On Thursday, August 20 the LA Times published an op-ed in which Ben Gurion University Professor Neve Gordon, a prominent political scientist and long-time peace activist, wrote that the question that kept him up at night, both as a parent and as an Israeli citizen, was how to ensure that his two children as well as the children of his Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime. His pained conclusion is that the only strategy left is “massive international pressure” in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). He therefore endorses the Palestinian BDS campaign proposed by a wide swath of Palestinian civil society.(1)
Following the publication of the article there has been a vehement and aggressive attack against Gordon in Israel that calls into serious question Israel’s committment to academic freedom and the democratic right to free speech.
We now believe that “massive international pressure” will be needed to keep him from being fired from his job.
Tell Ben Gurion University and the Israeli Minister of Education to defend academic freedom.
Prof. Gordon’s endorsement of economic pressure offers what Naomi Klein termed “the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal” to address the Israeli occupation (2).
And yet, Prof. Rivka Carmi, the President of Ben Gurion University, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that the “university may no longer be interested in his services.” She added that “Academics who feel this way about their country, are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere.” (3)
Is Prof. Carmi really calling on Prof. Gordon to leave his country?
Several Knesset members from the right called upon Carmi and the Minister of Education to sack Neve Gordon, while Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar called the article “repugnant and deplorable.”(4) In the thousands of talkbacks generated by articles in Israel, hundreds of angry readers have called Gordon a traitor, a virus, cancerous, and have threatened to expel him from Israel and some have even called for his execution. Unsurprisingly Israeli rights-abusive policies, the occupation and how one might resolve the conflict are side-stepped, and the central issue becomes how to do away with the messenger.
In Prof. Gordon’ words: “From the responses to the article it seems most people don’t have the courage to discuss the main issues: Is Israel an apartheid state? How can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved? Is the settlement project good for Israel or will it cause the state’s destruction? It’s easy to criticize me while evading the tough and important questions.” (5)
The dismaying response to Prof. Gordon’s article is but the latest manifestation of attempts to silence dissent within Israel. In only the last six months, activists from New Profile have been arrested and investigated, Ezra Nawi is in danger of going to jail for non-violently defending the destruction of a Palestinian home, and just last week the Vice Prime Minister called Peace Now “a virus.” Are these the actions of a democracy?
BDS is a legitimate non-violent strategy with a storied history, most famously in South Africa. It deserves honest, thoughtful appraisal, such as Dr. Gordon offered in his recent article. By supporting Professor Gordon, we are protecting the ability to talk openly about the Israeli occupation and about nonviolent options to address it, including boycott, divestment, and sanctions.
Write a letter to the President of Ben Gurion University and to the Ministry of Education in Israel to defend Dr. Neve Gordon’s, and every Israeli’s, ability to discuss political issues without fear of losing their jobs.