Recently, an American-Israeli, Asaf Romirowsky, was asked to step down from a University of Delaware panel discussion on anti-Americanism because one of the participants, the University's Muqtedar Khan, expressed an unwillingness to appear on a panel discussion with anyone who had once served in the Israel Defense Forces.
Khan did not bother to assert, much less prove, that the past performance of (compulsory) military service by an Israeli was something illicit. He merely pretended that such conduct is self-evidently deserving of ostracism.
Why the pretense? Perhaps because it was a handy distraction from the discrimination increasingly deployed against Israeli Jews in the academy. Most Israeli Jews (but not Israeli Muslims) perform military service and to exclude on this basis is to impose a virtually blanket ban on them.
This occurrence at University of Delaware is part of a wider pattern which originated in Britain. In April 2002, two British academics, Steven and Hilary Rose, initiated an academic boycott campaign against Israel, calling for a moratorium on all cultural and research links with Israel until Israel pursues peace talks along the lines of the faux peace plan put forward by the Arab League in 2002.
In June 2002, Mona Baker, a professor at UMIST, sacked two Tel Aviv University academics from the editorial boards of the two journals she edits. She offered them however, the choice of retaining their positions if they sever ties with Israel and leave the country. In 2003, an Oxford pathology professor, Andrew Wilkie, rejected an Israeli research applicant, explaining that his detestation of Israel's policies impelled him to reject an Israeli citizen, irrespective of the individual's personal views or merits. Similarly, two Israelis highly critical of Israel – one Jewish and one Arab – had their submission to an English academic journal returned with an editor's note advising that it had been rejected because its authors were Israelis – though in this case, the two were offered reconsideration if they inserted some paragraphs likening Israel to apartheid South Africa.
In 2005, Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted to impose an academic boycott on two Israeli universities. The country's other major union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), voted in May 2006 in favor of a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions that do not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel's "apartheid policies."
The British pattern has been replicated globally: a petition for boycotting research and cultural links with Israel was taken up quickly in the U.S. (April 2002) and Australia (May 2002), with similar initiatives following in France, Italy, Belgium and in the Scandinavian countries.
It has also spread beyond academe: In May 2006, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario, the Ontario wing of Canada's largest union, voted to join an international boycott campaign against Israel "until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination ." This April, British journalists implicitly confirmed past complaints about anti-Israel bias (always indignantly denied) when its National Union of Journalists voted by 66 to 54 to boycott Israeli goods. This was followed in May by a group of 130 British doctors calling for a boycott of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and its expulsion from the World Medical Association since, in their words, the IMA had "refused" to protest about Israeli "war crimes."
Injustice and discrimination aside, the results of boycotting individual Israelis occasionally have been absurd: thus, in 2003, the chief of Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital's gene-therapy institute, engaged in research to cure a blood disease prevalent among Palestinians, was refused assistance from a Norwegian colleague.
What is one to conclude? That shunning Israeli Jews takes place on the inquisitorial presumption that terrible guilt attaches to each individual Israeli Jew unless innocence is proved. In short, Israeli Jews are guilty until proven innocent. Innocence, in turn, may only be demonstrated (occasionally, at least) by explicit condemnation of the policies of its democratically elected government – in short, by Soviet-style denunciations. Nor has dissent from this position been adjudged an admissible alternative by the inquisitors. For them, political orthodoxy has become an ideal.
Academics from even truly tyrannical and vicious regimes like North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia or Iran face no such test or sanction, nor has it occurred to anyone that they should. It is an elementary principle that private individuals are not responsible for the actions of their governments. This principle evidently does not apply to the British Inquisition.
Others have rightly noted of this incident that Khan was wrong to avoid vigorous debate with an opponent. But that point is scarcely the most important. It was not debate alone that Khan avoided. Rather, he was repudiating Israeli Jews within the precincts of academic debate. The British Inquisition operates on a similar principle of excluding Israeli Jews from rights and privileges accorded everyone else. It is part of a wider strategy for their ostracism – and it is gaining a presence in America.