Queen’s University Takes on Harvard
Michael Ignatieff has a problem. A really annoying problem. There's an intellectual lightweight nipping at his heels.
The Canadian Liberal opposition leader's problem is Queen’s University Rector Nick Day, who very strongly objects to Ignatieff’s comments regarding Israeli Apartheid Week. He declares them “ignorant”, and even “unethical”.
Rambling on with the standard complaints about Israel: “targeting civilians” (they don’t), “committing genocide” (only the most ridiculous interpretations of genocide back this claim), and, of course, being an alleged apartheid state.
“The critique of Israeli apartheid is informed by data, observation, scholarship, and UN resolutions and reports,” Day writes. “Scholars, activists, international advocates, civil society leaders and UN officials have observed that the occupation, checkpoints, walls, relocations, and home demolitions committed by Israel in Palestine have created a system of racial separateness and dominance. Thus, they have applied the term ‘apartheid’ because of its obvious and internationally recognized applicability.”
The problem for Day is that the phrase “apartheid” is only applicable if the anti-Israel lobby is successful in reducing “apartheid” to its very basest elements.
The differences are too large for the “Israeli apartheid” narrative to stand. Minorities in South Africa weren’t allowed to form political parties. As mentioned in a previous engagement at The Propagandist, an attempted ban on Arab political parties in Israel was gutted by the Israeli Supreme Court in a mere 14 days. Moreover, blacks and Indians in South Africa had no political authority of their own, whatsoever. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians elect the Palestinian Authority.
Those are two massive strikes against the “Israeli apartheid” narrative. When one considers South African apartheid for everything it was, it’s all that’s needed to obliterate the “Israeli apartheid” narrative entirely.
Day must know this. It must be why he insists on repeatedly relying on the moral authority of the UN to declare Israel an apartheid state.
“Israel is committing criminal acts, according to the International Court of Justice, the General Assembly of the United nations, and most recently 14 out of 15 security council members who voted that the settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal,” Day insisted.
The problem with this tactic – a textbook appeal to authority – is that any moral authority the United Nations has ever possessed has recently been wiped out by the mere presence of Libya on is Human Rights Council. A report that Council produced praising Libya for its human rights record was recently relegated to the memory hole after the reports of the disgusting human rights violations taking place at Muammar al-Gadhafi’s command.
This amidst decades of turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Iran, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – all of which are currently members of the UN Human Rights Council.
There’s something deeply and unquestionably wrong with a council that continually praises these countries while conveniently condemning Israel for its efforts to defend itself. As far as an appeal to authority goes, the UN just isn’t what it used to be. Day ought to be smart enough to know it, and if he is smart enough to know it, he ought to be honest enough to admit it.
Moreover, it’s been seen more and more often recently that anti-Israel scholars have refined numerous methods to reach the conclusions they want to reach, continually degrading standards of academic merit in the process. The body of “Israeli apartheid” scholarship grows less and less convincing by the day.
But there’s a reason why Day is so outraged that Ignatieff would dare criticize Israeli Apartheid Week. It’s because the very tactics they accuse the opponents of Israeli Apartheid Week – trying to silence the “Palestine Solidarity Movement” by intimidating them via criticism – is the very tactic they use against their critics.
They claim to desire an open dialogue on the topic of Israel, yet they seek to conflate any criticism of their narrative as censorship. They seemingly have yet to figure out that they can’t have it both ways.
Frankly, Queen’s university ought to be embarrassed that Day was allowed to identify himself as Rector of Queen’s university in his petulant screed.
That Day feels the need to ramp up his objections to Ignatieff’s criticism of Israeli Apartheid Week to such comically hyperbolic levels sends more of a message than Day even possibly could have wanted to:
It sends the message that critics of Israeli Apartheid Week have them running scared and desperate. If they can’t prevail over their critics with rational argument, they’re going to attempt to intimidate or shame them out of the debate.
If Michael Ignatieff is worth his salt as an academic, he won’t allow them to. If Queen’s University is worth its salt as an academic institution, their senior administrators will tell Nick Day to stop affixing his title to his pet causes.
Patrick Ross is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist