|Wednesday, December 6, 2006
|Why Do Irish
Academics Persist In Advocating Boycott and Divesting From
| By Dr. Alex Grobman
are back in the news once again after a short lull. Their objective is to
terminate university investments in Israel in order to impede the
countrys economic growth and development. By using economic
warfare, they want to destroy Israel's economy, according to
Fred Taub, president of Divestment Watch. As part of this campaign, attempts
are made to prevent Israeli academic and political leaders from speaking on
university campuses. Another goal is to eliminate Israeli academic research
funds since Israeli academics are viewed as key elements and
collaborators of the Jewish state.
An association of
dozens of Palestinian charities, unions and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) organizes these divestment campaigns according Gerald Steinberg,
professor of political studies at Bar Ilan University. Why do politicized
churches and academics demand divestment from Israel, he asks, but not
from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt? A number of the groups and individuals are
ideologically opposed to Jewish sovereignty and to the existence of a Jewish
state. Others have simply been duped by the media that all too often reports
Arab propaganda as fact.
Irish academics are particularly adamant in
boycotting Israeli academic institutions. In a letter to the Irish Times on
September 12, 2006, 61 Irish professors urged academic institutions throughout
the world to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education.
Jerusalem Post reported that when Professor James Bowen of the Department of
Computer Science at University College Cork was questioned about Hamas's
charter and inflammatory language, (which openly calls for the extermination of
Jews in Israel), and was asked whether those who signed the petition would
consider boycotting Palestinian academic institutions as a result, Bowen
replied, "the accusation of genocide against Hamas is libelous. The
responsibility for ending the conflict lies with the aggressor. Israel is the
The Irish embassy in Israel condemned the petition as
counterproductive, yet the Irish government has helped foster this
enmity because of its own negative attitudes towards Israel. By examining the
governments views toward the Jewish State, we can see how Irish academics
reflect their own governments attitude toward Israel, and why they are so
tenacious in advocating this boycott.
In Ireland and the Palestine
Question 1948-2004, professor Rory Miller explains that the Irish believe they
possess a unique insight into the Arab/Israeli conflict because of their
neutrality and their distinct moral position in the international
arena. This endows them with the right and obligation to seek peaceful
solutions in international interaction.
Ireland granted Israel de
facto recognition in 1949,but did not grant it de jure recognition until May
1963. Part of the reason was Irelands aversion toward partition, which
was a result of its own fight for independence from Britain. The Irish saw
partition as a cruel means of solving territorial disputes that would not bring
An even more fundamental reason for Irish opposition to
granting Israel recognition Miller suggests, was that from the late
1940s, the Irish clergy, political parties, the general public and the
media have had a special interest in the Holy Land because of their concern
about the Christian Holy Places, especially in Jerusalem. The Vatican had
supported the internationalization of the city and the holy sites, and the
Irish were greatly influenced by the Vatican factor, and adamant
that the rights of Catholics be maintained. When the Irish granted de jure
recognition, this did mean any inherent or overt acceptance of Israels
sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Oil is an additional factor why the Irish
side with the Arabs. Miller quotes the Irish Times in mid-1963 that if it
comes to a matter of competition for the friendship of Israel or the Arab
League, nobody can doubt what the outcome will be: the oil- rich Arab states
possess an attraction denied to Israel.
The rights of Arab
refugees are another ongoing concern as was Israels refusal to withdraw
from the Golan Heights and the occupied territories. Failure to
resolve the refugee issue is viewed as the greatest single
obstacle, to peace in the region. The Irish did not have the political
and diplomatic clout to compel Israel to compensate the Arabs and allow some of
the refugees to return to Israel. Instead, they donated funds to United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).
A further area of contention occurred
after the Irish provided troops to serve first as UN observers and later as
members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Whenever there was a
conflict between the Christian militias and Irish soldiers, the Irish blamed
This led Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov, Israeli Ambassador
to Britain and Ireland, to wonder how people in Dublin could sit around
smugly and pass judgment about events in another part
of the world. He found it particularly difficult to understand how the Irish
could be so insensitive to the Christian minority in Lebanon, and
later charged Ireland of leading the pack in [the] constant flagellation
Miller sees PLO Chairman Yasser Arafats visit
to Ireland in mid December 1993 as recognition of Irelands ongoing effort
to advance the position of the Arab refugees and support of the PLO. The visit
also demonstrated the extensive backing the PLO enjoyed among the Irish people.
When Israel instituted roadblocks to protect its citizens against
terrorist attacks, Irish politicians attacked Israel. This demonstrated a
callous disregard for the suffering of Israel at the hands of Arab terrorists,
and a failure to recognize that a major provision of the Oslo Accords was that
the Palestinians were now responsible for the security of the Israel. The Irish
Times reported that between 1994-1997, 131 Israelis had been killed and 446
wounded by Arab terrorists.
The Irish government condemned the
escalation of violence against the Israelis between 2000 2004, but
criticized Israel for its policies and actions that exacerbated or prolonged
the need for Arabs to use violence. They even had the temerity to stand behind
Yasser Arafat even when there was evidence of his corruption and duplicity.
Given the Irish governments rationalizations for Arab terrorism and
intransigence, it is not surprising that Irish academics would be among those
who want to harm the Israeli economy and its schools of higher education.
Americans should actively oppose the Irish and any other academic
groups that engage in this unjustified and morally reprehensible activity,
because as Fred Taub points out, divestment campaigns are an attack on the U.S.
Foreign governments, he urges, should not be allowed to
dictate US foreign policy, and they must not be permitted to promote the
destruction of the economy of another democracy.
Taub concludes, has a direct impact on the US economy because Israel is a
key developer of new technologies, including in medicine, computers and even
space exploration; not to mention that it is the democracy and free-market
economy example for the Middle-East
. The Arab boycott of Israel is the
single biggest impediment to peace, as peace can not be sustained without
An historian, Dr. Grobmans most
recent book is Battling for Souls: The Vaad Hatzala Rescue Committee in Post
War Europe. He is also co-author of Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust
Never Happened? His newest book is Nations United: How the UN is Undermining
Israel and the West.