Europe,  Israel

Is it really that bad?

Sever Plocker, columnist for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, writes:

I’ve been invited to deliver a lecture about Israel’s economy and society at Oxford University. As it is a short lecture, and a respectable forum, I gladly accepted the offer. The invitation was extended about six months ago. Yet now, as my trip approaches, I feel concern. I’m hesitating.

My acquaintances are warning me: Don’t go. Hostile elements will cause disturbances, protest, shout and interfere. The atmosphere at British universities is anti-Israel to an extent unseen in the past. Israel is perceived as a thorn in the civilized world’s side.

An Israeli professor who quietly left a prestigious British university told me: “My academic and social life there was intolerable. Colleagues stayed away from me as if I was a leper. I was not invited to meetings, which were shifted from university buildings to private residences in order to keep me out. The fact I openly expressed leftist views was to no avail. My objection to the occupation and endorsement of a return to the 1967 borders made no difference. In practice, I became ostracized.”

“Today you are a welcome guest in the British and European academic world only if you reject the very existence of the colonialist and imperialistic creature that methodically commits war crimes, known as Israel,” he said. “Today it isn’t enough to condemn Bibi and Barak; in order to be accepted by academia outside of Israel one must condemn the Balfour Declaration.”

British academia’s radicalism highlights the accelerated deterioration in Israel’s status and image. We are in the midst of a freefall on the foreign affairs front…

Does everyone hate us? Possibly so, yet the fact is that up until six months ago Israel enjoyed an extraordinary boom on the foreign affairs front, both in terms of its foreign ties as well as in global public opinion. This fact points to one source for the deterioration we’re seeing: The new government in Jerusalem.

Plocker concludes that “Israel’s image has hit a nadir; it is isolated, unwanted, and perceived as bad. The world is telling us that should we continue along the same contemptible path, we will lose our legitimacy.”

I realize that Israeli columnists have a tendency to concentrate on the most dismal and hopeless side of every issue facing the country– both internally and externally.

But are things really that bad? And is Netanyahu really to blame?

I would answer both questions: In part.

Clearly Israel’s foreign image is pretty wretched these days. But was six months ago really some sort of golden age? As for Netanyahu, I dearly wish Tzipi Livni rather than he was prime minister– perhaps there would have been some real movement on an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. But would the academic anti-Zionists in Britain and Europe– those who reject the very idea of Israel– be any more welcoming to Israeli colleagues?

At least support for Israel remains strong in the US Congress. The House of Representatives this week voted 334 to 36 for a resolution denouncing the UN’s Goldstone report on the Gaza war as “one-sided and distorted” against Israel. More ammunition for Mearsheimer and Walt and their acolytes, I suppose.