There are many countries in the world where women and other populations do not have equal rights. Gays must remain closeted, for fear of their own lives, and religious minorities have no rights. People die by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, on an almost weekly basis due to horrors like starvation, poverty and destruction. So what should we do about all of these problems? I know! Let’s boycott Israel.
For the record, none of what I wrote above applies to Israel. Nonetheless, a group of American academics has decided to boycott their colleagues who come from the strongest democracy in the Middle East. I’m not going to even bother going into a long discourse about how or why this happened. I think the explanation is simple – anti-Semitism. When I recently posted examples of bias against Israel on social media recently, someone commented, “Are you surprised?” The answer is sadly, no, I am no longer surprised. The Jews have been the world’s scapegoats for centuries. Why should I expect it to stop now?
The worst kind of hatred is baseless, and that is exactly what the academic boycott of Israeli academics is. If we were to go through the world’s pecking order of which countries might actually deserve to be boycotted, Israel would likely fall much, much further down on that list. (Is anyone even still paying attention to what’s going on in Syria, another Middle-Eastern country, right now?) Instead, for whatever reason, American academics decided to bump us to the head of the class of countries that deserve to have a condescending finger shaken at.
If someone can explain to me why Israel, as opposed to any other country, deserves this distinguished boycott, then I’d like to hear it. Before answering that, I’d like to share just one of my personal, first-hand experiences.
I spent a year taking courses at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. During that time, I saw the diversity that existed on an Israeli campus. Israeli students walked side-by-side with Muslim classmates. How many Jews are currently allowed to study in the Palestinian territories? What about some of the surrounding Muslim countries? My guess is that the number is pretty small, if not zero.
I’ll also point out that this year, the valedictorian of Israel’s top medical school was a Muslim woman.
The idea of boycotting Israel goes back many years before this particular one targeting academics. I am not sure what causes me more sadness – the fact that people are so willing to boycott Israel, or the ignorance behind such boycotts. A website devoted to promoting the boycott of Israel was created using technology developed in Israel! The creation of the website itself contradicted the very thing that it stood for!
While backpacking around Australia a few months ago, one person I met asked me why I moved from America to a third-world country such as Israel. His question was not an anti-Semitic one. For whatever reason, based on the information he was exposed to, he genuinely believed that Israel was a third-world country. I corrected his ignorance by pointing out that the computer he was using at that exact moment contained technology that was developed, manufactured and shipped from Israel. His misconception about Israel didn’t offend me, but it scared me.
Israel’s enemies do a great job of putting their version of the truth front and center. People’s first impressions also tend to be the last ones they pay any attention to. So much of the puzzle goes unnoticed. It saddens me to think about how Israel’s contributions to science, technology, medicine and academia – of which there are numerous amounts – are overlooked. So much so that if, by some horrible tragedy, Israel were wiped off the map today, tomorrow the world wouldn’t say, “Now we’ve lost all of the wonderful things that Israel contributed to the world.” Instead, all we would hear is silence, especially from a group of American academics who decided to single out Israel of all the nations of the world that might actually need the wake-up call of a boycott.
Daniel Stieglitz (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Providence native, made aliyah in 2007. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Bar Ilan University and lives and works in Israel. His short story, “Haven,” was recently published in FictionMagazines.com’s online magazine, eFiction.