Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic
History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence
Elwell Sutton, two of Britain's great Middle East experts in their day.
I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and
Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of
several books and hundreds of articles in this field.
I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern
affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the
EUSA motion and vote. I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not
and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my
opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any
Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for
themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those member of
EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters
concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of
extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby. Being
anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I'm not talking about
ordinary criticism of Israel. I'm speaking of a hatred that permits
itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel
is repeatedly referred to as a 'Nazi' state. In what sense is this
true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps?
The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nüremberg Laws? The Final Solution?
None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in
Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth,
understand what Nazism stood for. It is claimed that there has been an
Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest
historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it
deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a
Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I
can think of.
Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a
situation that closely resembled things in South Africa under the
apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend
in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim
is. That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted
on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most
obvious focus for apartheid would be the country's 20% Arab population.
Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews
or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians;
Baha'is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they
have their world centre; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in
Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all
religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of
the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the
general population). In Iran, the Baha'is (the largest religious
minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own
universities: why aren't your members boycotting Iran?
Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid
South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they
go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside
Jews - something no blacks could do in South Africa. Israeli hospitals
not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza
or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theatres.
In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender
apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays
often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home. It seems
bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say
nothing about countries like Iran, where gay men are hanged or stoned
to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief. Intelligent
students thinking it's better to be silent about regimes that kill gay
people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that
rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?
University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think
rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid
evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more
others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no
idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak. I do not
object to well documented criticism of Israel. I do object when
supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states
that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going
through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th
centuries, and it's clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against
terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.
Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are
free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and
call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and
Iran. They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world's
freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in
Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge
to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects
the Baha'is.... Need I go on? The imbalance is perceptible, and it
sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott.
I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli
embassy. As for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not
make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties.
You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from
one-sided argument. They are not at university to be propagandized. And
they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by
punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which
happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish
state in the 1930s (which, sadly, there was not), don't you think Adolf
Hitler would have decided to boycott it? Of course he would, and he
would not have stopped the. Your generation has a duty to ensure that
the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you.
Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is
putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply
by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this
makes sense to me. I have given you some of the evidence. It's up to
you to find out more.
Dr. Denis MacEoin
From: Denis MacEoin
Subject: [IZAG] Your motion to boycott Israel
Date: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 2:11 AM