The Embarrassment of the Wretched

Posted: December 27, 2006 in Middle East, News & Views, Palestinians, Politically Incorrect News & Views, War crimes, World News

Dr. Ran HaCohen (see was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature, and his PhD is in Jewish Studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. Mr. HaCohen’s work has been published widely in Israel. “Letter from Israel” appears occasionally at 


Israeli bulldozers demolish a Palestinian house in the village of Issawiya, on the edge of Jerusalem, 25 December 2006
Israeli bulldozers demolish a Palestinian house in the village of Issawiya, on the edge of Jerusalem, 25 December 2006.

Happy Holidays!

“[T]hough the call [to boycott Israel] purports to affirm universal, human rights values, it is incapable of explaining why it seeks a boycott of Israel, alone among the nations of the world. It says nothing about the abuses and human rights breaches inflicted on Israel’s citizens. It says nothing about the egregious human rights abuses committed elsewhere in the world (Darfur, Chechnya, and many other places).”

Anthony Julius and Simon Schama

A recent call for a cultural boycott against Israel by John Berger and others has elicited one of its more wretched responses in the Guardian (Dec. 22), signed by Anthony Julius and Simon Schama.

Is the proposed boycott really the greatest evil on earth? While Julius and Schama were busy writing their article, Gaza had been under Israeli siege for months on end. Numbers of dead reached historic levels; a million and a half human beings have been locked in the tiny Strip, deprived of proper medical care and on the verge of starvation. Schama and Julius don’t even mention this evil.

At the same time, the U.S. government has been using Julius’ and Schama’s tax money to train and arm one party of the feared Palestinian civil war – coincidentally, the party that lost the recent democratic elections. Schama and Julius don’t mention this evil, either. But they did find the time to single out the call for boycott and to write against it. And they do have the nerve to blame the initiators of the boycott of “singling out,” i.e., of hypocrisy.

Googling “Schama and Israel” yields just one relevant result: during the last Lebanon war, when Israel was flattening entire neighborhoods in Beirut, killing at least 1,140 civilians, 30 percent of them children under 12, Prof. Schama went out of his way to express this devastating criticism of Israel’s atrocities: “what Israel’s doing – bombing city centers – is ultimately not going to help its own attempt to get rid of a mini-army like Hezbollah,” he told BBC. Bombing city centers, then, is quite fine – the only problem is that it’s not all too helpful. A brave criticism indeed. And so moral, too.


Does international law allow creating settlements and moving the occupier’s population to occupied land?

Does international law allow deporting occupied persons, individually or en masse? Does international law allow constructing the apartheid wall? Does international law allow setting hundreds of checkpoints and a permit system that makes Palestinian economic and even family life utterly impossible? Does it allow confiscation of land and property, as Israel’s occupation forces constantly practice? International law does not allow any of these. Israel does not respect a single paragraph of international law, which, according to Schama and Julius, “governs” its relations with the Palestinians.

I myself agree with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who recently said that what Israel is doing in the occupied territories is worse than apartheid; “apartheid” has by now turned into a euphemism. Dismissing an historical analogy, as Schama and Julius are doing, is always easy.


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