A proposal by British academics to enforce a boycott of Israel is an outrageous and blatant violation of the most fundamental freedom of democracy, reminiscent of totalitarian regimes that could not tolerate freedom of speech, a British baroness said Sunday.
"It is ironic and disturbing in the extreme that censorship is creeping back, and that it is being promoted by some representatives of academic staff who should be the guardians of academic freedom," Baroness Caroline Cox said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Cox noted that in addition to quashing the right to free speech at institutions of higher learning, the proponents of the Israel boycott had the "extra dimension of bias and partiality."
"The law requires that the guardians of our academies ensure the protection of freedom of speech on our campuses, and it is upon the police to ensure the protection of the campuses," she said.
"If our academic institutions do not have the most fundamental freedom of democracy - freedom of speech - as a result of overt or covert censorship, then who does?" she asked.
Her remarks came just days after Britain's largest union of university and college teachers voted to hold talks on an academic boycott of Israel.
The University and College Union, which represents around 120,000 staff members, voted last week to allow local branches to make a final decision on imposing a boycott on cooperation with Israeli academics.
Britain's largest union subsequently announced that it also planned to debate a similar motion at its annual meeting in a few weeks, in a sign that the movement to boycott Israel is mushrooming further in the UK.
In the interview, Baroness Cox, who has served as a deputy speaker at the House of Lords, censured the disturbing alliance between the Islamists and the Left in the UK.
"This very unnatural alliance is part of the present ethos and culture of political correctness which some of the media defer to and which shapes the emotions and understandings behind the proposals for such a boycott," she said.
Cox conceded that years of asymmetric reporting on Israel have impacted the way the British public view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even as she noted a "growing malaise" about the BBC's anti-Israel reporting.
"Emotions can often override the rational and balanced approach to the situation," she said.
The erudite Baroness of Queensbury, who co-authored the book The West, Islam and Islamism: Is Ideological Islam Compatible with Liberal Democracy? with John Marks, was in Israel for a conference on radical Islam at Bar-Ilan University, sponsored by The Jerusalem Summit, an Israeli conservative think tank.
Cox, who has called Islamic extremism the greatest threat posed to the Western world, said that it was "time to draw a line in the sand" now that the UK's fundamental freedoms and basic cultural heritage were at risk, and likened the current era to the infamous 1930's period of appeasement.
"We have people in our midst who wish to use the freedoms of democracy to destroy our democracy and the very freedom it enshrines," she said.
Cox cited British intelligence figures that 100,000 British Muslims believed that the July 7 bombings in London were justified, and that 1,600 identify with the bombers and were prepared to carry out such an attack again.
"We have a very critical mass in our midst who do not support our political system, and a significant number of those are prepared to use violence to overthrow it," she said.
A recent British public opinion poll indicating that 40 percent of Muslims youths in the UK want to live under Islamic law rather than British law showed a growing state of malaise that threatened to destroy the country's society and core values, she said.
Cox - who campaigned against government-sponsored legislation, backed by the Muslim Council of Britain, that would have deemed it a criminal offense to criticize or joke about Islam or promote another religion - revealed that the British government had already made arrangements in certain communities to enact Islamic Law on social matters - a move she called extraordinarily naive at best and hopelessly disingenuous at worst.
"There are elements of Sharia Law that are fundamentally incompatible with the universal declaration of human rights to which Great Britain is a signatory and whose values are enshrined in British law, particularly equality before the law and freedom to choose and change religion," she said, cautioning that "no-go" ghettos similar to those in France were being established in Britain.
The baroness cited a "vacuum of values" and a decadent society devoid of role models that has failed to give the next generation the proper pride and appreciation for its political, cultural and spiritual heritage - cannon fodder for the Islamic alternative, she said.
"Unless we realize that our fundamental freedoms are under threat, we could find ourselves in an irreversible situation," Cox said. "The question is, is it too late?"
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
from the Jerusalem Post