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Editorial Article

Hebrew University – David Shulman (Department of Comparative Religion) Engages in Anti-Israeli Agitprop

by Joel Amitai
21/1/10

David Shulman, the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is called “one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India.” There’s no doubt that Shulman’s academic work, which also deals with poetry, religion, and music, must involve making many fine discriminations. Shulman, though, is especially proud of his role as what he calls a “peace activist.” And in that line of endeavor he instead takes a Manichean approach: the Palestinians are good, and guess which party is evil?

Clues can be found in a couple of petitions Prof. Shulman has signed.

In 2003, just as Israeli forces were starting to get the upper hand against a campaign of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah terror that saw repeated suicide bombings in Israel’s cities, Shulman was one of a slew of Israeli and other academics who signed an “Urgent Appeal for International Involvement: Save Palestine and Israel.” The appeal claimed that “Millions of Palestinians have been reduced by Israeli government policies to life in fearsome ghettos” and that “the Palestinian presence stands in the way of [then-Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s life-long vision of Greater Israel, with settlers supplanting Palestinians. This objective is transparent to anybody who follows what his government has been actually doing….”

How prophetic, considering that two years later Sharon cleared every last settler out of Gaza and left it entirely for the Palestinians! But sometimes it’s hard for Shulman and his colleagues to come down from their lofty spheres and get attuned to mere realities.

But that didn’t stop Shulman, that same year, from signing a call along with 350 other Israeli academics that was outright seditious in nature. The petition “express[ed] our appreciation and support for those of our students and lecturers who refuse to serve as soldiers in the occupied territories” and “express[ed] our readiness to do our best to help students who encounter academic, administrative or economic difficulties as a result of their refusal to serve in the territories.” Considering that it was primarily “service in the territories” that stopped the wave of terror that killed more than a thousand Israelis and injured and traumatized many thousands more, this is a remarkable petition.

But Prof. Shulman not only didn’t want Israel to fight back against the terror; even building a fence to keep the terrorists out was too much for him. An excerpt from his book Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine consists of a diatribe against what Shulman calls “The Wall” even though many security experts credit it—along with the active military measures—with stopping the reign of terror and saving untold numbers of Israeli lives. “[I]n general,” Shulman wrote in 2003,

the campaign led by Israeli peace groups against the wall is not aimed at the idea of a wall as such. It is a protest at the route that the government planners have mapped out, a route that penetrates deep into Palestinian territory and protects, before all else, every possible settlement and outpost. This trajectory virtually rules out a peaceful solution…. It also perpetuates a regime of terror inside the territories, leaving most Palestinian villages encircled, isolated, essentially ghettoized, and at the mercy of bands of marauding settlers….

Shulman goes on to ask: “Could Jews really build ghettos for Palestinians?.... Qalqiliya [an Arab town on the West Bank] has, in effect, become a large prison….” He refers to the fence as “snak[ing] and slid[ing] over the hillside…chew[ing] deep into Palestinian territory, swallowing huge savage bites of land….” Again, Prof. Shulman’s prophetic powers are impressive: seven years later, with the fence painstakingly routed—sometimes in line with rulings of Israel’s Supreme Court—to minimize inconvenience to Palestinians, and the West Bank quiet and undergoing an economic boom, Shulman’s description emerges as the vicious anti-Israeli fantasy that it is.

Prof. Shulman’s “peace activism,” which largely involves entering closed military zones and clashing with Israeli soldiers and policeman, is done under the aegis of Ta’ayush. This Arab-Jewish political NGO was, as NGO Monitor notes, “founded in the Fall 2000, in parallel with the violence and terror that ended the Oslo process.” It uses the “language of demonization—‘apartheid walls, etc.’” against Israel while making “no mention of terrorism,” and “supports sanctions, boycotts and divestment campaigns [against Israel] with similar pro-Palestinian NGOs.”

In 2007, Shulman made a funding appeal for Ta’ayush at the end of an article in the radically anti-Semitic web magazine, Counterpunch. One of Shulman’s coauthors was the Israeli academic Neve Gordon, known for—among much else—clasping hands in solidarity with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the height of Arafat’s terror war against Israel, and publishing a notorious “Boycott Israel” op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.  The Shulman-Gordon Counterpunch article pours scorn on an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Israeli settlement of Susya—even though in numerous other property disputes the same court, famous for its liberal-dovish leanings, has ruled in Palestinians’ favor.

A year and a few months later Shulman and some fellow Ta’ayush activists were in the South Hebron hills in the West Bank ostensibly to help Palestinians from the village of Samu’a with their plowing. As Shulman recounts, they “rendezvous[ed] with four international volunteers from the ISM group”—that is, the notoriously pro-terror, anti-Israeli International Solidarity Movement. Also in the entourage was Shulman’s friend Ezra Nawi, who had been, Shulman mentions, “accused [and was eventually convicted] of having assaulted two Border Policemen….”

As this group starts to help with the plowing, narrates Shulman, one of the ISM members, a “Finnish volunteer, scouting from higher up the hill, suddenly announces that soldiers and settlers are descending upon us…. This was the week of the Mumbai massacre. Were the terrorists who opened fire in the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi any worse than these demented settlers?” If that sounds like pure hatred, it is. In the same piece Shulman describes a nearby Israeli settlement outpost as “a few dumpy caravans on the stony ridge, an ugly khaki-hued water-tower, a few bits of rusting military flotsam and jetsam.” As for the Palestinians plowing—“As usual, the simple gestures of broadcasting seed, the immediacy of this touch, the nonchalant attunement of the farmer and his field—all this ravishes me as I watch.”

Given Shulman’s wholesale adoption of the Palestinian narrative, it will come as no surprise that half a year later he was charging Israel with carrying out a “pogrom”—or as he tells it:

Pogroms: it’s something the Jews know about….And now it turns out—who would believe it?—that there are Jews who also know how to carry out pogroms. For the last ten days or so, settlers from Bat ‘Ayin in the so-called Etzion Bloc have been paying violent daily visits to their Palestinian neighbors in Um Safa…. A terrorist from Um Safa entered Bat ‘Ayin two weeks ago, murdered a settler boy with an axe, and wounded another. The police caught him soon thereafter. But that hasn’t stopped the Bat ‘Ayin settlers from repeated rampages to wreak revenge on Um Safa. They’ve already killed four innocents, and another eleven or twelve have been wounded by gunfire. As if that weren’t bad enough, the soldiers have apparently been making common cause with these settlers, opening fire readily at the villagers. Life in this most beautiful of the mountain villages has become a nightmare; not that it was easy before.

Seemingly, if Shulman actually believed such things were going on, he could have contacted any number of journalists or officials or police in an effort to put a stop to it. There is no sign that he did any such thing, nor that anyone at all in the Israeli or international media picked up on the supposed settler-soldier “pogrom.” Instead, Shulman along with “some 150 Combatants for Peace—former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian members of the armed resistance organizations who have given up all forms of violence—[came] to meet each other and to see the reality….” Then, with “all 150” of these “combatants” “fanning out…advancing toward the settlers’ caravan,” it turns out that “the soldiers swoop down on us, with some lunatic settler barking orders at them, and the officer flashes the inevitable piece of paper that declares we are in a Closed Military Zone and we have two minutes to get out….”

Sedition? Contempt for his country’s laws and institutions? Anti-Israeli blood libels? Collusion with radically anti-Israeli and terroristic elements? You call it!

Joel Amitai is an independent researcher and filmmaker. Reach him at jamitai40@gmail.com.

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