Student Boycott of Israel

The following letter was sent by Dr.Denis MacEoin to the Edinburgh University Student Association and is reproduced with his kind permission.

The Committee
Edinburgh University Student Association

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an
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

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 Nuremberg 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

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

I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli
embassy. Ask 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 there. 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. I have given you some of the evidence.
It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Denis MacEoin
Senior Editor
Middle East Quarterly

This entry was posted in Apartheid Accusation, Boycott of Israel, International Criticism, We Are For Israel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Student Boycott of Israel

  1. jeanette goodman says:

    This entire “hate Israel” propaganda is so Kafkaesque where the good is evil and the evil is good. It is impossible for me to understand this kind of thinking. These students Hate Jews so much that they invent ways to change history while the truth stares them in the face. How can anyone truly explain this? J. G.

  2. albie says:

    The latent anti semitism is not so latent anymore. I can remember classmates of mine telling me to go back to where I came from. probably meaning Palestine then. When I said I love it here they sneered at me. when I asked some of them where their ancestors came from and why don’t go back there I almost got slugged. Hatred of Jews is a product of other religions, one in particular, making hay of hating a small minority to get rid of their possible “competition” in world affairs. I always had a feeling the UN created Israel so that they could send the European Jews who survived the holocaust to there and let the Arab Armies kill them off. They got fooled. No one came to help the Israelis in any large amount. However when North Korea put one foot over the 38th parallel the whole UN landed on them. We also have to face the “Scape Goat” Mentality as well of centuries of flat out religious sponsored bigotry.

  3. Matt says:

    Thank you Dr.Denis MacEoin. My compliments to your knowledge and skills.

  4. Michael Bloch says:

    Prof Mac Eoin should also have mentioned that Arabs have 15 members in the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) – an unheard of thing in Apartheid South Africa. In the last administration (Ehud Olmert) one was a Cabinet Minister – Majale.

  5. Jeannie D'Aurora says:

    Thank you, Dr. Denis MacEoin, for your response to the EUSA boycott of Israel. Are critical thinking, logic, and scientific reasoning no longer being taught? Has fair play become “so last week?” Has pragmatic taken the place of fairness?

  6. Paul Hoffman says:

    Thank you Dr. MacEoin. Most people are surprised to learn that the Israeli press is virtually handcuffed in being able to get its stories out to the world. Press reports that fill our newspapers and TV’s come from a very powerful and entrenched Palestinian source located in East Jerusalem. British and European journalists are wined and dined by that agency, and given hand-made materials ready for publication without Israel comment.
    Ask any Israeli what their most urgent hope is, and they will say, in public and privately that it is for Peace. Ask palestinians the same question. Many will say, privately, “death to the Jews”.
    Palestinian school children are taught to hate. The map in their books and on the wall displays the State of Palestine. There is no state of Israel to be found there. They believe that they are victims of an “occupation”, even while any objective survey will show that there are no Israelis occupying their territories. There are, however, both Israeli settlements and Palestinian settlements in disputed territories. Unfortunately, and despite UN resolutions, Palestinians have steadfastly said NO to peace, NO to negotiations, and done so consistently for more than 40 years! That has been their steadfast position, adopted from the exact position of the five Arab states that attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.

    The lies and distortions that we all read are often from that source, as well as from the public appearances of Palestinian leaders, and their warped views of Middle East events are rarely challenged by our own inept and ignorant journalists. As an example, the PLA has recently announced that with their success in the delegitimization of Israel, they will soon have a one-state solution rather than a two-state solution, as a result of which Jewish life will become virtually extinguished.
    I am 88 years old. Having witnessed one holocaust as a teen-ager, I must face the possibility that a second one is on the way. Both will have occurred within my own lifetime. And should it succeed, one of the Worlds greatest and longest-lasting religions will be all but extinguished.

    Paul Hoffman

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