Newsroom: Academics’ selective obsession with Israel

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First published by Newsroom

Dr Sheree Trotter calls out a column published at IdeasRoom last week which she says equated the war against Ukraine with the situation between Palestine and Israel.

Prof Richard Jackson and John Hobbs’ thinly veiled attack on Israel, under the guise of concern for human rights, is particularly abhorrent given a recent spate of terrorist attacks. Up to 20 Israelis have been killed in the past few weeks, in six separate terror incidents, from drive-by shootings to axe attacks.

Their recent article implies an equivalence between Ukrainians and Palestinians. This is absurd. The unjustifiable attack on a sovereign democratic country by an authoritarian leader seeking to restore the Russian empire bears no resemblance to Israel’s attempts to defend its civilians from thousands of rockets and dozens of terrorist attacks.

In fact, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has drawn inspiration from Israel, precisely because it is a sovereign democratic state that, since its declaration of independence in 1948 at the end of British rule, has been forced to continually defend itself against Arab and Islamist rejectionism and imperialism.

Israel accepted the 1947 UN resolution (supported by New Zealand) that proposed the creation of two states in British-ruled Palestine – one for Jews and one for Arabs, while Arab leaders rejected the proposal. Upon declaration of independence, the reborn Jewish nation was invaded by TransJordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Three years after the Holocaust, Israel knew that the world would not protect nor shelter her citizens. Her defensive War of Independence was one of survival. Similarly, Israel today has no other option than to protect her people in the face of attacks from hostile neighbours and their sponsors – still unwilling to accept her very existence.

By referring to Israel’s existence as a sovereign state as an “illegal occupation for the past 74 years” (ie. from 1948) the writers reveal they consider Israel an illegitimate state that has no right to exist. Why should Israel be considered any differently than other decolonised states carved out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Yemen – some of whose histories are marked by conflict and bloodshed? The failure to recognise Israel’s right to exist displays a blatant disregard for international law, which guarantees the Jewish people their right to self-determination in ancestral lands, and for Jewish human rights.

Advocating for a Palestinian state need not require the negation of the Jewish right to self-determination. To the contrary, Israeli governments have made extensive offers and sacrifices to make way for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, subject to a willingness to live together in peace.

No serious discussion of the conflict can ignore the genocidal intent of Hamas nor the repeated Palestinian rejection of land for peace. Israel’s defensive war of 1967 by which it gained control of the West Bank (then occupied by Jordan) and Gaza (occupied by Egypt) needs to be considered. Also pertinent are Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the Iranian backed terrorist infrastructure that enables rocket attacks to continue, Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, the Oslo accords which established the current governance arrangements and, most importantly, ideology.

Palestinians have been indoctrinated with the false narrative that Jews don’t belong in the region, that they are foreign colonisers and usurpers of Palestinian land, when in fact they are the indigenous people of the land having maintained a continuous presence and connection over millennia.

The apartheid accusation against Israel has no basis in fact and the definition used by such accusers is legally unsubstantiated. Rather, it is merely a politicised weapon aiming to demonise and delegitimise Israel and to promote BDS and lawfare campaigns targeting Israelis.

If apartheid exists, it’s in the Palestinian territories where Jews are forbidden and citizens are punished for selling land to Jews. All the land is seen as Muslim-owned and surrendering any, treason. This maximalist, uncompromising position is the biggest obstacle to peace and underlies the chant ‘from the river to sea, Palestine will be free’. It’s a cry to rid the land of Jews, a demand for destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.

Jackson is a self-proclaimed “terrorist sympathiser” and yet opposes war in general. He has a record of supporting anti-Israel and antisemitic actions, last year signing a petition defending conspiracist British university lecturer, Prof. David Miller, who had called Jewish students on his campus “pawns” of Israel, “a violent, racist, foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.” Miller described an interfaith event at a London mosque where Muslims and Jews cooked chicken soup together as “a Trojan horse for normalising Zionism in the Muslim community.”

That the writers would choose to focus on Israel rather than neighbouring Syria where an estimated 500,000 people have been killed, including 25,000 children, or Yemen, where around 400,000 have died, is absurd, but revealing. The true selectivity is that anti-Israel obsessives like Professor Jackson ignore more pressing conflicts and human rights concerns, choosing rather to demonise Israel and her supporters.

Jackson and Hobbs have the luxury of pontificating on peace and reconciliation from the comfort of their distant ivory towers. Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens from tens of thousands of Hamas rockets indiscriminately targeting its civilian areas, and from ongoing terrorist attacks by Palestinians in her midst. She has no other option.