Inappropriate behavior by former Foreign Ministry Director General at UN sponsored anti-Israel conference

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In response to my last column titled Confronting Jews who defame Jews, one of my readers sent me official United Nations summaries of a conference held this month in Malta “in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace” under the joint auspices of the UN created “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” and the “Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean”. Israel understandably decided not to participate officially.

In Israel’s absence, Hebrew University lecturer, Alon Liel, was the sole Israeli participant. Liel who was in the news last year as an apologist for Syria’s Assad, was for a short period in 2000 Director General of the Foreign Ministry under Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He was also a former Ambassador to South Africa.

As a former Director General of the Foreign Ministry, I consider Liel’s remarks at this conference to be unconscionable especially having regard to the fact that the gathering comprised almost exclusively of representatives utterly hostile to Israel.

Here are a few choice extracts from the UN official release of Liel’s contribution to the debate.

Mr. Liel said that everything Mr. Erakat said was true.  It looked like the Palestinians had nothing and the Israelis had everything, but Israelis knew they were doomed, too, and dependent on the fate of the Palestinians, he said, adding, “If you will have nothing in the future, we will also have nothing in the future.”  But at the moment, Israelis did not have that feeling, and they were overconfident….

“We don’t have a Mandela in Israel; we have a Netanyahu and a Lieberman,” and unless something dramatic happened, things would not work, he lamented.

As for the situation on the ground, Liel said it was unacceptable, both in Gaza and the West Bank.  In fact, it was immoral and would only lead to more violence.  At the same time, for Israel, the creation of one State with Palestinians – where they had voting rights and so forth – was an even bigger nightmare than the two-state solution.  So he proffered to the conference that perhaps the Palestinians should propose that to the Israeli leadership today, adding: “They’ll start shivering, I’m telling you.”

Not surprisingly, the PLO representative, Saeb Erakat praised Liel’s comments as “transparent and honest” and “reflecting the facts as they are”. A representative of parliamentarians of Western Europe also commended Liel’s “bleak picture of Foreign Minister Lieberman and Israeli intransigence”.

Liel’s remarks compared to some of the more obscene outbursts by Israeli demonizers of Zion may appear relatively tame. But what makes this outrageous, is the fact that Liel was a former Director General of the Foreign Ministry and the only Israeli present amongst a gathering dominated by the Arab League and comprising exclusively of representatives hostile to Israel.

On a more positive note, I have just been informed that a group of members of the Board of Governors of the Tel Aviv University, including major donors, have threatened to withdraw their support and publicly lambast the university administration unless action is taken to bring an end to the exploitation of academic freedom by Tel Aviv university academics calling for the boycott and delegitimization of Israel.

[email protected]

The Tel Aviv University administration has obviously yet to grapple with the problem.  The following email invitation is being widely distributed in London.

Palestine Societies at SOAS, University College London , Imperial College ,

Kings College , Goldsmiths and University of Westminster

 Together with  BRICUP

Invite you to  

Supporting the Boycott of Israel : Campaigning from Within 

Speaker: Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University 

Chair: Mike Cushman, BRICUP and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

Wed 17th February 2010 , SOAS G2, 6pm

Anat Matar is a senior lecturer at the department of philosophy, Tel Aviv University . She specializes in 20th century philosophy of language, in particular that of Wittgenstein, Dummett and Derrida. Anat Matar has been politically active for many years. She has taken part in movements resisting the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories , mainly those urging the refusal to serve in the army and the BDS movement. She is a founding member and the chair of The Israeli Association for the Palestinian Prisoners.

Mike Cushman is  a member of the Department of Management at LSE where he researches the nature of digital and social exclusion.  Mike has been politically active for many years but he has increasingly focused his activities around the area of Palestinian rights. In December 2008 he visited Gaza on the Free Gaza boat ‘Dignity’ on the last successful voyage before the Israeli invasion.

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