Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Both Judeophobes and Judeophiles agree that Jews are smart, but when it comes to thwarting anti-Semitism, Jews can be pretty dumb.

In 2004, Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky attempted to convene the heads of Israeli universities to devise counter-strategies to the then-temporarily subdued movement to boycott their scholars and campuses. Immured in their ivory towers, they were so oblivious to the gathering threat that it took Sharansky six months to facilitate the meeting, where they insouciantly dismissed his concerns: "When [the boycott movement] gets stronger again, we'll get organized."

By contrast, rabid enthusiasm always dominates the annual internationally co-ordinated Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), the fourth of which unfolds on six Canadian university campuses Feb. 3-10. Jubilant promotional material informs us that IAW 2008 will be "celebrated" for the first time at Palestinian universities. More ominously, IAW 2008 will include the founding conference of "High Schoolers Against Israeli Apartheid." Toronto's Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid pronounces itself "a proud participant in the global movement."

Tonight, I am speaking to the Jewish community of London, Ont., about academic bias against Israel. I will have with me my review copy of Academics Against Israel and the Jews, for which Sharansky wrote the foreword, including my column's opening anecdote. Holding it aloft, I will declare, "Everything you need to know about global campus anti-Zion-ism and how --and how not -- to fight it is contained in this book. If this Jewish community cares about Israel's survival, you will read it and act on it now."

A collection of essays by knowledgeable scholars and pro-Israel activists, Academics Against Israel and the Jews is an important new information resource, for it is the first comprehensive analysis of this subject extending beyond a single country.

Case by case, and with rigorously documented thoroughness, knowledgeable insiders offer their respective forensic analyses of the activism and the intellectually corrupt ideologues fueling it in various academic hotspots as familiar as Canada's York University and as unfamiliar as the Universities of Utrecht and the Australian National University in Canberra.

The essays are sobering but reader-friendly, and written with a view to education, not retaliation. Amongst other fascinating facts, we discover in these pages why only one university in Spain (Navarre) is friendly to Israel; why United Kingdom academics are particularly boycott-obsessed; and why Jewish students in North America are far better placed to combat anti-Zionism than those in Europe.

In a particularly distressing probe by Palestinian Media Watch directors Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, we see scarifying evidence that revisionist history and open anti-Semitism of the vilest kind is common currency amongst "scholars" in Palestinian universities. If only shameless historical lies and routine classroom incitement to hatred were criteria for collegial shunning -- the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a standard "text" for Palestinian students -- rather than trumped-up charges of a non-existent "apartheid," Palestinian universities would be instant pariahs. Alas, thanks to our postmodern intellectuals' weakness for moral inversions, it seems even university-sanctioned incitement to literal genocide is no barrier to acceptance in the West's Islamophilic groves of academe.

Canada holds the dubious honour of providing material for two chapters: an overview of the Canadian campus scene in general, and a chapter on the ferment leading to the 2002 Concordia Netanyahu riot, an often-cited case study in appeasement and a primer in how not to deal with ideological scofflaws.

Manfred Gerstenfeld, the book's editor and chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a prolific, authoritative writer on the subjects of anti-Semitism and world Jewish communities.

Gerstenfeld is also a canny activist. If the cumulative effect of so much of the book's bad news is demoralizing, Gerstenfeld's bullish emphasis on remedies, and abundant proofs that the smart activism of a few can be effective in pushing back, are re-moralizing. A particularly absorbing narrative chronicles Gerstenfeld's own successful tide-turning intervention at the notoriously anti-Zionist School of Oriental and African Studies in London (known to the cognoscenti as the "School of Orchestrated Anti-Semitism").

Gerstenfeld's summary chapter is an education in itself. Here, an uninformed reader can assimilate the essentials: how to distinguish criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism; the nature and effectiveness of various present and past boycotts; contemporary Arab anti-Semitism and the recycling of old motifs; anti-Semites' contradictory images of the Jew; and Israel's plight as a paradigm for the West's future.

As universities are a feeder system into the elite cultural ranks of the general population, campus anti-Semitism is more than a threat to Jews alone. Widespread anti-Semitism is always a symbol of decline in a society, as the sorry situation in Europe makes clear (Sharansky calls North American universities "little islands of Europe"). Cultures in which anti-Semitism becomes the reigning ideology, like Nazi Germany and most Arab states since 1917, are by definition failed cultures.

At York University in 2003, a Jewish student told Sharansky, "For me as a Jew, the existence of Israel is a big problem. I want to be a normal person... If Israel did not exist, I would feel much easier." If a Jewish student can't feel "normal" on a university campus because Israel "exists," is he not already studying in a failed culture?


