Tag Archives: Tel Aviv University

Smearing of pro-Israel questioners gathers pace at SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Professor Gilbert Achcar (R) and Shlomo Sand (L) at SOAS in Feb. 2011.

Dr. Amal Jamal is following the path of Omar Bhargouti. Both are academics who have hugely benefited from living in Israel but who then came to London at the first opportunity to question Israel’s existence.

Tel Aviv University must have a death wish because Bhargouti, who would like to boycott Israel out of existence, did his Masters and is now pursuing a PhD there, and Dr. Jamal, who thinks Israel is heading towards a “one state solution”, is senior lecturer in the Political Science Department there.

Dr. Jamal spoke last night at SOAS on The Jewish State and the Hollowing Out of Palestinian Citizenship. The talk was sponsored by the recently created Centre for Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS and includes Ilan Pappe as one of its academics.

Another of the Centre’s academics is Professor Gilbert Achcar. Professor Achcar lectures in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS.

Last night’s chairperson, and another of the Centre’s academics, was Dr. Laleh Khalili. Dr. Khalili lectures in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

More on both Professor Achcar and Dr Khalili later on.

Dr Jamal introduced his talk by describing the “Zionist narrative” as Jews returning home to a land that was promised by God according to the Bible. But, he said, the Palestinians pose a heavy threat to that narrative.

This, he argued, has led to an Israeli policy of manufacturing “quiet Arabs” and “floating Arabs” who have no ability in Israel to influence what they want to be.

Israel, he said, is doing this by redefining the Jewish state and hollowing out Palestinian citizenship.

Part of this is a mechanism of “Control and Neglect”. “Neglect” means de-developing the Israeli Arabs so they become unequal to other citizens. And “citizenship” as a control mechanism is used to inhibit Israeli Arabs from integrating fully into Israeli life.

He said that in Israel “Jews live. Palestinians exist”.

He criticised the Knesset with its automatic majority that can enact any law. Other tools used included separation and “the racist Wall” and other walls being built in Lod and Caesarea. The citizenship law, the boycott law and the Nakba law were other examples as well as the limiting of resources for Israeli Arabs and the removal of citizenship in cases of treason.

Dr. Jamal concluded his talk by saying that the Jewish state is a hegemonic project that cannot tolerate contention and that this will eventually lead to its breakdown and that Israeli policies will close off any hope of a two state solution, eventually leading to a “one state solution”.

During the Q&A events took a turn for the worse.

I asked Dr Jamal why, if as he stated, Israeli Arabs could not influence their future in Israel then how had he become so successful there. I then went on to suggest that at least in Israel the Arabs had a chance to argue their case while in the surrounding Arab countries Arab citizens were either being slaughtered or undergoing the imposition of strict Islamic laws.

Dr Khalili thought this second point off-topic and tried to shout me down. Next someone shouted “This is Hasbarah. It is crap”. When I tried to defend my right to ask a question Professor Achcar, who was sat in the front row, referred to me as a “professional disruptor” to which Dr Khalili replied “I know, I remember”.

Then, quite incredibly, Professor Achcar announced to the room that I had left insults on his phone and that had he known I was coming he would not have allowed me in. He told me to get out.

I realised afterwards that this is the second time he has asked me to leave a talk. In February 2011 exactly the same happened when he didn’t like my questioning of Shlomo Sand (also of Tel Aviv University, incidentally) at SOAS.

Afterwards Professor Achcar told me that he still has the recordings of the insulting phone messages.

If he can prove that they are from me I will donate £1000 to a charity of his choice. Alternatively, he might have the decency to apologise.

I never got a proper answer from Dr Jamal as to why he had succeeded while other Israeli Arabs hadn’t. He just said that Israeli Jews must be saved from enacting policies of apartheid, expulsion and genocide. He said Jews can change but that the Jewish community in Britain has an important role to play as Israeli Jews¬† can’t save themselves on their own.

He also said that he wanted the right of return but for it to be controlled at first both for Jews and Arabs. Eventually, he said, up to 20 million people must be somehow accommodated.

For the Palestinian “right of return” read Israel’s destruction. And this from someone being paid by Israel to teach Israeli students!

