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I. Scholars’ Essays BDS and Self-Righteous Moralists Dan Avnon Dan Avnon, an Israeli leftist and critic of Israeli policy in the West Bank, tells of his experience with the BDS movement in Australia. His political work for equality and human rights for all citizens of Israel notwithstanding, he became the target of a very public, if personal, boycott by the director of the University of Sydney’s Center for Peace Studies, just because he is an Israeli. This episode demonstrates that the peaceful, social justice declarations of the BDS movement are disingenuous, that BDS targets all Jewish Israelis as part of its program to ultimately end Israel’s existence. Avnon highlights how overreaction to the incident by the anti-BDS legal organization Shurat HaDin actually undermined the opposition to BDS and criticizes the self-righteous moralism that has come to dominate the discourse of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the course of the years 2012–2014, I was subject to the actions of the Sydney chapter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, led by a University of Sydney faculty member, Professor Jake Lynch. For Lynch and his associates, I was an embodied representation of Israel, a country whose policies they detest and whose scholars and scientists they boycott. I had not previously been singled out for boycott merely because of my being a Jewish-Israeli scholar and surely had never been boycotted by the left-wing edges of political activism, whereas ironically, in Israel, I have occasionally been condemned by academic and nonacademic self-anointed Jewish and patriotic zealots. The novelty of this experience—being boycotted due to my national identity and organizational affiliation—is in the backdrop of my reflections. I will address two aspects of my BDS experiences. First, I’ll explain how by subjecting me to their propaganda, leaflets, and demonstrations, the BDS activists enabled me to realize that their actual goal is to end Israel’s existence as an independent Jewish state. That’s the political aspect. Second, my experiences during the two years of having my image formed and used by various political players provided me with an opportunity to reflect on an attendant dimension of the situation: the morality of protagonists from both pro- and anti-BDS sides of the divide. From this perspective, I’ll raise some initial speculations about an overlooked political 1 44 | Dan Avnon vice and its harmful effects: self-righteous moralism.1 I will relate a few episodes that cause or lead me to suggest that self-righteousness may be a particular sensation (of self) that transforms potentially sensitive and sensible people into insensitive and dogmatic champions of absolute justice: self-made, if you will. The Background I heard about the faculty exchange fellowship of the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund, which supports exchanges between the University of Sydney and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a chance encounter with a colleague who had been a recipient of this fellowship. It was on a late Thursday afternoon, and the deadline for application was less than a week away. Since I had no prior contacts in Australia, I perused the University of Sydney’s website, seeking scholars who would perhaps be interested in sponsoring my application for this grant. I then dashed off a rather hurried email to five unwitting colleagues. Four of them, all senior scholars at the University of Sydney, responded within a couple of hours, agreeing to my using their names on my application form. A fifth, the director of the University of Sydney’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Jake Lynch, who, unbeknownst to me, was a zealous supporter of the BDS movement, sent me a surprising response.2 Here are the transcripts of my email correspondence with Lynch.3 The time listed is Israeli local time. Nov. 16, 2012 02:02 Dear Professor Lynch: I apologise for dropping into your inbox without an introduction. I am the former Head of the Federmann School of Public Policy and Governance at the Hebrew University, and a political theorist at the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In my political philosophy niche I specialise in the philosophy of Martin Buber. I will be on sabbatical leave during the 2013–14 academic year. I would like to spend time in Australia to learn about Australia’s civic education policy and curriculum. This is an area of research (and of active, hands-on curriculum development) that has been at the core of...


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