From Josh Wingrove at the Globe & Mail:
A proposed resolution by a major Ontario union to ban Israeli academics at the province’s universities has sparked a bitter debate between leaders on both sides over an Israeli attack on a Gaza university.
The Ontario arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees announced yesterday it would propose, in a meeting next month, “a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities,” if they do not explicitly condemn Israeli action in Gaza.
The proposal comes specifically after a Dec. 29 attack on an Islamic university in Gaza, which Israel claimed was affiliated with Hamas.
“Attacking an institution of learning is just beyond the pale,” CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan said last night. “They deliberately targeted an institution of learning. That’s what the Nazis did.” [more]
I stand strongly against Israel’s attack on Gaza, both because I believe it is immoral and illegal, but also because I don’t think it can achieve any reasonable, practical goals.
Now, some people have been troubled that there seems to have been little concern voiced by academics about the bombing of a Gaza university by Israel. It makes little sense to me that we ought to specifically protest every Gazan institution that comes under attack, since it appears that all Gazan institutions are under attack, and have been for longer than many people seem willing to admit. After all, if you have no electricity, food or water it’s very hard to run anything.
And when innocent civilians and children are being killed in their homes and in the streets, why on earth would a university be exempt? As long as the Israelis prevent journalists from reporting in Gaza, we will hear the excuse that anything that gets bombed contains members of Hamas using civilians as shields. And by the way, Gazans are making pretty fragile shields these days – Israel doesn’t seem at all inclined to be bothered by their presence where the bombs fall, as we heard today when a UN school was bombed, killing many innocents. It will be a long while, if ever, before we know the truth. As long as that’s the case, I say it’s all illegitimate and I protest all of it.
Beyond that, academic freedom doesn’t seem to be of any particular value to Ryan, but there are those who think that it’s an important way to protect freedom of expression within the academy. Within reasonable limits, so I. Freedom of expression in the universities has been seriously eroded by corporatism. Go after that one Sid – in the long run, it’s much more serious, insidious and important. If Israeli academics express opinions that people find illegitimate, they’re free to say so. Period. I guess Ryan missed the irony of speaking out for the “sacredness” of institutions of higher learning by attacking one of their highest values. Just what are they worth anyway?
And hell, why pick on academics? Why not just refuse entry to Canada to any person who agrees with the Israeli aggression? Ya see Sid?
But the capper just has to be accusing Israel of behaving like the Nazis. If Ryan had a legitimate bone to pick, he sure blew himself right out of the water there. While I decry, quite absolutely, the actions of Israel in blockading Gaza and then attacking it, there just is no analogy to the systematic programme to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe undertaken by the Nazis. Ryan’s comment smacks of anti-Semitism, as well as being simply inaccurate. The casual way that this kind of accusation is made continually blows my mind. Ryan isn’t helping the Palestinian cause with this dumbassery.
Shut up Sid!