Open letter to academic boycott of Israel advocate, Tanya Reinhart

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May 11, 2005

An Open letter to Professor Tanya Reinhart

From Maurice Ostroff

Dear Professor Tanya Reinhart,

I was saddened but not surprised to read in the May 6, issue of Metro, that you advocate extending the AUT boycott to all Israeli universities, including your own Tel Aviv University.

I am saddened because your expertise as a professor of theoretical linguistics obviously does not extend to the use of language to convey an objective picture of the situation you are describing. For example, last year the Palestinian universities of Al-Quds, Bethlehem and Hebron as well as the Palestine Polytechnic Institute and several Israeli universities including your own TAU and the boycotted Haifa U signed a “Declaration of Principles of Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation in Scientific and Academic Affairs”.

In the light of this agreement, it is truly sad that a professor who teaches the scientific study of language, advocates boycotting all Israeli universities because “no Israeli academic institution assists Bir Zeit University” creating the completely false impression that Bir Zeit is the only Palestinian academic institution, ergo, no Israeli academic institutions assist or cooperate with any Palestinian institutions. Omitting mention of the fact that it is Bir Zeit which refuses to cooperate with Israeli institutions not vice versa, aggravates the erroneous impression created.

On the assumption that your sincere motivation is to achieve a peaceful solution to the Israel-Arab conflict it is sad too, that you choose the path of belligerent confrontation rather than the positive approach of intellectuals, including the rector of University of Rome, presidents of Israeli and Palestinian universities and representatives of UNESCO who signed the agreement calling on all academic and scientific institutions to create conditions where NO ACADEMIC INSTITUTION , SCIENTIST OR STUDENT WILL BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.

So much for my sadness. My lack of surprise is due to your long history of imbalance and inaccuracies in accusing Israel of unforgivable misdeeds while whitewashing Israel’s openly hostile enemies.

For example, in 2002 at the University of Amsterdam, you stated “Israel defines its military action as a necessary defense against terrorism. But in fact, the first Palestinian terrorist attack on Israeli civilians inside Israel occurred on November 2, 2000.” Even Israel’s most ardent detractors must concede that this ridiculous statement is plainly untrue. The indisputable fact is that Israeli civilians have suffered continuous terror attacks long before there existed the excuse of the 1967 occupation and in fact ever since the birth of the state.

Not only did your linguistic talent permit you to interpret Yitzchak Rabin’s entry into the Oslo accords as an insincere act with a hidden agenda, you described Ehud Barak’s Camp David negotiations as “mastery deception” without any attempt at substantiation of these serious allegations; allegations you used to bolster an appeal to your Dutch audience to deprive Israel of free access to Schiphol airport for transit of goods.

You advocate “the path that follows UN resolution 242. Israel should withdraw immediately from the territories occupied in 1967, as it did in Lebanon. It is amazing how simple and feasible it would still be to achieve that”. Simple indeed! I believe even Kofi Anan would consider the word “simple” in this context as na├»ve.

Since you rely on resolution 242 as the basis for your claims, and as an academic I assume you rely on authoritative sources, I suggest you cannot do better than refer to then British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs , Eugene W. Rostow, all of whom were involved in drafting the resolution. All three have stated categorically that they deliberately omitted a call for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders.

In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974 Lord Caradon said:

“It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers on each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That’s why we didn’t demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to.”

In an article “Historical Approach to the Issue of Legality of Jewish Settlement Activity”published in The New Republic on April 23, 1990, Rostow wrote:

“…the Armistice Agreements specifically provide, except in the case of Lebanon, that the demarcation lines can be changed by agreement when the parties move from armistice to peace. Resolution 242 is based on that provision of the Armistice Agreements and states certain criteria that would justify changes in the demarcation lines when the parties make peace.”

One of the 20th century’s leading authorities on the Law of Nations, the late Prof. Julius Stone wrote:

“…Israel’s presence in all these areas (West bank and Gaza) pending negotiations of new borders is entirely lawful, since Israel entered them lawfully in self-defence. ” “Israel’s presence” he said, “in all these areas (West bank and Gaza) pending negotiations of new borders is entirely lawful, since Israel entered them lawfully in self-defence. ”

“..in the case of Israel’s self-defence in 1967, the entry on the territory (West Bank, Gaza and Golan) was lawful. The effect of a prohibition (of entry by a defender, to an aggressor’s territory MO.) would be to guarantee to all potential aggressors that, even if their aggression failed, all territory lost in the attempt would be automatically returned to them. Such a rule would be absurd to the point of lunacy. There is no such rule…….”

I will most certainly be prepared to consider your views about the proposed academic boycott, if you would support them with factual and more credible arguments. Your considered reply would be appreciated.