Academic Boycotts That Boomerang

Eyal Megged
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Eyal Megged

I am almost sure that it was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who ordered that Professor Rivka Feldhay be barred from attending the important forum in Berlin last week. There is no one in our political arena who is more aware than he - thanks to parental experience - of the injustice that can be inflicted on someone because of his political views. What led to the barring of Feldhay was the ill wind that has gained control of Netanyahu's milieu and his powerlessness to exorcise it; therefore he is not exempt from responsibility for it. This ill wind is fed by a lack of security, a basic weakness and feeling of inferiority, and to our regret it blows not only from the right but also from the left.

I am speaking from experience. I have felt this wind on my own flesh, from the opposite direction, when I supported a position that did not find favor with those who are now shocked and are protesting loudly about Feldhay being banned. I would not be surprised if even Feldhay herself was among those who did not lift a finger when the person who was attacked, and was rejected and boycotted, was not from their camp - or in my case, someone who defected from the camp and fought for a position that was anathema to them.

The lesson that Feldhay and her advocates need to learn from this embarrassing affair, and the conclusion they should draw from it, do not relate to victimization but rather to just the opposite. They had an excellent opportunity to reflect very carefully and to express their remorse. To ask themselves, truthfully, whether they had not boycotted, dismissed or excluded - each in his own sphere of judgment - people whose political outlook clashed with theirs. Whether they had not relied on vested interests when they judged the work of somebody about whom they had political reservations.

It is true that (as the Hebrew saying goes ) one must not mention the rope in the home of the hanged, but in the case of Feldhay it can be said with certainty that she was not executed, not even in the metaphorical sense; that she was not really hurt by the affair, but on the contrary, her martyrdom was to her advantage.

Thanks to the stupidity of those who excommunicated her, her reputation as a martyred soul soared with all the publicity that accompanied the affair. Therefore it would not be too much nerve to ask of her, too, to undergo a little self examination. To express remorse for some transgression of hers, or something she supported, either in an act or by agreement, in excommunicating and boycotting those whose opinions were anathema to hers, or to her friends and colleagues in the academic world - instead of looking only at the qualities that were pertinent.

This does not in any way mean that the motives for boycotting and excommunicating someone in the arenas in which the left is active, stem from the same source as those that spawned the boycott and exclusion of Feldhay. It is not necessarily a basic lack of security and feelings of inferiority that motivate the left to boycott someone.

Among the left, for the most part, the reasons are fanatic beliefs, directed at those who are heretics, the narrow-minded and non-believers who dare to doubt the religion of peace. It can be said from now on that the right boycotts out of inferiority while the left boycotts out of superiority. But the result is the same - injustice. And always, in the long run, the exclusion comes back like a boomerang to hurt the one who excluded in the first place. Take a look at the Israeli lecturers who are boycotted by the universities throughout the world, which don't discriminate between one Israeli and another, whether he is from the left or from the right. Whether he believes in the Eternal One of Israel or the eternity of Palestine.

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