25 October 2007 - John Dugard is really boring
The President of the Society of Arab Students (SAS) at Harvard published an op-ed in the Crimson today in which she complained about “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” claiming that “nothing constructive” could come out of it. No one at Harvard is actually participating in the nationwide teach-in about radical Islam, but SAS felt it had to state its opinion on the campaign regardless.
I agree that the title and focus of “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” could lend themselves to bigotry, which is why I never considered sponsoring or supporting it. But SAS’s complaints are complete hypocrisy, considering that it regularly invites radical Israel-haters to speak on campus. Tonight SAS members were out in force to hear John Dugard speak at the Kennedy School (moderated by Duncan Kennedy).
Dugard is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories. His mandate, granted by the now-defunct UN Commission on Human Rights, only allows him to investigate Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights, not Palestinian abuses of Israeli rights or the rights of their own people. He is no impartial observer, but an activist whose hostility to Israel is evident in his work.
Tonight’s event was part of the final lead-up to the “Israel=apartheid” conference in Boston, which begins tomorrow. Dugard is very important to those who would equate Israel with apartheid South Africa, because he earned his reputation as a human rights lawyer in South Africa and supports the Israel-apartheid analogy in some respects. He is also, I learned tonight, a complete charlatan.
Dugard’s rhetorical strategy is to make false and facile equations between Israel and apartheid South Africa. When challenged, he backs down, but not before placing another false analogy on the table, or simply making up facts. His big lie tonight was to claim that the Jewish Agency pioneered the use of suicide bombings. He cited Walt and Mearsheimer as his source; even they make no such claim.
When I challenged him, Dugard backtracked, but added that the Irgun had used terrorism in the 1940s (not mentioning that the Jewish Agency had condemned it). Dugard also said the following about Palestinian suicide bombings: “Without justifying it, I think one can understand it.” He also dismissed Palestinian terror, saying the South African government also once labeled its opponents “terrorists."
According to Dugard, Israel is still occupying Gaza; it violates Palestinian human rights and international humanitarian law; and it gets away with all of the above because of “the Israeli lobby” in America and “Holocaust guilt” in Europe. He also argued that the double-standard of the West towards Israeli human rights abuses was undermining the whole edifice of international human rights law.
I asked him how he could make such a ridiculous claim when both the current and former UN secretaries-general have criticized the UN Human Rights Council and its predecessor for focusing obsessively on Israel to the exclusion of other issues. His own mandates, I pointed out, were biased against Israel. I agreed that there was a double-standard, I said, but it was aimed in exactly the opposite direction.
Dugard responded by admitting that there was a disproportionate focus on Israel, and claimed he was critical of that. However, he blamed the West, saying that developing countries were not willing to discuss human rights issues in their part of the world because the West ignored Israel’s human rights abuses. That claim is not only false, but it implicitly condones genocide in the third world. What a guy.
The audience’s questions were sympathetic to Dugard, as expected. One graduate student asked him to share the lessons of the academic boycott against South Africa, and how they could be applied to Israel. Dugard then had to admit that he had actually opposed the academic boycott of South Africa because he felt that he himself worked for a university (Wits) that openly defied apartheid.
He would feel more sympathy for the anti-boycott movement, he said, if Israeli universities held official assemblies condemning the occupation (never mind political independence and academic freedom). I pointed out that Israeli universities had been hit by suicide attacks, unlike South African universities, which debunked his false equation of Palestinian terror with the anti-apartheid movement.
Dugard had to admit that South African universities were never directly threatened, but pointed to examples of terror against civilians in South Africa—another false analogy eagerly swallowed by the audience. The radicals lionize him. But Dugard is a poor, sclerotic speaker, mediocre and boring to the nth degree, as unimpressive as any of the champions of Israel-hatred I’ve encountered thus far.