Motion and intransigence

June 5, 2008

The QCs' advice about the legality of the University and College Union motion "to consider the moral and political implications" of links with Israel smacks of political expediency ("QCs say bid to mull morality of Israeli links breaches law", 29 May).

No law can forbid me to consider the moral and political implications of anything. In the title words of the lied by the (Jewish) composer Mahler, Die Gedanken sind frei (thoughts are free). Moreover, to forbid someone to express an opinion about this would be a violation of academic freedom. But, worst of all, this legal opinion is based on a confusion between Israel as a country and being Jewish.

Speaking as a secular Jewish academic, I cannot be accused of anti-Semitism (the Zionists might charge me with being a self-hating Jew, but that's a stupid attempt at emotional blackmail), especially since my argument is that the behaviour of the Israeli state constitutes a gross violation of age-old Jewish moral teaching.

As for non-Jews, it need only be made clear that any action, positive or negative, recommended as a result of considering the moral and political implications of the issues, is directed against the state and its institutions, not against individuals or Jews as such.

Finally, why was the motion carried so overwhelmingly if not because of the stiff-necked refusal of the state of Israel and its institutions to consider the moral and political implications of their own actions and behaviour, which become more and more unconscionable and indefensible as time passes? Perhaps the vote would not have gained such enormous support if the truly terrible oppression of the Palestinians had been even a little curtailed, but the evidence is all the other way.

As independent-minded Jewish thinkers from Ahad Ha'am to Norman Finkelstein have variously maintained, the oppression of the Palestinians will end up destroying the Zionist dream, and the Zionists will have only themselves to blame.

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