A couple of interesting items originating from the Holy Land (or by way of the Holy Land) recently.
First off, the Reut Institute – an Israeli think tank that has done valuable and original work on of Israeli domestic and international issues over the last decade – has recently returned to the subject of de-legitimization.
When they turned their attention to this issue a few years ago, the result was this interesting and thoughtful study about the nature of the de-legitimization threat, its strategic significance, and what could be done to build a firewall to protect the Jewish state from this form of diplomatic propaganda. And building on this “firewall” theme, they recently kicked off a new project – The Firewall Hackathon – designed to put theory into practice.
Similar Hackathons in the past focused on other issues (such as a Tikkun hack-fest that resulted in a number of innovations designed to do good works, such as helping handicapped and protecting the environment). But next year’s Firewall Hackathon (scheduled for January 4-6, 2015 in Tel Aviv) will revolve around building technologies and that can support those of us battling de-legitimizers, such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement.”
Second on the list, the University of Haifa has decided to test the American Studies Association’s increasingly wobbly boycott by sending a representative (i.e., someone who will be officially representing an Israeli university in defiance of the organization’s ban) to the ASA’s conference in November.
As noted last week, ASA leaders have spent much of October trying to break-dance their way out of the jam they placed themselves into when they forced a boycott vote on the organization.
Back when they were blaring to the world that their boycott was internationally newsworthy, they tried to make a distinction between boycotting individuals and institutions by insisting that any Israeli was welcome to participate in their events, so long as they did not come as representatives of a now-boycotted college or university. But once that position placed them into hot water vis-à-vis California’s anti-discrimination law, they started to waffle on the “representative” part, with one ASA hack declaring that Prime Minister Netenyahu could attend if he liked (although they never explained what would happen if he registered as the Prime Minister of Israel).
Well with the CA legal system breathing down their neck, we will now see what happens when the University of Haifa sends someone who refuses to participate as anything other than a representative of his or her institution (in the same manner all scholars from any other country in the world will be representing themselves). My only hope is that this Haifa representative uses his time at the event to organize as many partnerships as he or she can with ASA members, and perhaps even organizations within ASA (like their East and West Coast branches, both of which soundly rejected the boycott). What a fun story that would be (which makes it an even greater pity that ASA has banned the media from their event).
Finally, a few weeks back I had an exchange with long-time reader and Times of Israel blogger Mike Lumish (who blogs at his own site) about how we could model some of the meaningful debate that is so lacking whenever the BDSniks show up to spout their accusations and then fly the coop whenever their prejudices are challenged with things like truth and logic.
One of the areas that tend to create controversy within the community of Israel’s supporters is the Left/Right divide with regard to attitudes towards the Jewish state as well as the broader Middle East conflict(s). And rather than avoid or paper over that issue, Mike and I are going to hash it out over the next several weeks in periodic exchanges that will take place on each of our sites (both articles and comments).
Now there is always the issue of how the question anchoring such a debate should be framed. Perhaps we can look at the meaning of the Left/Right debate generally, or zero in on the domestic front with a discussion of whether Jews are making an error by continuing to support the Democratic Party by large majorities, even during the current era when a Democratic administration has shown such hostility towards Israel (or at least its leadership).
If you read this series which includes pieces I’ve written over the years on this topic, you’ll have a sense of where I’m coming from with regard to Left-Right issues as they pertain to discussions of the Middle East. And with that as backdrop, I’d like to suggest a debate topic of whether we should consider the political Left not as an ally or enemy, but as a battleground over which the Arab-Israeli conflict is being fought.