Social class bigotry in British education

Good state schools are being barred from choosing pupils from middle-class families by the government's education watchdog on admissions. The schools have been hit by a series of rulings which block them from doing anything that might be seen as giving preferential treatment to middle-class applicants. The policy is being forced through by the government in a drive to use admissions to tackle "segregation" in society. The judgements, which set a precedent extending throughout the state school system, include:

- Banning headteachers from asking parents why they want to come to the school, in case this puts non-English speakers at a disadvantage;

- Barring schools from asking for children's birth certificates in case this identifies the parents' jobs, which might give professional families a competitive edge;

- Forbidding a discussion with parents of the school's Ofsted inspection report as this might discriminate against parents who "do not understand bureaucracy";

- Stopping schools asking parents whether they support its ethos because this might be considered "patronising" to less well-educated or ethnic minority parents.

This weekend the moves were attacked as "social engineering" by opposition politicians who said they were likely to make parents feel guilty for taking a close interest in their children's education. "Schools should not be about social engineering, they should be about providing the best education," said Michael Gove, shadow schools secretary. "The determination of the government to micro-manage the admissions process reflects the fact that they don't have enough places in good schools. They are trying to find more and more interventionist ways of rationing access to good schools."

It follows a government-commissioned report last week which called for the greater use of lotteries to award places at popular schools to stop middle-class parents colonising catchment areas and monopolising entry.

The rulings have been issued by Philip Hunter, the chief schools adjudicator, who decides if councils and schools policies comply with the government's code on admissions. He said: "Parental choice in the market leads to segregation." [An explicit refusal to allow parental choice! What a Fascist!] He is acting in line with demands by Jim Knight, the schools minister, that a new law on admissions be firmly enforced to prevent "pushy" middle-class parents from dominating places at the best schools.

Hunter, who denies that he is pursuing a policy of social engineering, said that local authorities and schools were involved in delicate judgements. "At some stage when the market is travelling in that direction someone has to say that level of segregation is OK but that one is not. That is a very difficult decision to make," he said. "Local heads and admissions forums and local authorities have to make that decision. That is not easy. They have been asked to make it in the code, they have got to address it.

"Everyone has got to understand that it is a very difficult judgement. Even more difficult is if they decide it is an unacceptable level of segregation and they are going to do something about it. At that point you say to parents that their parental choice is being denied." Jim Knight, the schools minister, last month warned councils that they had to work harder to enforce the code which was passed into law last year. "No ifs or buts," he warned them. "There is absolutely no excuse not to comply with the law to stamp out unfair and covert admission practices," he said.

But Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham university, special adviser to the Commons schools select committee, said the code was "untenable" as it tried to stamp out covert selection by intervening in "minor matters", but at the same time still allowed schools to retain catchment areas and faith-based allocation of places, both of which tend to favour middle-class families. "It just encourages game-playing ," said Smithers. "We are stuck with this fudge of a code and the result is these adjudicators dancing around on the head of a pin."


Australia: Teacher unions balk at any suggestion of teacher merit

All teachers are equal, apparently

NSW schools will now be able to appoint teachers under a State Government shake-up of staffing arrangements, a move which has angered the teachers union. School principals will be able to advertise positions and select their own teachers from the second term in 2010, under changes announced by NSW education minister John Della Bosca. The Department of Education will have to sign off on appointments, but schools need no longer accept the teacher at the top of the department's transfer list.

School principals say the move will give them greater freedom, but the union has threatened industrial action over concerns the plan would leave schools in disadvantaged areas worse off and the transfer system would be dismantled.

Mr Della Bosca said the changes would not affect the number of positions or teacher tenure. "While the department will retain its obligation to ensure every class has a qualified teacher, we are giving principals the option of choosing the right teacher for their school from a larger number of qualified applicants," Mr Della Bosca said in a statement. "More schools will now have the option of either having a teacher centrally allocated or choosing their own through open advertisements." Mr Della Bosca said open advertisements had been used at schools in regional NSW and south-west Sydney, which had attracted large numbers of applicants. "Under the old system, fewer than 3 per cent of vacancies are open to all qualified teachers and a transfer can take many years," he said.

NSW Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said principals believed they could be more effective leaders if they had the right to select teachers. "Principals for years have been saying they would like a greater say in the staffing of their schools," he told Fairfax.

But NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran said the move would benefit some school communities and disadvantage others. "We are taking this extraordinarily seriously," she told The Daily Telegraph. "It will result in unqualified teachers and larger class sizes." Teachers federation senior vice-president Gary Zadkovich also slammed the move, saying the statewide transfer system "provides security of employment ... and also ensures teachers are supplied to schools in western Sydney and country areas where teachers are less likely to want to work".

Mr Della Bosca said the incentive transfer system to attract teachers to remote and difficult to staff schools would continue. He said 50,000 teachers and principals were being briefed on the changes this week.


No comments: