June 6, 2007
Boycotting DecencyBy James Lewis
The two most personally decent groups of people I know, by and large, are the Brits and the Israelis. The basic decency of the vast majority of people in those countries needs no defense. Which makes it all the weirder and more stomach-churning that the British college teachers union just voted to boycott Israel's universities and colleges.
There is something so grotesque and Kafkaesque about this move that it simply cries out for explanation. Why would England, home of the "Mother of Parliaments," support the destruction of a small and besieged country that has managed to maintain the only true democracy in the most treacherous neighborhood in the world? Why would professors and teachers, who are presumably dedicated to free speech and thought, be opposed to the free exchange of information with such a democracy?
Ten years ago Europe was appalled over ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Today the British vote to open the door to ethnic cleansing in Israel. I've talked to British and Israeli friends about these things over the years. Two British academics have simply told me that they feel ashamed of their country. No one I know over there has defended it.
It's now clear that the anti-Israel boycott reflects the politics of Britain today, much like a surgical wound reflects the anatomy of the human body. The boycott move shows the powerful return of the anti-democratic Left in Britain, very similar to the Stalinist Left that did so much damage to Britain and the West in the 20th century. It also shows the new power in British academic institutions of Islamic fascists. A major fact is that the same UCU board that voted to deligitimize Israel also voted to block police inquiries about Islamist recruiting on university campuses. The message is clear. The academic Left will protect Islamofascists on campus.
The anti-Israel boycott further undermines democracy in Britain, which has seen a steep decline in its sovereignty with the rise of the European Union. More than 30,000 pages of regulations governing Britain and the rest of the EU have been unilaterally decreed out of Brussels. Parliamentary sovereignty is out of fashion. British foreign policy is increasingly to be run by Brussels, and the British armed forces are to be merged into the European Union. Killing the Anglo-American alliance is a major goal of these political maneuvers.
So the boycott is bad news for Israel's universities, but also for British freedoms and for America's strongest alliance in Europe. It should alarm all of us. Ask not for whom the bell tolls/It tolls for thee... as an English poet wrote, in an age that was not so different after all.
The majority of university professors in the UK are personally decent people, who were of course not consulted in the boycott vote. But they are intimidated by the code of Politically Correct conduct that now pervades all of British life is pushed by the hard Left, the BBC, radicals in the labor unions, and in the political parties. In places like London there is an explicit alliance between the hard Left and Islamist forces, as Melanie Phillips shows so chillingly in her book Londonistan. The threat of Islamist violence also shapes academic decisions in Britain today.
British universities therefore must live with the deep shame of a vile and anti-democratic action performed in their name. After all, they allowed the election of the union agitators who have been working to destroy Israel for years. Viciously slandering Israel and of course the United States has become socially acceptable in Europe today, and Britain is no exception. Both of those hatreds are very selective: no such superhuman standards of moral conduct are applied to Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, or Zimbabwe, or France for that matter. Politically Correct intimidation governs British society, which is as frightening in its own way as Cromwell's witch-hunts four centuries ago. The spirit of the witch-hunt is alive today, and Britain's academics, and for that matter Britain's Jews, seem to be frozen in fear. Given the dark history of Europe this is another throwback to a mad past.
Today UK universities allow Islamist imams to recruit terrorists without restraint, even after fifty innocent citizens were blown to shreds on the London Underground. British police estimate that more than two thousand British Islamofascists are ready to commit acts of terror. The universities silently acquiesce in hate campaigns mounted by Islamofascists and the hard Left. Those fanatics threaten violence against people who speak up against them, including teachers and students, just as the Hitler Youth did in its time. But we should not feel we are immune to the same forces in America, not after Harvard University fired its president for speaking a politically incorrect truth. Our campuses are also under siege.
It is still true that for evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing; and it is also true that raising your voice in the face of threats and intimidation takes a lot more guts than keeping your mouth shut. The majority in Britain have therefore stayed silent in the face of a rising tide of fanaticism on their soil. Hatred has been allowed to become endemic. And of course, the most immediate victims are those who live there.
So this is a moment of historic shame for Britain and its cowed universities, the more so because the boycott vote was completely predictable. It culminates a long and systematic anti-Israel campaign in the Guardian and in the six-billion dollar-a-year involuntary fee-funded BBC, which laid the foundations for today's fall from grace. Alas, Britain is no longer the tolerant and humane country it once was.
The British Left, which spearheads the hate-Israel movement, has always been prone to a kind of Stalinist fanaticism, a psychological need to destroy scapegoats and idealize dictators. So this is not new. Martin Amis has written about the dangerous failure of the British Left to repudiate its Stalinist past. Amis' father Kingsley Amis was a life-long Stalin supporter. In Koba the Dread, Martin Amis tried to explain why Stalin and his followers were never denounced. It is a deeply shameful and frightening history --- frightening because of what it means for the future. Because the fanatics we see today are no different from the Stalinist fanatics of the 1930s. Today, we can even see a new Hitler-Stalin Pact in the making, as Socialist Workers' Party members and Islamofascists march side by side in the streets of London. The extremes touch hands again.
For the True Believers of the Left the crumbling of the Soviet Empire was not a sign of failure. Instead, it was a kind of opportunity to renew their faith. The Left could now argue that the Soviet Union was not a true test of Communism after all. One hundred million dead victims of Marxist regimes were not enough. If that kind of thinking isn't profoundly mad and twisted, I don't know what is. It could only spread by intimidation, and that is of course what Political Correctness is all about: It makes free speech dangerous and allows the Left to seize power, step by step.
Today, BBC Radio 4 reports that its audience considers Karl Marx to be the greatest philosopher of all time. That is just a reflection of what the BBC has been drilling into its listeners day after day for all these years: It's a push-poll for the Ministry of Truth.
Americans tend to idealize our political mother country. The freedom-loving English-speaking tradition did lead to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, but with quite a few mad totalitarian swings, which never quite stopped, all the way from Cromwell's witch-hunting years to the PC Left of the 21st century.
It is important for Americans to understand Europe's never-ending fascination with totalitarians. James Bond was not just a fantasy but an outright historical lie. The truth is that the Soviet KGB had British intelligence totally penetrated from the 1930s onward, because they selected their spies from promising young Communists at Cambridge University in the decades before. The Soviets also made good use of the homosexual underground that long existed in Britain, which gave its adherents lifelong practice in living two separate lives. So the top Soviet spies in British intelligence were commonly gay Cambridge graduates who were dedicated Communists. On the royalist side, King Edward VIII tried to persuade Hitler to make him the Nazi puppet king in England. In response, Churchill had Edward exiled to Barbados during World War II.
It was the absolute faith of totalitarianism that made it all so seductive. Communism presented a fanatical, absolutist answer to all questions in life. So did fascism. As insane as it may sound, even today, for Leftist Europeans, Karl Marx is still the Prophet of the future. Failures simply don't count.
Americans always make the mistake of thinking the British to be much more democratic than they really are. When we see the Coliseum in Rome, the great Cathedral at Chartres, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, we rarely remind ourselves that those top tourist destinations stand for three kinds of violent European regimes --- from the brutal Roman Empire to Napoleon's mad attempt to stroke France's national ego by killing millions of other Europeans. In so many ways Europe is a mad place, as mad as the Middle East. It has simply been defeated time and time again. But that does not automatically make for a democratic mindset. The sad fact is that British democracy is in steep decline today, and nobody seems to care.
"Giving in to the totalitarian temptation," as German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer described his own youth, has always appealed to the Brits as well as other Europeans. Europe's bloody-minded professors have an attraction to totalitarianism, one that keeps popping up throughout history like some recurrent plague. Hitler and Stalin were not the first; unfortunately they were not the last either. Both Hitler and Stalin fancied themselves as high-flown European intellectuals, writing books and articles about politics, linguistics, race, and the nature of art. After their crimes were exposed, Europe's scribbler class simply looked for new mass-murdering heroes to worship. In the 1950's Jean-Paul Sartre sensed a shift in the political winds, and changed his powerful public support from Josef Stalin to Mao Zedong. Mao was even then murdering his own people by the millions, as Sartre must have known. He didn't care. It was all for a good cause.
Just a few years ago Europe proved itself completely unable to see Saddam Hussein's evil for what it obviously was, and to celebrate his overthrow with a sigh of relief. France and Germany tried their damndest to sabotage American policy toward Saddam, by hook or by crook. Today's difficult Iraq War is due in part to that constant sabotage by the Western Left, both in America and Europe.
It is not an accident that Saddam's Baath Party was a carbon copy of Europe's fascist parties of the 1930s. The Baath Party learned its craft from Europe. Saddam Hussein was a European-style dictator, like Franco, Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Today Europe again turns a blind eye to Ahmadi-Nejad's Islamofascist regime reaching toward nukes in Tehran. They simply hope they are not themselves in danger; it's their usual self-deception; soon, they will be fifteen minutes from Tehran by ICBM. Europe's proudly proclaimed "pacifism" is only passivism in the face of clear and present evil.
Along with a worship of absolutist politics, Europe's intellectuals have a record of hating democracy. Napoleon famously sneered that Britain was only "a nation of shopkeepers" --- petit bourgeois capitalists. Both the Communists and Fascists voiced the same contempt for Anglo-American democracy, and practically all of Europe's most famous intellectuals of the 20th century were totalitarians of one kind or the other. Mussolini and Mitterand actually managed to become both prominent Fascists and leading Socialists in a single lifetime.
The most revealing book about European politics is Julien Benda's Treason of the Clerks (that is, the intellectuals), written in the 1950s, but still as relevant as ever. It is a badly written book in many ways, but its point is made clear in the title: Benda pointed out that all of modern European politics is governed by the intellectual class, which always manages to betray its own peoples to serve itself. Socialism is of course a pure product of European intellect, starting from Plato's Republic to Karl Marx by way of Friedrich Hegel. Each of them celebrated their own version of dictatorship by the intellectuals. Not surprisingly, socialism serves the intellectual apparatus that it keeps in power.
Europe today is still governed by elites who have contempt for democracy. Consider how they feel about the voters having a voice in the so-called "European Constitution," for example.
And there's the answer, I believe, to my question about the anti-Israel boycott. Why are the British university unions boycotting a free and democratic country, besieged by dictatorial murder cults? Because the universities are filled with bloody-minded professors, just as Churchill said. They are still searching for a True Belief. Relatively small numbers are Muslims, but Muslim fanatics have been allowed free reign by the Left, neo-Stalinists who have worked their way into positions of power, covered by the doctrine of Political Correctness. British universities are the breeding grounds of a new Left-fascist alliance, which operates by intimidation and media control, just as the old one did.
Britain is no longer the country that defied Hitler. Instead, it has fallen back into another and darker identity.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/