim itself was clumsy but based on historical fact – Hitler originally sought to expel rather than exterminate European Jews. As part of this, he negotiated the Haavara Agreement with Zionist organisations which allowed some Jews to escape to Palestine with some of their property in return for Zionist opposition to the global boycott of German goods. This was hardly “support for Zionism”, but Livingstone’s critics went further with fellow Labour MPs accusing him of anti-Semitism.

In response, Livingstone cautioned against “confusing criticism of the Israeli government policy with anti-Semitism”, and defended Corbyn, who had been accused of not taking firm enough action against anti-Semitism in the party, which, he said, was part of a smear campaign against the party leader.

Europeans need to face their history of anti-Semitism that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust. Ireland has its own part in that history, the Irish government only admitted 60 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1946. Anti-Semitic sentiments continue – this was clear during the attack on the Hyper Casher supermarket in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo murders.

Israel vs Jews

However, supporters of Israel have sought to widen the definition of anti-Semitism to include those who call themselves anti-Zionist and most recently, those who support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In this, they use an obsolete formulation from the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) which includes as a possible sign of anti-Semitism: “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg, by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour”. The EUMC has since abandoned this wording as it was being used to launch attacks on critics of Israel, rather than to tackle real anti-Semitism.

Such efforts to equate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism follow the state of Israel in conflating Jews with Zionists, even though not all Jews are Zionists or Israel supporters. Growing numbers of Jewish people in and outside Israel – international groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, as well as Israeli groups such as Boycott from Within – oppose Israeli policies, do not define themselves as Zionists and support the BDS movement. The growing accusations of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel are aimed primarily at discrediting the successful BDS movement.

Israel has announced a $26 million investment in an anti-BDS campaign. Accusing its non-Jewish critics of anti-Semitism and its Jewish critics of being “self-hating Jews” is a central element of this campaign.

Accusations as weapons

Returning to the Labour Party, the Jewish Socialist Group has attacked the “weaponising” of accusations of anti-Semitism by forces intent on undermining the leadership of Corbyn. Likewise the group Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods worries that “the pro-Zionist lobby – Jewish and non-Jewish – deliberately and maliciously seeks to associate Jew-hatred with criticism of Israel in the public mind”, despite the insistence by Corbyn’s team that “anti-Semitism is a vile prejudice that is not permitted in the Labour Party” and its pledge to expel anyone found guilty of it.

The expulsions have taken on the character of a witch hunt. For instance, Jewish activist Tony Greenstein who has long campaigned against anti-Semitism in Palestine solidarity circles, has been accused of anti-Semitism and suspended from the Labour Party. The collection of scalps has emboldened supporters of Israel with the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre seeking to whip up animosity and tweeting followers to “save your pitch fork for Corbyn”.

Such cynical political acts cheapen the grave charge of anti-Semitism. In this atmosphere where such allegations are used to silence political opponents, it is tempting to reject any and all accusations of anti-Semitism. This too must be guarded against – anti-Semitism needs to be tackled wherever it exists. In this battle, there is an urgent need to resist conflating opposition to Israel with anti-Jewish racism.

David Landy is an assistant professor of sociology and Ronit Lentin is a retired associate professor of sociology at Trinity College Dublin