Israeli Peace Activist Called ‘Cancerous Traitor’ for Asking Tough Questions

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Mail & Guardian Online

Israeli Peace Activist Called ‘Cancerous Traitor’ for Asking Tough Questions

by
Sydney Levy

Israeli academic and activist Neve Gordon's recent Los Angeles Times article, in which he explained why he supports Palestinian calls for a boycott of his own country, has drawn furious fire against him from within Israel, apparently endangering his job. Here is a call from the Jewish Voice for Peace, to support his right to express his views.

Following the publication of Neve Gordon's article, there has been a vehement and aggressive attack against him in Israel that calls into serious question Israel's commitment 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.

Gordon is a political science professor at Ben Gurion University, Israel, and a long-time peace activist.

His endorsement of economic pressure offers what Naomi Klein termed "the most effective tools in the non-violent arsenal" to address the Israeli occupation.

And yet Professor Rivka Carmi, the president of Ben Gurion University, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying that the "university may no longer be interested in his services".

She said that "academics who feel this way about their country are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere".

Is Carmi really calling on Gordon to leave his country?

Several Knesset members from the right have called upon Carmi and the minister of education to sack Gordon, while Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar called the article "repugnant and deplorable".

In the thousands of talkbacks generated by articles in Israel, hundreds of angry readers have called Gordon a traitor, a virus and cancerous, and have threatened to expel him from Israel. 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 Gordon's 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 criticise me while evading the tough and important questions." The dismaying response to Gordon's article is but the latest manifestation of attempts to silence dissent within Israel.

In the past six months activists from New Profile, which describes itself as "a movement for the civilisation of Israeli society", have been arrested and investigated; Israeli human rights activist 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, an Israeli pacifist organisation working for Palestinian self-determination, "a virus".

Are these the actions of a democracy? Boycotts, divestment and sanctions constitute a legitimate non-violent strategy with a history, most famously in South Africa. It deserves honest, thoughtful appraisal, such as Gordon offered in his recent article.

By supporting Gordon we are protecting the ability to talk openly about the Israeli occupation and about non-violent options to address it, including boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Sydney Levy is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a US-based organisation dedicated to reaching a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on the principles of international human rights law. This an edited version of the text JVP circulated last week to elicit support or a petition addressed to the Israeli minister of education and the president of Ben Gurion University, calling on them to “defend Gordon’s right to express his opinions”.

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