British academics boycott targets all the wrong people

They’re at it again.

First, it was the National Union of Journalists. Now it’s the University and College Union. What is it about some British trade unionists that explains their single-minded obsession with Israel and its alleged transgressions?

Are they so blinded by hatred, so oblivious to the facts, that they can’t see that the results of their actions only serve to heap scorn and ridicule on them, not Israel? Are we really to believe that among all the nations of the world, including some heavy-duty human rights transgressors, only Israel, a democratic nation desperately seeking a credible Palestinian peace partner to negotiate a two-state settlement with, merits isolation and sanction?

Or perhaps these self-righteous and self-proclaimed defenders of the Palestinians would have Israel sit down with the ruling Hamas regime to discuss the terms of Israel’s demise? Surely that would give some of them a thrill. No doubt they would defend to the death the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. But not the Jews. One deserves to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

But no, some assert, it’s about Israel’s behavior, not Israel itself. And they then go on to pummel Israel beyond recognition. As a lecturer at the London School of Economics (my alma mater) wrote in the Guardian on May 30, Israel deserves singling out because it’s “heavily militarized, nuclear-armed, expansionist.” You get the picture.

Of course, there’s no attempt to explain why Israel found a need for a strong military, as if it had never faced enemies sworn to its destruction, and was aggressive for its own sake only. Or why it might have resorted to developing nuclear weapons (if that’s the case) to ensure its own survival, even while steadfastly refusing to use those alleged weapons in times of war.

Or why exactly it is “expansionist”— as if it sought the 1967 war and should apologize for winning it. Would an “expansionist” state withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, announce a readiness for “painful territorial concessions” on the West Bank, yield land to Jordan for a peace treaty and withdraw unilaterally from a security zone in southern Lebanon?

That’s not to say Israel is a perfect nation with a blemish-free record of statecraft — but what nation fits that bill? That said, the decisions taken by these British unions can’t be explained on the merits.

Those who voted for these motions have abandoned any pretense of objectivity and balance. They have allowed their dogmatic, self-styled “anti-imperialist” ideology to dub Israel the guilty party from the get-go.

They bought the Palestinian version of history hook, line and sinker. They turned truth on its head by failing to recognize Israel’s age-old quest for peace, beginning with accepting the notion of partition in the 1937 Peel Commission report and 1947 U.N. General Assembly vote, and carrying through to successive declarations of Israeli prime ministers, including Ehud Olmert, for a peace accord based on two states.

They blithely ignore the unique and unenviable situation Israel finds itself in as the only U.N. member state in the world targeted for annihilation by another U.N. member state and its proxies sitting on Israel’s borders in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. And, finally, they have perversely twisted the role of the Israeli academic community, which has been a leading force for advancing the frontiers of human knowledge for all and a robust venue for the exchange of ideas and cooperation in the Middle East.

I can only hope the full membership of the UCU will be given the chance in a referendum to reverse the decisions of the delegates to its first annual gathering. The union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, who opposed the motions, has promised such a national vote.

Meanwhile, I trust that those who supported the anti-Israel motions will be true to their word and studiously avoid contact with any product of Israel’s universities and research centers. Let’s see how they manage in the work environment once they’ve realized their dependence on Israeli computer, cell phone and voice mail technology.

And I trust that should any of them fall ill and need medical assistance, they will be certain to screen out any Israeli lifesaving drugs and medical equipment.

What I find most amusing in these situations is the frequent alliance, whether overt or covert, of the strangest of bedfellows — extreme leftists coming together with Islamic radicals. We’ve seen these relationships played out in the streets of London and other major cities. But should Islamic radicals ever come into power, those first to be targeted, judging from experience, would be the extreme left — the “useful idiots,” in Bolshevik terms — and their cherished values.

Let’s see how gender equality, sexual freedom, academic inquiry, the right to organize and strike and free speech would fare. Ironically, the only country in the Middle East that seeks to protect those values is none other than Israel.

But that’s just another one of those pesky truths that shouldn’t get in the way of those at the UCU on a mission.

As the old saw goes, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” The person who coined the phrase could easily have had the UCU or National Union of Journalists in mind.

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee.