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Posted in: Anti-Semitism

Published on May 30, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

The British are Coming. And They Still Want to Boycott Israeli Academics


The British are coming, the British are coming and if I could, so to speak, toss their tea into Boston (or Haifa) Harbor and ignite a revolutionary movement away from their poisonous influence, I would do so in a flash. Why are we ex-colonials still so enamored of the Mother Country? Americans love, love, love all the romantic movies about Queen Elizabeth, Virginia Woolf, and Jane Austen and we love Merchant-Ivory's classy British celluloid countryside. Interestingly, the writer on their team, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is a Jew from Czechoslavakia who escaped Hitler, grew up in England, married a Parsi, then lived in India for 20-30 years before moving to New York City. The vision of a stately, settled England attracts all those whom history has unsettled. And oh how we admire England's savage, bracing wit and perhaps, how well the English language sounds when spoken with a British accent.

Enough already!

That anyone would turn to England (specifically to England's contemporary academics) as if they were either sane or moral is frightening. Historically, England has a mixed record on the Jews. They burned and exiled them in 1292 but in the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell invited the Jews to return, and welcomed them into Britain's colonies, not only in North America but in India, too. Thereafter, Britain and its colonies were some of the better places for Jews to live.

In the 19th century, Benjamin Disraeli became a best-selling author, then Prime Minister and Queen Victoria's favorite; Dickens apologized for having ignorantly maligned Jews in Oliver Twist; George Eliot wrote a defense of the Jews in Daniel Deronda; a British viceroy brought his Jewish wife to India (some think that he may have been a Jew as well). Rothschilds were knighted and elected to parliament; and Cecil Rhodes' Jewish partners helped him create the diamond industry and South Africa. The British adventurers in India preferred girls to boys, especially in the era of the East India Company, before the venerable memsahibs came out and instituted Victorian propriety.

Thus, there was a strong streak of Judeophilia in Victorian England and it lasted through Winston Churchill, who had few illusions about the Arabs. And, of course, let's not forget Lord Balfour and his declaration.

On the other hand, Virginia Woolf was something of a snob and an anti-Semite–yes, even though she was married to Leonard, who was Jewish. (See Ruth Gruber's book, Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman about this). The American expatriate, T.S. Eliot, was a Jew-hater too. I am not saying that Woolf and Eliot are not great writers, only that their greatness did not innoculate them from heartbreakingly vulgar prejudice.

But, from World War I to the present, British actions, attitudes and operations in the Middle East, including Lawrence of Arabia & Co. (who preferred boys to girls in the Arab world), and the types who followed and/or resembled him in the post-war foreign office, etc.–was characterized by hateful anti-Jewish policies in Palestine. This is true even though the British did appoint Lord Samuels, a Jew, as governor-general in Palestine, and it was he who (so unwisely, so tragically) empowered the Mufti who launched pogrom after pogrom against Jewish civilians in Palestine. (I saw the most moving documentary about Israel before 1948 with footage that included a top-hatted Lord Samuels walking quite a long way in the heat to a synagogue in Jerusalem for Sabbath services).

Britain did not allow European Jews in flight from Hitler to enter Palestine under the British Mandate. They literally beat their boats back to the German crematoria and interned them in Cyprus. In 1948, the British both armed and rooted for the Arabs to win their war against the Jews in 1948. True, some Brits took Jewish children in during World War Two–-but that does not begin to atone for their heinous policies in the Middle East.

Enough of this history lesson. Here's what's happening now. In response to the steady Islamification of England, the left-wing, politically correct British intellectuals and academics have become snarling dogs where Jews and Israel are concerned; they refuse to stop their howling against–not the Islamist preachers of hate or the heavily burqua'ed female jihadists in their midst–but against, you guessed it: Israeli academics who do not view Israel as a "Nazi" and "apartheid" state.

Yes, once again, for the third time in four years, the British University and Colleges Union has passed a resolution questioning academic ties between Britain and Israel. See HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. In essence, they have decided to hold Israeli academics responsible for their government's perceived military and foreign policy. Thus, the British teachers want to "boycott" any Israeli academics who do not carefully and clearly condemn Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

These same British academics are not holding Saudi, Sudanese, Chinese, Burmese, or Palestinian academics responsible for their government's atrocious policies both towards their own people and towards the international community. For this reason alone, their resolution to discuss a new kind of boycott against Israelis-only is not only anti-Semitic (which, of course, the Brits insist it is not), it is also deranged.

One cannot reason with people who think like this. What we must do is to understand that the level of Jew-hatred among British teachers now approximates the Jew-hatred in Palestinian and Nazi propaganda and the even hotter, long-term hatred embedded in the classical Islamic texts. (See Dr. Andrew Bostom's amazing and magnificent book titled The Legacy of Islamic AntiSemitism which Ibn Warraq has introduced.)

We can't boycott the boycotters without losing the high ground. Petitions of solidarity with Israeli academics are well and good, it is a way of counting heads–not a bad thing to be doing at this moment in history. Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has launched many distinguished petitions which have opposed the demonization and isolation of Israel's glorious and world-class scholars and they have a new petition going HERE.

Someone has recently predicted that Britain will be a Muslim country within thirty years. I'll say. But it might happen a lot sooner given who occupies the academic perches in the country.

NOTE: I would like to acknowledge some very helpful points that the author Rosanne Klass made in response to my earlier version of this piece and which I have now included in this expanded version of this piece.


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