Professor’s Boycott of Israel Reveals Personal Prejudice

University of Michigan Law School (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Professor Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan agreed to write a letter of recommendation for his student to study abroad, presumably because she had worked hard enough to deserve it. But when he found out that his student was planning to study at an Israeli university, he withdrew his offer.

Yet, in an interview with the Michigan Daily, he denied what he described as the “perennial claim of anti-Semitism”. Perennial because, of course, Jews simply won’t stop complaining about it. The eternal Jew’s unjustified claims and everlasting accusations. In Chariots of Fire, Harold Wilson, a British Jew, describes his experience with anti-Semitism by saying that you just “catch it on the edge of a remark”. Mr. Cheney-Lippold’s reference to anti-Semitism as a “perennial claim” perfectly illustrates Harold Wilson’s point.

But one need not focus on such details to expose the professor’s hypocrisy. To analyze Mr. Cheney-Lippold’s action is to make evident his double standards. He discriminates solely against Israel, as it appears that he has no problem in sending his students to any other country, even to those with severe human rights violations. The University of Michigan offers several study abroad programs in China, a country with a long record of human rights violations against Tibetans and Uighurs, just to name a few. Would Mr. Cheney-Lippold deny a letter of recommendation for a Chinese university? Would he deny a letter of recommendation for Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, Sudanese or even Saudi universities? He would most likely ignore the atrocities those governments commit and agree to send his students there in the name of cultural exploration. But not Israel.

And yet, according to The Economist’s annual ranking in 2017, Israel ranked as the 30th most democratic country in the world, one place above Belgium. China, for example, ranked 139th. But it is Israel that deserves to be single-handedly picked out to be boycotted. And what could possibly be so special about Israel that it deserves the honor of being held to such unparalleled high standards by Mr. Cheney-Lippold? Or, better put, subjected to such hypocrisy? It is certainly suspicious that the only Jewish country in the world should receive such unique treatment. A state created by Jews precisely to protect themselves from the persecution and annihilation they were subjected to for centuries in Europe and the Middle East.

Nonetheless, we could remain open-minded and give the professor another chance. After all, he might just be so sensitive to the plight of the Palestinian people that he will boycott anyone that mistreats them. And of course, criticism of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is perfectly valid. The extremist sectors of Israeli society are indeed dangerous and should be opposed. But, if Mr. Cheney-Lippold cares so deeply about Palestinians, why does he not call for the boycott of Lebanon, which treats the three hundred thousand Palestinians living in its territory as second class citizens in what Human Rights Watch describes as “appalling social and economic conditions”? Or why does he not campaign against Jordan for stripping away citizenship from thousands of Jordanians of Palestinian origin, leaving them effectively stateless? He could also raise his voice against Egypt, a country which habitually closes off its border with their “brothers” in Gaza, blockading it from the outside world. But it just seems that Mr. Cheney-Lippold doesn’t care so much about the abuse of Palestinians when it is inflicted by other countries. His sole focus on boycotting Israel suggests that he is more motivated by a hatred of Israel than by a desire to protect Palestinians.

Trying to defend himself, Mr. Cheney-Lippold argued that he was boycotting Israel “in a very similar tactical frame as South Africa”. A daring statement. The South Africa of apartheid was a state designed by its white inhabitants with the exploitation and subjugation of the black majority in mind. Blacks weren’t even allowed to vote or to have sexual relations with whites in apartheid South Africa. Compare this to Israel, where the third biggest party in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) is an Arab party. Or where an Arab Israeli judge, Salim Joubran, sat at the Supreme Court of Israel from 2004 to 2017. Not to mention the Israeli universities that Mr. Cheney-Lippold boycotts, which welcome Arabs into its student and faculty bodies, such as the distinguished professor Hossam Haick, who teaches at the Technion in Haifa and is credited for inventing the Nano-electronic nose. In his university, popularly known as the MIT of Israel, Arabs make up 20% of the student body. But for Mr. Cheney-Lippold, however, Professor Haick’s lectures are deserving of his boycott.

Mr. Cheney-Lippold unfairly and demagogically compares Israel to apartheid South Africa because he seeks to de-legitimize the existence of Israel, to turn Israel into a pariah state and to brand Zionism as being inherently racist. And that is precisely one of the examples of anti-Semitism that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an entity which most Western countries are members of, warns against. It states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is an example of anti-Semitism. And so, by comparing Israel to South African apartheid, Mr. Cheney-Lippold is openly exhibiting his contempt for the idea of Jewish self-determination.

The same contempt that characterizes Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a movement which seeks to isolate Israel from the rest of the world, and whose ideals the professor is inspired by and has pledged to follow. A politics of hate that is now being repudiated around the world. The Berlin wing of the German Social Democratic Party, a party persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s, recently voted to condemn BDS as anti-Semitic. And Uwe Becker, a member of Angela Merkel’s ruling party, which has overseen the reception of over a million refugees into Germany in the last 5 years, has accused BDS of using the same language “that Nazis once used”. It is probably a good idea to listen to contemporary moderate Germans when they raise the red flag for anti-Semitism.

Mr. Cheney-Lippold should take note and reconsider his stance. But since his sectarianism will likely prevail, he could at least remain consistent and throw away the MacBook he uses in his lectures, contaminated as it is with Israeli technology.

To read an opposing opinion, click here.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts