Wednesday, July 25, 2007

# Posted 9:43 AM by Patrick Porter  

TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL? The British Medical Journal is doing an online poll, asking everyone in general whether it should boycott Israeli academic institutions. The question is presented along with one article for and against.

Here's why I don't think they, or any academic institution, should:

It punishes innocent colleagues;

It is unfairly and suspiciously selective - where is the solidarity with the oppressed in Cuba, Zimbabwe, China, or Iran?

It will be counter-productive: many Israeli academics are likely to be critical of its state's policies;

In my own area, defence studies, some of the world's brightest minds work in Israeli academic institutions. To boycott them would be to harm our craft;

Both the state of Israel and the Palestinian leadership have been responsible for terrible atrocities, but the state of Israel in my judgement has made more consistent efforts to offer a diplomatic two-state settlement;

Academic trade unions should be making more efforts to direct their solidarity towards other fellow unionists in countries where it is needed, and where human rights violations are in many ways far worse: Iraq, Iran, China, etc.

And finally, some effort at balance would be nice. The state of Israel is one of the few states on earth that receives continual demands for its extinction, having survived several wars of aggression itself. That this is barely mentioned in these debates suggests that this is not being approached in a fair-minded spirit. (Although the existence of two rival narratives is acknowledged by Michael Baum who opposes the motion).

The motion is being strongly opposed so far on the numbers.

Interested, as ever, to hear what our readers have to say.

PS: There is of course the argument that selective measures such as this are legitimate because they a) have a chance of working and that b) self-proclaimed liberal democracies like Israel should be held to a higher standard.

I find the first view implausible in the case of universities (see above). The second argument is a little convenient, as it enables people to shut their eyes and ears to the victims of human rights violations elsewhere. Would those in favour of the motion take the same stance towards sanctions against Cuba, whose government proclaims that it is a state of equity, compassion and human rights?
(19) opinions -- Add your opinion

Dear Patrick,

If we take this case with Iraq 13 years of sanctions which lead to all sectors of life includes of punishes innocent Iraqi academics those who suffer by declined to get visa for conferences and scientific researches and also includes all the scientific books and magazines.

Should that also punishes innocent colleagues?

What you feeling about it?

But the question still remains who is the "innocent" who is against his state politics or who isn't?
An extremely interesting topic.

There is nothing what so ever
stopping an individual from
boycotting Israeli products.

Those who wish to boycott must
immediately start to do so on
their own.

If they do not, they are simply
poseurs; empty-headed pretend
moralists engaging solely in
mental masturbation.

I, for one, make it a point to
specifically purchase products
made in Israel whenever possible.

I have no need for the only
Palestinian product I can think
of - suicide belts.
The state of Israel is one of the few states on earth that receives continual demands for its extinction...

The others being?

P.S. Don't go down this "extinction" road. It's simply not fashionable. It's passe. People don't want to hear it. They'll deny it, rationalize it---even justify it. A total non sequitur: e.g., "So what if the Palestinians want to destroy Israel. First of all, they don't want to. But if they did want to---and when they finally do it---they'd be justified."

(Yes, we're beyond absurdity.)
I do agree with many of the points you raise Patrick. A blanket boycott would be unfair. A selective boycott, as was previously proposed by the AUT, would be more acceptable IMO.

However, Im curious to know whether you would have used the same 'selectivity' argument (China, Zimbabwe...) 20 years ago when economic and sporting sanctions on South Africa were being debated? Would the De Klerk government have been justified in complaining that it was being unfairly singled out?

As regards the other comments, it's a real shame to see anti-Palestinian racism once again rear its head on Oxblog - particularly from Anonymous 1033PM.
hey Niall,

on the selectivity point, just to be clear, I don't demand perfect consistency, but at effort at broader and more fair-minded protest.

on the South African case, I would go to the facts. One could have pointed out at the time that South Africa wasn't being singled out. For example, the US led a boycott (with the support of countries such as West Germany, Japan and the UK) against the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980 in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In other words, your point is relevant, but the international community did at least make the effort not to make one state the exclusive focus of political protest.

On your point about anti-Palestinian racism at Oxblog, I agree that it is a shame. I trust you are referring only to some of our commentors though. I don't recall David, Taylor, Patrick or myself making bigoted remarks about Palestinians.
But why even bother with a selective boycott when there's so many really good, thoughtful, discriminating reasons to go the whole hog?

disgraceful stuff indeed.

I guess its up to those promoting the boycott to dissociate themselves from these contemptible statements.

Fighting discrimination by ethnicity with discrimination by nationality-- genius. Compare it to South Africa all you want but the apartheid didn't end because the world ignored the ideas of people who hold SA passports.
A related selective approach is CalPers, the California Public Employees' Retirement System ($250B) and CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System ($157B). By throwing their considerable weight around they can and do effect liberal outcomes: pro-investor company policies and pressure on foreign governments known for violating human rights.

