I am incensed by the decision of Ireland's teaching union's call for an academic boycott of Israel. Why has this particular BDS absurdity caused me to put pen to paper (well..finger to keypad anyway) ? Because this is a group of people who are supposed to be ! As Malcolm Forbes (Forbes Magazine) put it "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one." . So I want to post a few open questions to Irish teachers:
1. Why did the difficult and complex situation in Israel lead you to make a decision to boycott just one side of this issue? The Palestinian Authority are clearly avoiding talks, while Hamas, the other half of Palestinian society, are committed to genocide. Why did you not decided to at LEAST "knock heads together" and boycott both sides until things improve! I might disagree with the moral equivalency but I'd have some respect for this position.
2. When you looked at the oppression of civilians, the various conflicts, rogue states, and state human rights abuses occurring worldwide, why would any reasonable group of people (never mind a union of educators!) single out Israel? I'm not saying Israel is without fault and has not made mistakes in this difficult region in which it exists, but Israel is a genuine democracy, offering freedoms and rights for 65 years, denied to 330,000,000 Arab citizens in the Middle East (including to Palestinians by their own leaders, as well as by Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other states). Let me emphasize that Israel's democracy (free elections, media, judiciary etc) extends to the 20% of Israeli's who are not Jewish and was recently on display in elections which saw both Arab & Jews elected to the Knesset! It also included women, who enjoy full rights in Israel, a country that elected a female prime minister over a decade before Britain did the same ( and something Ireland has never done) , whilst in comparison,Saudi Arabia's women can now ride bicycles (with some major restrictions), but cant drive cars of course.
3. As educators, I must ask you how you can boycott the country that made significant steps to improve Palestinian education over the years prior to the Palestinians own PA taking over? Are you aware that Israel built seven universities & college of higher education in the West Bank after capturing it in a defensive war from Jordan (who did not build a single educational institute for Palestinians prior to 1967). Palestinian illliteracy was at 50% under Jordan, but by 1980 it was at 30% under Israel, and by the time the Palestinian Authority was formed it was at just 15% West Bank adults! In contrast Lebanon's racist anti-Palestinian laws forbid them from higher education or professional training. Has the Irish teachers union considered boycotting that country?
4. Are the members of the union aware of the legislated anti-Palestinian racism of Lebanon, which resembles 1930s anti Jewish laws? I would hate to accuse anyone of rank hypocrisy, but I'll give it a go anyway: If the Irish teachers are so concerned about Palestinians, surely they would be incensed at this ongoing crime against humanity? The fact that they choose to ignore it and focus on Israel, leads me to suspect that this whole "boycott" is about hating Israel rather than helping Palestinians, something I wrote about a year ago.
4. Do you understand that you damage Ireland's educational institutions when you stop working with one of the most important high tech & medical innovators in the world? For one thing, Israel is leading the world in the fight against cancer and Ireland's teachers are opting out of sharing in that vital work! Israel has recently helped cure River Blindness blighting 100,000s africans, its disaster relief teams are always first on the scene worldwide, and share their expertise with anyone who will listen (so no longer Ireland !), its hi-tech innovations have changed the world: cell phone technology, intel chips, usb drives, even acne cream for spotty teens!
When the Irish teachers boycott Israeli academic institutions but continue to make use of the many benefits and advances Israel has provided the world students are going to see the hypocrisy, apply some critical analysis and their relationship with Ireland's educator's will suffer, which is truly sad. Of course, by then, this boycott will have hurt them, damaging their country;s ability to participate in the innovation's that Israel leads the world in. Bottom line, Who the hell do the Irish teacher's think they are hurting when they decide not to work in cooperation with Israel?
Aristotle wrote that It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it - Supporting this boycott is not anti Israel - it is anti education! You may say "but the Palestinians need a resolution; Israel does things i don't like etc" but as I said above, when you look at countries like China, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, various African states, Iran, Pakistan etc, and you decide to that it is Israel, struggling to survive as a democracy in the most unfriendly, antisemitic region in the world, that you will select as the sole state you abhor enough to not share ideas with, you stand exposed as a prejudiced hypocrite not an educator. You have nothing to offer your students - a hater and a closed mind never does.