I’ve talked a number of times about how unfair the fight is between Israel and her defamers.
Those defamers, after all, have a militant goal: the elimination of the Jewish state. With that goal as their North Star, strategies to weaken that state or make its destruction appear noble and just become clear, as do tactics to achieve those strategic aims (such as BDS). In addition, the sociopathic nature of Israel’s enemies gives them the power to manipulate others while feeling no guilt over their own destructive, ruthless behavior.
In contrast, nearly all Israelis and friends of Israel do not want to see enemies eliminated. In fact, our greatest dream (i.e., our goal) is not to see Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims destroyed, but rather to live at peace with them (or at least be left in peace by them). With such non-militant goals driving our enterprise, it’s no surprise that we cannot gin up the kind of hatred needed to drive decades-long hostile counter-campaigns. And our unwillingness to use others as means to an end means we are not ready to manipulate neutrals in order to use them as weapons in our political campaigns.
While I still hold to this analysis, some recent events also got me thinking of another way to look at “the fight,” one in which the odds can seem stacked in Israel’s favor.
The first event was the opening of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute in New York, a two-billion dollar facility that anchors Cornell’s Tech education and research initiative. This mammoth joint effort won out in fierce competition between some of the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the country. And the success of Cornell’s bid was largely in recognition of the value of that school’s partnership with one of the world’s most successful schools of scientific learning: Israel’s Technion Institute.
Given that decades of harassment by academic boycotters has led to little more than marginal professors occasionally engaging in cowardly furtive boycotts and sputtering on Twitter, the opening of Cornell-Technion – remarkable in itself – sends an important message to the world: that linking arms with Israel brings success and progress, while shunning the Jewish state leads nowhere.
Speaking of going nowhere (as well as sputtering on Twitter) the event I’d like to use as a contrast to the opening of Technion-Cornell took place in Dublin last week where Israel haters from around that nation gathered to say the same things they and others have said at Israel-hating events for more than half a century. And their star attraction was that failed academic whose Twitter id rivals that of America’s president: Steven Salaita.
Mr. Salaita’s been on a roller coaster ride since being hired to join the faculty of the Native American Studies department at University of Illinois (despite having no qualifications for the job), followed by his un-hiring by school leaders unwilling to give lifelong employment to someone advocating violence on Twitter, followed by a lawsuit and boycott of the university (which, among other things, destroyed the department he was going to join), followed by his decamping to American University of Beirut in Lebanon, followed by his being let go from that university as well.
And who is to blame for this string of disasters that have left him academically homeless (although not bereft of speaking gigs, it appears): the evil Jews (whoops! I mean “Zionists”) whose power apparently extends to academic institutions in nations at war with the Jewish state.
For all his attempts to make his story come off like an epic struggle of right against might, the Salaita tale is ultimately about someone who never grew out of adolescence now demanding rewards (like tenure) he doesn’t deserve, someone ready to whine and blame/punish others for his failings.
While there might be a market for such self-pity within marginal groups (like the lame boycotters of the American Studies Association – another field Salaita announced himself an expert in), I can’t imagine that the professors staffing the new Technion-Cornell Institute got to their positions by behaving in such a manner. In fact, the string of achievements on both campuses would indicate that they have much better things to do than bitch that no one is offering them a paid perch to spout politics that can’t be taken away.
Every few years, our Temple is blessed by a visit from young Israeli soldiers traveling through Boston, and I’ve always been stunned by the seriousness and maturity of kids not much older than my recent high-school graduate. And it is these serious young men and women who then go on to university and from there become the next generation of Technion professors, business leaders, or successes in a thousand other fields (all the while continuing to contribute to the defense of their homeland).
In a contest between such serious people and freaks and weirdos like Steven Salaita, who has the upper hand?