Two American academic groups — the American Studies Assn. and the Assn. for Asian American Studies — have called for a boycott of Israeli universities. Those resolutions have met with many objections. Much has been made, for example, of the inherent hypocrisy of attempting to ostracize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and their Israeli Arab cousins when there are so many far worse situations in the Middle East and around the world. But there is another objectionable element in the boycott movement: the abuse of language.
In the discussion that surrounds the call for a boycott, South African apartheid is almost invariably invoked. Say what you will about the Israeli occupation, but the South Africa analogy is false. The word "apartheid" isn't accurate, but it is emotional and inflammatory.
Of all people, professors should be more precise in their use of language. That they are not, and that they use such freighted language, suggests a goal other than helping the parties get to two states for two peoples.
Let's use an academic tool — a surprise quiz — to examine the intellectual integrity of the apartheid allegation.
1. The valedictorian of the most recent graduating class at the medical school at Israel's MIT, Technion, was:
a) A West Bank settler
b) An Orthodox Jewish man
c) A wounded veteran
d) A Muslim woman
2. The only country on the following list in which the Christian population isn't falling precipitously is:
3. Which of the following is true of Israel's Arab Christians?
a) They make up about a third of Israel's pharmacists
b) They are among the winners of the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor
c) Their high school students have a higher rate of success on their graduation exams than Israeli Jewish students
d) All of the above
4. Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, the number of rockets fired from there into Israel is: