Monday, October 08, 2007
Libel, blood and clot. posted by Richard SeymourI'll be back with protest pics and footage in a moment (we defeated the ridiculous ban). However, I thought this was worth vomiting over. The issue is this: recent moves to debate the possibility of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in the UCU were shut down when Sally Hunt apparently received legal advice that any such discussion would be against the law. Because of this decision, the usual crowd of warmongers have been crowing about a great victory. They won a victory, that is, against a democratic vote in the UCU, which they had been hysterically misrepresenting for months. This isn't the end of the world. However, I think we have to notice when the tactics of the American far right are imported into the UK by people who consider themselves liberals. In the United States, of course, websites are maintained by the likes of David Horowitz that encourage students to rat on teachers who are insufficiently supportive of the official pro-Israel position. In the UK, we have already had the disgraceful hounding of Nasser Amin, who had his name dragged through the mud in parliament in the media. In light of the debate over a potential UCU boycott of Israeli institutions, a "UCU whistleblower" who isn't in fact a member of the union, (ie, it's some Zionist activist who happens to converse with the scum at HP Sauce), sent David Toube, or 'David T' as he prefers to be known, a list of bad things said by naughty academics.
The article is prefaced by a wierd homily in which Toube makes a comparison between those who favour a boycott of Israel to the Nazis, and states that his informant's information shows that "criticism of Israel crossed red lines," "the tone and content of debate became unacceptable" and constituted "a menacing tide of assumptions" and "threatening behaviour". The statements cited as part of this apparently ominous checklist include the claim that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians created the Palestinian refugee problem; that Israel doesn't have an innate right to exist; that the situation of the Palestinians can be fruitfully compared to that of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto; that several components of the Genocide Conventions clearly apply to the situation of Palestinians; that Israel is a European colonial/settler state; that Israel is imperialist and racist; that Israel is comparable with apartheid; that Israel is undemocratic in its treatment of non-Jewish residents; that there is something called an 'Israel Lobby' or a 'Zionist Lobby'; that accusations of anti-semitism were being used to shut down debate; that those who favoured boycott were being smeared. Some of these claims are obvious and acknowledged in the best academic literature on the history of Israel and Palestine, including by pro-Israel authors. Some of them are polemical. Some of them are disputable. And I'm not one to raise dissension in the warmongers' house, but many of them remain the public position of the recently waxed Christopher Hitchens. But since David Toube does not anywhere explain why he considers these claims "threatening" or "extreme" or meriting comparison with Nazism, you might reasonably assume that the post is simply one HP Sauce's more eccentric outburts of stupidity.
However. The list of bad things is followed by a list of bad academics with their university homepages linked. Toube reassuringly suggests that they shouldn't be sacked for holding their "extreme" views, but he does clearly set out to impugn their professional conduct. A former academic himself, Toube suggests that academics are supposed to be "calm, rational and intelligent, willing to listen to different points of view", whereas he encourages readers to act on the assumption that these academics have engaged in "menacing", "threatening" conduct, somehow redolent of Nazism. He also implies that they have smuggled Jew-hatred into the discussion. Though he claims he would oppose the sacking of these academics, I think he is aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences for one's professional career of being accused of anti-Semitism, as well as of "menacing" or "threatening" behaviour. And I doubt he would be the first to protest if one of the named academics were to be put through a ridiculous investigation due to a flood of complaints from sub-literate Harry's Place readers, which is clearly what he intends. By making these delirious claims and providing contact information, he is engaged in a spurious attempt at professional bullying, borrowing the tactics of David Horowitz and the nutters associated with him. Toube is a clot, of course, or a synonym thereof. But how dizzying has been the descent of defenders of academic freedom, and free speech. How mean and vindictive they prove to be in their illusory moment of triumph. We will be entitled, when we next hear the words 'free speech' raised in defense of Zionism, to remember how these people behaved when they thought they had the upper hand.