The Power of Logic vs. the Logic of Power

From the archive (legacy material)

Carmela Armanios | The Palestine Chronicle | 22 May 2005

“‘Are the Israeli ‘racist and colonial policies’ similar to those of apartheid South Africa?’
As a Mathematician, I believe in applying logic to every problem we face: social, political, administrative or any other. When arguments get entangled with relevant and irrelevant claims, one has to stop and think logically about the problem.
After the AUT decision to boycott two Israeli universities for their complicity in sustaining the occupation and oppression, many published articles questioned: Is this a justified act? Is it counter-productive? What are the similarities and differences between the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the Israeli occupation of Palestine?
There are some basic questions that one could ask:
Q: Does the Israeli – Palestinian academic cooperation build a bridge to peace between the two sides?
A: We all agree that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a result of Israeli military occupation, denying the Palestinians their human rights. Does the Israeli – Palestinian academic cooperation really contribute to ending the occupation? Obviously not! This type of joint work presents a false picture of harmony and coexistence to the world despite the reality of injustice and human rights abuse; it therefore prolongs the occupation, whether or not it intends to.
Q: Is boycotting Israeli academic institutions a violation of “academic freedom”?
A: We assume as a given that academic freedom applies to all humans, and since the Palestinians are humans, then they deserve the right to academic freedom.
Apparently, some boycott opponents do not agree with this fundamental syllogism. Israeli Universities support the Israeli government, directly and indirectly, in its illegal actions against the Palestinians. Very few brave Israeli professors stood up and declared their opposition to the Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. The Israeli army raided Palestinian university campuses, killed, injured and arrested students and faculty. The Israeli occupation authorities denied Palestinian academics freedom of movement, of travel and of academic development. For three years the main road leading to Birzeit University, for instance, was closed to vehicles, and all faculty and students were systematically harassed and humiliated at the military checkpoint cutting the road. Not one Israeli university announced its condemnation of this clear infringement of our academic freedom. Most universities in fact sponsored or sanctioned “research” supporting aspects of this occupation far worse than this.
This shows that Israeli universities are guilty of supporting their government acts; hence they should not be enjoying the freedom that they are denying others.
Q: Perhaps one can sympathize with a call for comprehensive boycott of Israel in all vital fields, as was done in South Africa. But is an academic boycott per se justified?
A: If we agree that boycotting Israel economically, culturally, academically etc.. is morally justified, then one should regard academic boycott as also justified, since it is a subset of this general boycott. The question then must do with effectiveness, not moral soundness, of this form of boycott if separated from the other forms. Clearly, boycotting Israel in all fields is more powerful and effective, but no one should underestimate the potency of the academic boycott adopted by the AUT either. The mere burst of articles and debates after the AUT decision in Israel and around the world should prove to any skeptic that it is indeed effective.
Q: Are the Israeli “racist and colonial policies” cited in the AUT decisions similar to those of the apartheid regime in South Africa?
A: Israel was established as a ” Jewish State”, meaning that every Jew has the right to migrate and obtain citizenship in Israel while the Palestinian refugees that lived in Palestine for hundreds of years are denied their right to return . This is only one item in a long list of Israel’s discrimination acts against the people of Palestine. Rights in Israel are invariably associated with religion and ethnicity. Sounds familiar? Why then does the world tolerate this distinct form of apartheid?
Back to basics of logic: since Israel’s colonial policies contravene international law and violate Palestinian human rights, and since all Israeli academic institutions are colluding with these policies, then they should be held responsible unless they unequivocally declare their opposition to their government’s crimes.
-Dr. Carmela Armanios is an Assistant Professor at Birzeit University’s Mathematics Department