Meanwhile, I was proud to study at SOAS and I contributed financially when I was recently telephoned to help current students. It’s now very sad that some anti-Israel SOAS lecturers are using smear tactics when they don’t like what they hear.

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Anat Matar: “Settlers can get away with rape.”

The new book by Matar and Baker. A must read if you have more money than sense.

The new book by Matar and Baker. A must read if you have more money than sense.

Last night Jews For Justice for Palestinians hosted Dr Anat Matar and Abeer Baker at the Indian YMCA to publicise their new book Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel.

For Matar, a senior lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Tel Aviv University, it was a warm anti-Israel welcome back to London.

In February 2010 she spoke at SOAS where she called for an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. However, saving her own skin, she said she didn’t want Israelis boycotted if they were “refusniks and great anti-Zionists”.

Abeer Baker, who describes herself as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is a human rights lawyer and runs the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic at Haifa University’s Law Faculty. She received her Law degree from Haifa Uni. in 2001 and between 2001 – 2006 she worked for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Matar started by saying that since 1967 a minimum of 650,000 Palestinians have been in Israeli prisons at some stage or other and for varying lengths of time, which equates to every fourth Palestinian.

She said the estimate could even be as high as a million!

Israeli prisoners, she said, are treated as normal criminals while all Palestinians are immediately classed as “security prisoners”, whatever their offence, and that the chances of parole for a “security prisoner” are much lower than that for a Jewish terrorist.

She concluded that this Palestinian mass imprisonment, which has excluded a quarter of the population from Palestinian society, has changed the way Palestinian political life is built and amounts to racial discrimination.

She mentioned that many Palestinians are captured at the regular non-violent Friday protests at the “apartheid wall”. Many are held, some are indicted and some serve long prison terms with no parole in contrast to ultra right-wing settlers.

Baker told us that Israeli prisons are similar to “the occupation”; they are not for punishment, but to exclude Palestinians from daily public life and to weaken their political struggle.

Assassination, she said, was the harshest way to do that and then comes the Israeli prison system.

Putting Palestinians behind bars was the equivalent of the “apartheid wall” and that Palestinian families spend all their time worrying about their imprisoned relation instead of engaging in the struggle against the occupation.

She also said it was a breach of the Geneva Convention for Israel to move Palestinians from the occupied territories into Israel to imprison them.

Next she recited the torture meted out by Shabak, which included, sleep deprivation, physical torture (including beating) and shackling to chairs. Palestinians were not allowed access to a lawyer for three months, the prison cells are narrow, have special lighting and the walls are too tough to lean on.

All this, she said, was intended to make Palestinian prisoners more likely to confess.

She also spoke of Palestinians never properly getting their lives back after their release as they find it hard to get a work permit and they have their movements restricted.

She claimed that the only way a Palestinian prisoner would be allowed to use a phone is if he or she renounced all allegiances to their hostile organisation. But, because they are put in the same cell as people from their own organisation it was impossible for them to do that. However, Yigal Amir is allowed to call his wife.

During the Q&A I asked how practical it was for Israel to imprison a Palestinian anywhere else but Israel and how practical it was to give a Palestinian prisoner parole, it being unlikely they would return to prison if recalled.

I suggested that racism was not at play if there was such different treatment, but that conditions on the ground may be determining factors. For example, the settlers were supportive of Israel, while the Palestinians were not.

Matar said the settlers were not supporters of Israel from they way they set fire to mosques and Baker asked me to imagine a settler and a Palestinian raping a woman: “Would you say you should pardon the settler?” she asked.

I said there was no way a settler would be pardoned for raping a woman, but Matar interrupted with:

“The settler wouldn’t even get accused of rape.”

We almost got through the evening without the obligatory Holocaust analogy. But earlier on we had been told about Palestinians having to pay for their own food in prison, so that even in prison Israel is making money out of them.

Someone then said that it reminded him of Jews sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis being forced to buy their own train tickets.

Still, these two women earn a living from Israel’s academic institutions, while being allowed to write a book and travel the world describing how evil Israel is. Not bad for such such an oppressive state.

The irony was, as ever, lost on the audience.

(For the record Matar and Baker said that they did not agree with the way Gilad Shalit is treated)