Thursday, June 9, 2016

Robert Freedman. Questions or Objections. DN. 09 Jun 2016.

1.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: Well, I think the governor did the right thing. I would have preferred it to go through the Legislature, if possible. But because of the goals of BDS, which are particularly ugly, I think it was something that had to be done. Let me just go over with you very quickly, Rebecca, if I could, what the goals are of the BDS movement. If you look at them, one is allegedly to end Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory. There, the Israelis—in 1948, there was a chance for a Palestinian state; Palestinians rejected it. Clinton parameters offered a peaceful solution for a Palestinian state and an end to occupation; the Palestinians rejected it. In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a peace plan; Arafat—Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, rejected it. So, the end to occupation is not just one-sided.
  Secondly, they call for, quote, “full equality of Arab Palestinian citizens in Israel.” Certainly I support that, but according to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, there is equality. There are Arab judges. Fifteen percent of the student body in Israeli universities are Arab. Forty percent of Israeli doctors are Arab. So this is not apartheid South Africa. It’s a very, very different situation.
  But the worst element to BDS, in my view, is their call for the so-called right of return of Palestinian refugees. What that would mean—some 5 million refugees and their descendants—that’s the end of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, something recognized by the U.N. And this comes very close to being anti-Semitism. Indeed, Omar Barghouti, who is the father of the BDS movement, is all for a one-state solution, where the Arabs would be the majority. So, I have a real problem with that. Basically, it says that all other nations—the Germans, the French, the English—can have their own nation-state ethnically, but Jews cannot. And I think that’s the problem. Even worse, if you look at what the history of the refugee problem was, in 1938, the Germans moved into the—
2.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: OK, I want to come back to these points.
3.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: It’s quite possible. I just would like to refer you to the statement of the American Association of University Professors of May 2013, which opposed the BDS movement. And let me quote it for you. “In view of the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas, we oppose academic boycotts. On the same grounds, we recommend that other academic associations oppose academic boycotts.” Now, BDS is at the heart of the effort to academically boycott Israel. There’s no question about that. There have been attempts in a number of associations. The American Studies Association voted for the boycott. The American Anthropology Association just voted against the boycott. There’s very strong feelings on campuses about this. But if you believe in the free change of—exchange of ideas, then you cannot boycott universities. If you want change in Israel, the universities are the agents of change, and boycotting them is self-defeating. You cannot blame universities in a country for the actions of their government any more than you could blame American universities for the U.S. intervention in Iraq, invasion of Iraq in 2003. But that is what BDS is doing. And it opposes the free exchange of ideas. It’s self-defeating.
  And to make matters worse, Israel, among 196 nations of the world, is picked out by itself for this kind of discrimination. You have what’s going on in Syria with 300,000 people dead, the Russians actively supporting it, the Chinese supporting it at the U.N. But do you hear anything about boycotts of Russian universities or exchanges between Russian universities and American universities, or Chinese universities and American universities? What about the crackdown on free expression in Turkey—
4.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: —where a number of universities—
5.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: —you know, you have this? Why is—
6.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: Yeah, but answer the question: Why is Israel being singled out?
7.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: Well, we heard from Rebecca—and I’m quoting now—it was a “response to a call by Palestinian civil society.” The call was from Omar Barghouti, not particularly known as a democrat even in Palestinian society. And basically he calls—
8.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: —openly for a one-state solution. Period.
9.       ROBERT FREEDMAN: And who is the leader of that—who is the Palestinian leader of that movement?
10.   ROBERT FREEDMAN: Omar Barghouti. Do you deny that?
11.   ROBERT FREEDMAN: Do you deny that Omar Barghouti is the leader of this?

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