Millett: Holocaust analogies and calls for Israel’s destruction at SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies

Cross posted by Richard Millett

Naomi Foyle, Rachel Shabi, Bidisha, Miranda Pennell, Selma Dabbagh last night.

The London Middle East Institute (LMEI), which is based at the School of Oriental and African Studies, used to give serious lectures. Not any more. The recently established Centre for Palestine Studies (CPS) now sits like a cuckoo in the nest of the LMEI.

Last night the first LMEI lecture of the new academic year was presented under the auspices of CPS. Palestine Now: Writers Respond was all about attacking Israel; nothing about studying the Palestinians.

Bidisha (The Guardian), Rachel Shabi (The Guardian), Selma Dabbagh (author), Miranda Pennell (film-maker) and Naomi Foyle (British Writers in Support of Palestine) had simply come to talk about how to fight for “the Palestinian cause” and against “Hasbarah”.

New students heard calls for the destruction of Israel dressed up as justice for the Palestinians, racist calls to boycott Israel and a totally gratuitous Holocaust analogy. Shame on LMEI for allowing this.

DabbaghPennell and Foyle said they supported BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel.

Dabbagh explained that she writes in order to get more people involved in the Palestinian cause and told of how she refused to speak at Jewish Book Week (JBW), when asked to, because of its Israeli government funding.

Bidisha suggested it might have been better for Dabbagh to go to JBW and get her message across to the audience, but Dabbagh said she felt she couldn’t break the call to boycott Israel.

Dabbagh, who is also a lawyer, has been living in Bahrain from where she said she has been helping to sue, not the Bahrain police, but the British police!

Bemusingly, Shabi said that she agreed with the ‘D’ of BDS (divestment) but not the ‘B’ (cultural boycott) which she viewed as a “witch-hunt”. Bidisha said she was equally “ambivalent” about the boycott.

During the Q&A I asked whether any of the panelists had accepted funding from a government whose actions they disagreed with and what the panelists were doing about the oppression of gays, women and dissidents under Hamas rule. I said BDS was racist and that it calls for the destruction of Israel by demanding “the return of Palestinian refugees”.

Naomi Foyle refused to accept that Israel would be destroyed by BDS. Using a crude Holocaust analogy she explained:

After the Holocaust Jews, who suffered in the Holocaust, were allowed reparations. They had their property returned to them. They were allowed to sue. Of course they were allowed to do it. That was their right. The Palestinian refugees, whose population has mushroomed, are living in squalid conditions, horrendous conditions with no passports, no freedom of movement, no sanitation, no hospital care. These people have keys to their family homes and their right to these family homes must be recognised. Once that right is recognised then the negotiations can begin on what this means for Israel as a state; whether it will become one state, whether it will become a secular state. No one is calling for the destruction of Israel. Is South Africa destroyed now because the blacks in South Africa have human rights? Israel is being asked to evolve.”

Obviously Israel would be destroyed as a Jewish state, but it would have been decent for another panelist to have pointed out to Foyle that it was slightly impossible for 6,000,000 Jews to have had their property returned because they were actually dead, having been murdered by the Nazis. However, no one uttered a word; not even Shabi.

And ignoring that more than 50 rockets had landed in Israel on Monday alone without condemnation from any quarter Foyle stated:

“Palestine is shrinking by the day. We have to say no, we have to put moral pressure on. Palestinians haven’t been allowed, in international opinion, to fight back with armed resistance. That’s been a complete disaster for them.”

Foyle continued that BDS doesn’t call for Israelis to go unfunded by the Israeli government, as “that’s their right as taxpayers”. She said it merely calls for Israelis not to leave Israel to perform and for performers not to go to Israel.

She said she had taken funding from the Canadian and British governments to support her writing and education, and then added:

“If there was a boycott of Great Britain that had any hope of helping the people of Afghanistan or Iraq and all I was being asked to do was not travel abroad to a foreign festival; it’s a no brainer.”

This all goes to show that boycotting Israel has nothing to do with objecting to settlements. It is a racist boycott of Israel per se.

Anti-Israel activists neatly try to evade accusations of racism by claiming that “Palestinian society” has called for BDS. In reality, such a call has merely come from a large group of tiny anti-Israel NGOs posing as “Palestinian society”.

Shabi, who described herself as a British/Israeli/Iraqi, then told of her research for her book which involved her seeing how easy it is to buy a house in a settlement and how she had to perfect a “back story” to do this. She said she knew her back story was perfect when her neighbour asked why she was disguised as a “British Jewish religious tourist”.