In 1987 CalPers stopped investing in South Africa, thereby increasing the pressure and leading towards the end of apartheid. At the time, this divestment approach was at variance with the winking Reagan and Thatcher 'constructive engagement' policies. More recently they have banned investment in Sudan.
Hi Patrick, yes I was only referring to the comments and not to any of the major contributors. Although there have been many racist comments over time, lamentably, and relatively little condemnation of them by others.

On your other points, yes S Africa was not the exclusive focus of protest/sanctions/boycotts at the time, but this is surely not relevant as Israel is not the exclusive focus of such things today either! What about the EU's decision to withhold aid from the Palestinian authority after Hamas won a democratic election? What about the US sanctions on Cuba? What about Commonwealth targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe's leaders?

You could argue that British academic unions have not attempted to boycott any country other than Israel, and so there is selectivity in this sense, but this seems rather specious to me. Perhaps British trade unions are attempting to redress the balance after the EU signalled that it would punish Palestinians for electing Hamas by sanctions, but would not impose any sanctions, arms embargoes, or stop any loans to Israel despite its human rights abuses.

Anyway, I found the Californian examples from anonymous 354PM very interesting. Maybe disinvestment is a fruitful line to be pursued.
hi Niall,

"Perhaps British trade unions are attempting to redress the balance after the EU signalled that it would punish Palestinians for electing Hamas by sanctions, but would not impose any sanctions, arms embargoes, or stop any loans to Israel despite its human rights abuses."

there's a chronological problem with this analysis. the union had attempted to place sanctions on Israel in 2005, before Hamas were elected. Its not for me to speculate about their motives, but
it would be welcome if the union were to take a broader solidarity with other colleagues and victims globally.

On sanctions against Hamas, its a bit much surely to treat this organisation as the equivalent to Israeli governments. Hamas calls for the elimination of a sovereign state of the UN. Israel's crimes, real and contemptible, do not make it equally abhorrent.

As I understand it, Hamas' Hitlerian statements about Jews etc. was the object of the complaints of the EU and others. Are they really obliged to cough up aid money without asking embarrassing questions about what they might do with it?

On comments about Palestinians: I unhesitatingly, fully and unconditionally condemn any bigoted anti-Palestinian statements made on this fine blogsite, and will do again if necessary. Apologies if this wasn't clear earlier on.

As ever though, we agree about just about nothing. Long live intellectual freedom!
I guess its up to those promoting the boycott to dissociate themselves from these contemptible statements.

You do not appear to have a very clear idea as to what these boycotts really are about.

Israel's crimes, real and contemptible, do not make it equally abhorrent.

Might such crimes include trying to create a Palestinian state? Or perhaps offering assistance, succour, support, and encouragement to a people whose aim it is to eradicate you?

No, s'pose not. Occupation is such a useful concept. Keeps it simple, and that's how we likes it.
How Israel can be defeated without violence
Everybody knows that there is only one way to strengthen Abu Mazen: immediately to start rapid and practical negotiations for the establishment of the State of Palestine in all the occupied territories, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Not more discussions about abstract ideas, as proposed by Olmert, not another plan (No. 1001), not a "peace process" that will lead to "new political horizons", and certainly not another hollow fantasy of that grand master of sanctimonious hypocrisy, President Shimon Peres.

A Warning to Tony
by Uri Avnery
(Saturday, July 28, 2007)
That's right.

Nothing less than the return of Israel to the May 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of those relinquished lands, the return of all of East Jerusalem (to be Palestine's capital), and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes within Israel (something Avnery appears to have forgotten about, though one can understand the oversight) would be acceptable for a peaceful resolution to the so-far intractable problem.

And when Israel, again, refuses to disembowel herself, she will, once again (yawn), be cast as the intransigent party (whose unceasing---so far, at least---refusal to commit suicide is the sole stumbling block to justice and peace in our time).
Hi Barry,

you misunderstand me: I do think Israel has committed human rights violations. But I also agree that it has tried to implement constructive policies to reach a solution, as you say. And this after surviving wars of aggression. But you can say both these things. This is not an either/or proposition.

between Niall and you, getting run over from both directions here, it seems!

BTW Niall,

on the South Africa point, I was merely replying to your challenge which went as follows:

"Would the De Klerk government have been justified in complaining that it was being unfairly singled out?"

I showed in response that South Africa's government could not make this complaint credibly.

So its a little naughty of you now to suggest that this is not a relevant example or comparison!
The issue of an academic boycott isn't really complicated - it never makes sense. Academia isn't like the economy. Universities are supposed to be founded on the idea of free debate - if you disagree with someone you challenge them and try to discredit them. Shutting down the dialogue won't accomplish anything.
I do think Israel has committed human rights violations.

It's not the matter what you think, it’s the reality, for 50 years Israelis continue violating the basic of human’s rights in Palestine.

There are a lot of reports, documents by many international independent agencies and UN agencies telling this for years.

The question is what the world (especially US) did in response to stop this?

The answer nothing!! In fact it’s many times cover give here cover by veto any actions against the Jewish State even in this filed

Read this recent new report Patrick:

Report: Palestinian children in Israeli detention abused, tortured
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