Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why We Need an Academic Boycott of Israel

In their ongoing effort to cement Australia-Israel relations, Zionist lobbyists have been quite creative with Australian history, portraying, for example, Australia's Light Horse, part of the British campaign to oust the Ottoman Turks from Palestine in 1917-18, as proto-Zionists fighting for a future Jewish state in Palestine (See my 1/5/08 post Myth In-formation) or seizing on Labor foreign minister H V Evatt's shameful role in the partition of Palestine in 1947 to suggest some kind of binding tie between the two countries (See my 8/12/09 post Doctor Who?).

More generally, Zionist propagandists would have us believe that Israel, like Australia, is a rolled-gold parliamentary democracy and an open, pluralistic society based on mass immigration from every corner of the globe. Whatever the wording, the message is always that Israel is just like us.

Naomi Levin's review, in The Australian Jewish News of 6/5/11, of Immigration & Nation Building: Australia & Israel Compared, edited by Monash University's Professor Andrew Markus and Tel Aviv University's Professor Moshe Semyenov, carries just this message:

"Young people, couples, carrying a battered suitcase, disembarking down a ship's rickety gangplank or stepping off an old aeroplane, squinting into the sunlight at their new home - it is a historic image of migrants arriving in Australia, and also in Israel. Thousands of displaced people and refugees sought salvation and a safer, more comfortable life. For many, Australia or Israel was the promised land." (Australia & Israel's asylum appeal)

You get the picture?

Levin homes in on the chapter by Israeli and Australian academics Na'ama Carmi and Susan Kneebone, which examines both countries' handling of the vexed issue of asylum seekers, with a view to suggesting a common concern. Although Levin doesn't spell this out, the clear and obvious difference between the two countries' approach to asylum seekers in particular and immigration in general, soon emerges.

Those seeking asylum in Israel are largely non-Jews from Africa, and, as non-Jews seeking entry to and acceptance in a self-declared Jewish state, they must inevitably come up against the brick wall of Israel's discriminatory Law of Return (1950). As Levin puts it, "[Carmi and Kneebone] contend that when Israel drafted its Law of Return - the legislation that gives all Jewish people and their descendents the right to settle in Israel - it did not forsee the challenge of large numbers of non-Jewish people seeking entry."

Didn't forsee the challenge of large numbers of non-Jews seeking entry, eh?

What Levin (and presumably those associated with the book, both Israeli and Australian) ignores here is the fact that, while the Law of Return was designed to encourage and facilitate immigration by Jews the world over in accordance with Zionist ideology, it also served to prevent over 750,000 non-Jewish Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed from their homes and lands in 1948, from returning to those homes and lands. Typically, Levin admits the dual (include/exclude) function of this fundamentally apartheid law elsewhere in her review, but without specifying those excluded: "According to Markus and Semyonov's book, [the Law of Return] was intended as an express link to Zionism and designed as a tool of inclusion or exclusion. The aim was to include as many Jews seeking to settle in the Jewish state."

By ignoring completely the glaring difference between Australia's non-discriminatory and inclusive immigration policy and Israel's polar opposite, and focusing only on the immediate response of both countries to asylum seekers - Israel is in the process of introducing legislation allowing for the imprisonment of what it calls 'infiltrators' while Australia is proposing to "tighten the character test for those applying for refugee status" - Levin is able to conclude, incredibly: "It seems on another level - migration - Israel and Australia might have a lot in common."

The fact, studiously avoided by both Levin and, presumably, the books authors, is that the only way that Australia and Israel could possibly have anything in common in the area of immigration law and policy would be for Australia to expel the majority of its indigenous aboriginal population to surrounding countries such as New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and keep them from returning with a law allowing only for immigration into the country by non-indigenes of its choosing.

Without having read the book reviewed (I'm assuming that Levin's review accurately reflects its contents), I can only conclude that if Israeli/Australian academic cooperation results in studies which fudge the vast difference between Israel's and Australia's society and polity and con us into believing that Israel is merely another Australia on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, then it's time our academic institutions adopted the BDS strategy.

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