Universities: Anti-Semitism

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:42 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop 7:42 pm, 12th June 2007

My Lords, I have recently returned from leading a pilgrimage of 200 people from my diocese to Israel and Palestine. It was primarily a spiritual pilgrimage to the holy sites, and we were able to visit two Palestinian cities: Bethlehem and Jericho. In addition, in the evening we were addressed on contemporary issues by senior members of the Israeli, Palestinian, Arab and indigenous Christian populations.

A new visitor to Israel and Palestine is struck by the contrast between the communities. Israel is a first-world country in every sense, with excellent industry, agriculture, infrastructure and amenities, including education. By contrast, the Palestinian areas appear third-world, and I suspect that this would be even more apparent in the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

The security measures which Israel has taken in recent years have made this contrast worse. One has to acknowledge the horrible nature of suicide bombings, and, in its own way, the security wall has stopped this form of terrorism in Israel. But the price has been great—not least for those from the Palestinian areas who worked or studied in Israel. A sort of de facto apartheid has emerged, with severe restrictions on movement across the security line in either direction.

I entirely share the view that boycotts will be either ineffective or counter-productive, and we are nowhere near a situation where that would be helpful. But, as things stand, young Palestinians in particular are greatly disadvantaged—even more so now than in the recent past. My question to the Minister is this: should the Government not consider facilitating a more proactive scholarship programme to enable Palestinian students to study at our universities? I refer to paragraph 24 of the Government's response: the discussions which are encouraged there need the participation of Palestinians if they are to be truly authentic. What better way to facilitate those discussions than to involve those who are most directly affected by the situation? However, the last thing that is needed is a boycott. The situation needs greater exchange, interaction and mutual conversation by those most involved in it. In this way, indeed, there will be hope in dialogue.


Joel Sugarman
Posted on 13 Jun 2007 10:29 pm (Report this annotation)

The far left's use of the term apartheid in relation to Israels dealing with the palestinians, has been adopted by many (supposedly) liberal individuals. It is as offensive as it is preposterous. The apartheid era government of south africa denied citizen rights to a majority indigenous civilian population. The palestinians are not citizens - they are living in an area which has not been formerly annexed by Israel (except for east jerusalem - its historic and modern capital); they are not a majority - even if they were citizens of Israel; they are not indeginous - Jews date there existence in Israel back 3000-3500 years in unbroken line (a majority, however, have returned from the european and arab countries they had fled to following various historic expulsions).

Israel has non-jewish, arab, druze and european (amongst others) populations which share the exact same rights as its Jewish citizens. Further, the difficulties and discomfort that palestinians face are a continuation of those that they were placed under during Jordanian rule and from which they have never managed to lift themselves. This is a result of corruption, deep rooted indoctrination into a hatred of Jews and the resulting perpetual conflict with Israel that has been going on for a century and more. But overall it is a continuing desire to blame others for there problems instead of taking responsibility for there own future. They have received and continue to receive huge amounts of aid from the west, arab countries and from Israel and yet this money is squandered on indivduals or used to buy weapons and propaganda rather than improving the daily lives of citizens, which they know could de-radicalize the population and lead to a state of non-conflict - which their leaders and those of other arab nations still do not want.

Comparison with apartheid south africa is merely a tool by which to demonize and de-legitimize Israel. It is a result of the disproportionate and myopic concentration by the far-left and, increasingly, center-left on a relatively small regional conflict. It does nothing to help the situation and everything to perpetuate hate, isolation and confrontation. I am surprised to hear such a thing from someone of the cloth.

I would also like to mention that it has recently been suggested (on channel 4 news) that Israel has been aiming to cause the civil strife in gaza. This ludicrous, conspiracy-theory-type suggestion goes against all logic. it is not in Israels interest to have a radicalized population on its doorstep. It is in the Hamas', Islamic Jihads' and Iranian interests. such suggestions highlight the common misconceptions in this country which support not just extremist anti-Semitism, but modern political Judeophobia.

yours sincerely

Joel Sugarman
Posted on 13 Jun 2007 10:39 pm (Report this annotation)

I would add that as a positive step toward educating our universities unions (UCU and CLU) on the academic freedom that they would like to deny to Israelis, a fund for scholarships and student exhange between British and Israeli Universities should be set up.

This would help to introduce the other side of the story into the all too one-sided debate going on at universities currently.