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Alan Dowty, professor emeritus from the University of Notre Dame, came to the University of Regina on March 21 as part of his Western Canadian speaking tour on the topic of “The Fourth Stage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.”
Dowty’s lecture in Regina was hosted by the Canadian International Council, the Political Science Students’ Association, and the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
The lecture presented an overview of what Dowty calls the “Arab-Israel conflict,” which he sees as having four distinct stages.
“First from [the] 1880s until the formation of Israel in 1948. [The second] an inter-state conflict between the new state of Israel and the neighboring Arab states…[This] gradually gave way to [the third,] in which the Palestinians reemerged as a major party opposite Israel in the 80s and 90s.” The last stage, said Dowty, has been taking place since the turn of the century – a shift in the power balance of the region, as opposition groups in Palestine emerge.
Publishing widely on both international relations and this conflict, Dowty has not fallen into some of the same dire straights some of his fellow scholars share.
Most notably is the case of professor Norman Finkelstein, a polemic writer on the conflict. His book, The Holocaust Industry, which explores his “reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering,” caused much outrage leading to his subsequent tenure denial at DePaul University.
When asked about Finkelstein’s case, Dowty himself said he hadn’t felt any repression when he spoke about the conflict.
“I think if you write scholarly articles or books, and they are judged by scholarly standards, then that shouldn’t enter into it. I certainly have not had [repercussions],” Dowty said.
Another famous book on this topic, The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy, written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which had been endorsed by Osama Bin Laden, also garnered a lot of criticism that affected the authors’ lives.
At a lecture in Montreal in 2008, Mearsheimer pointed out that Finkelstein was denied tenure because of his views. Mearsheimer added that he and Walt did not get into as much trouble specifically because they had tenure at their respective institutions.
According to Dowty, however, The Israel Lobby and U.S Foreign Policy was flawed.
“I think if you write scholarly articles or books, and they are judged by scholarly standards, then that shouldn’t enter into it…I certainly have not had [repercussions].” – Alan Dowty
“I happen to think that that particular book was not very carefully done. I mean, there are many flaws with it from a scholarly point of view. [The book was] designed to attract publicity and notice in a very dramatic way,” he said.
Dowty’s lecture came only a few days after Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) had ended at the U of R.
“I find the analogy [of apartheid] sort of extremely inappropriate … I think anybody who sees Israel as an apartheid state either doesn’t know much about South Africa, or much about Israel or both,” he said.
The United Nations definition of apartheid is “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
However, according to the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, a 15-month based research and exhaustive review of Israeli policies found that Israel’s laws and polices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories “fit the definition of apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel’s demarcation of geographic “reserves” in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of “Grand Apartheid” in Apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black Homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.”
Despite this, Dowty argues that apartheid does not exist in Israel.
“There’s nothing vaguely comparable to South Africa there, which is where the term apartheid comes from … in Israel itself, it simply doesn’t apply.”
Photo courtesy of Rania Matar