Meanwhile, Dabbagh admitted that she was “uncomfortable with the way women and gays are treated by Hamas”, but blamed Israel’s “siege” for keeping Hamas in power.

And Bidusha, addressing me directly, said that Palestinian children are brutalised by “the siege of Gaza”. I replied that Egypt is also conducting “the siege”. She had no answer.

As for the future, Shabi concluded that there was already “one-state on the ground” and the discussion in Israel was now just centred around whether it will be a left-wing or right-wing state. This is, of course, pure fantasy from Shabi.

While this brainwashing of new students was taking place a brave girl, Malala Yousufzai, who is 14, was still recovering in hospital after being shot in the neck and head by the Taliban for standing up for women’s education in Pakistan.

SOAS’ students should look to the likes of Yousufzai, not to phony human rights activists, for inspiration in fighting against real injustice.

14 replies »

  1. Great post, Richard. The destruction of academic standards at Western universities (I think of NYC’s Columbia Campus, for example) by these well-financed “Centers”) is an increasing blight.

    BTW – you could have written Selma Dabbagh (author – Guardian darling) – whenever she writes something she gets a warm welcome at …. the Guardian.

  2. More of the same bigoted crap which voices prejudice and loathing and represents the antithesis of legitimate debate which seeks to achieve anything. Another relevant aspect is the lack of responsibility SOAS is prepared to take. I graduated from that college fifteen years ago it gave too much freedom for anti Jewish prejudice to flourish under the guise of political anti Zionism back then, that was nothing in comparison with 2012. Sadly this institution gets worse and worse and has all but lost any credibility it had.

    • There appears to have been a slew of haters voting down my post. What on earth has happened? Can any of them actually lend a voice to their hatred?

  3. Centre for “Palestine Studies”? Who do they think they are kidding?

    Real Palestine studies would include an analysis of suicide bombing, rocket attacks, extra-judicial assassination, torture, intimidation and anti-semitic incitement, but I bet none of that is on the syllabus.

    • This is indeed bizzarre. Will SOAS be awarding a degree in “Palestinian Studies”? I have no objection to that per se, but if this “lecture” is how the course begins, it sounds more like a political pressure group than an academic course of study.

  4. Excellent post Richard, and yet again, you put yourself into the lions’ den. Glad to learn that this time, they didn’t attempt to shut you up, but would no doubt have objected if you’d begun to video them.

    Is the newly established Centre for Palestine Studies an attempt to rewrite history? Will research be mounted into the hitherto unknown Palestinian civilisation that predated all other inhabitants of the land?

    Will its archaeology department discover coins and seals from previously unknown Palestinian kings and princes? Will tomb drawings of Yasser 1st come to light?

    The pro Palestinian movement uses lies, deceit, tricks and violence to put their case across. Now it seems, they are trying to sanitise their approach by establishing an academic base from which to spread their message. No doubt they believe this will give them credibility. It’s a shame then that they chose the School. Of. Anti. Semitism. (S.O.A.S.) as their base.

    Kind of defeats the object.

    • The pro Palestinian movement uses lies…

      They are not pro-Palestinians at all, they couldn’t give less about the Palestinians. As the Arab dictators and mullahs used the Palestinians to their own selfish purposes, these people are using them to masquerade their hate of Israel.

  5. At SOAS they don’t know yet that Qadafi has been sent to his 72 virgins and can’t finance them as he did with the LSE…

  6. It’s obvious these people do this sort of thing to fill a void in their lives and give it some purpose. They’re hopelessly lost. There view of reality is delusional, and yes, Peter, selfish, as well as obsessive.

  7. It’s beyond obvious that “global Leftists” like these creeps on the panel have only 1 motivation–their unrepentant antiSemitism thinly disguised as “BDS”, “concern” for the Palestinians, etc.
    Why else their total focus and indeed obsession with democratic little Israel, while always totally ignjoring the REAL human rights abuses in many Islamic theocracies–to say nothing of Islamofascist terrorist violence?

    Guess “intellectuals” like those on the panel don’t feel that the ongoing murder of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria, for example,represents any human rights problem to be concerned about.

    Their hypocrisy stinks to high heaven, and i commendt those who are energetic in calling them out on their hateful bigotry.bigotry. We shouldn’t be shy or hesitant to do so.,