The story, about which I commented here, seems to be snowballing.
Engage informed us today that
"The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called for a boycott of Al Quds University in East Jerusalem as a response to comments which were made recently by Sari Nusseibeh, the university’s President. Making an impassioned plea on Al Jazeera to Palestinians and other Arabs to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Nusseibeh said:
“The Israelis now living in the territories of the future Palestinian state should return to living within the borders of the state of Israel. No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state.”
A number of right-wing blogs in the USA have characterized these words as antisemitic. Campus Watch seems to have put its weight behind some sort of academic boycott against Al Quds Universtity. (Read the rest here, as well as the comments)
Let me repeat:
Nusseibeh is saying pretty much what I've been saying: that Palestinians have a theoretical right to go back to Israel and that Jews have a theoretical right to live in Hebron. And that a solution will entail an exchange of rights, so to speak, or, one right cancelling the other. He is saying: No Jew will have the right to demand to live in Hebron, which is what the Arabs want to hear, but implied, though unsaid, is the counterpoint, that no Palestinian will have the right to demand to live in Israel proper.
He is challenging Palestinians: do you want a state or do you want to destroy Israel (by insisting on your right to live in Jaffa.. etc).
Nusseibeh is not antisemitic. He is one of the few Palestinians who understand that the final settlement will have to be about trading off historical rights.
First, he says, Palestinians have rights and ROR is one of them. However, he goes on to say, we can’t have them all, so we must choose. And then he expands the context of the choice: a two state solution.
It is pretty clear that he is telling the Palestinians they have to choose between their ROR (which means continued conflict) or a two state solution. If they choose the two-state solution, he says, then two things will happen:
1. ROR will be implemented, he says so as clearly as he dares to, “within the framework of the future Palestinian state “. In other words, the refugees will be settled in the future Palestinian state, not Israel proper. That’s something Palestinians DO NOT WANT TO HEAR! So he tries to provide some reward for giving up (their traditionalist version) ROR, when he says:
2. “The agreement will ensure that “No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state.” That's the carrot.
He is talking about the final agreement in a way that both modifies ROR and panders to Palestinian loathing for Jews living amongst them. That’s what needs to be said in order to persuade the Palestinians to give up their ROR.
There is no doubt he could be more explicit and lay down the options more coherently. But I have never yet seen any Palestinian (or Arab) daring to do that. For the obvious reasons that disagreement in the Arab world can take some pretty extreme form.
Sari Nusseibeh is a student of Martha Nussbaum in whose judgment I place huge trust. I read her say that she considers him a "true moderate, committed to cooperation and reason."
This initiative, to boycott him, is completely unmerited and unjust.
It must be stopped.
Sari Nusseibeh IS NOT AN ANTISEMITE and is not even an anti-Zionist in the way this term has come to be abused.
I have to ask, why does the editor at Engage recommend that "Calls by US right wingers to boycott Sari Nusseibeh should be treated with contempt"? Why "contempt"?
Notwithstanding my own position which is a mixture of what I know about Prof. Nusseibeh and a gut feeling, is this really such a hermetically open and shut case that a dissenting view, however annoying and mistaken, must be treated with "contempt"?
I don't think I ever saw a heading advocating "contempt" as the proper response to all those lunatic Left-wingers who call for boycotting Israeli academics.
Isn't "concern" or "opposition" or "protest" a more "academic" way of addessing this ill-conceived initiative?
Commenter Bella Center says:
While I think it is absurd for ZOA to suggest boycotting Al Quds University, it does seem to me that David Hirsh is a little too worried about his left wing bonafides. Likewise Nusseibeh's words on Al Jazeera seek to establish his 'Palestinian' bonafides. Some of us are overly anxious to accept Nusseibeh as our saviour on the Palestinian side when, in fact, there is very little evidence that he has the power to persuade his constituency -- Palestinian intellectuals and students -- to accept a non-maximalist position.
DH, Engage editor in chief, responds:
Bella Center should focus critique on what is written - not on a cheap second-guessing of our "true" motivation.
Nusseibeh has been risking his life for twenty years by arguing in Palestine against the demonization of Israel. He is not a saviour. He is a man who fights for peace. Whether he is successful or not, he deserves the support of people who fight for peace. Even if he is in a minority of one, he deserves our support and our respect. He stood up against the campaign to exclude Israeli scholars from the academic community - and is paid back by cheap insults and libels. When the boycotters in the UK denounced him as a collaborator they showed their absolute lack of political responsibility. When the right wing denounce him as an antisemite - and call for an academic boycott, of all things - when they say he is interested only in "bonafides" - they make themselves ridiculous. And when they do so in the name of "Zionism" they feed the world-view of those who have no respect for "Zionism".
My question about the inclusion of the sentiment of "contempt" for ZOA in the title of the Engage post referred directly to what David Hirsh wrote. David Hirsh has not provided any clarification. Yet he fumes at Bella Center's speculation that his less than cautious articulations might be symptomatic of something other than cool-headed objectivity.
I read Prof. Nusseibeh's words carefully and deduce certain conclusions from it. I sent an email to ZOA asking them to reconsider their position, which I find to be unjust.
By the same token, exactly, I read DH's words carefully and submitted a question asking for clarification. My request for clarification was motivated by his choice of word and sentiment with which to criticize the organization. Yet never have I encountered the use of similar sentiments or words to qualify Engage's criticism of the boycotters. Which is as it should be. Contempt is a thoroughly sterile emotion, which goes beyond mere hatred, and has no place in any civilized discussion.
I would strongly recommend that everyone who cares about Sari Nusseibeh's reputation and the well-being of the university he presides over, should write to ZOA and urge them to drop the matter. A public campaign of protest may yield desirable results. Remember the ill-conceived ADL's support for Turkish attempts to block a US Congress resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide? The Jewish outcry that resulted persuaded Abe Foxman to reverse his policies and positions. There is a good chance that a similar protest can succeed here, as well.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Friday, December 28, 2007