STOP THE BOYCOTT

June 13, 2007

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This blog supports the campaign to stop UCU’s proposed boycott of Israeli universities and academics.

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11 Responses to “STOP THE BOYCOTT”

  1. Dave On Fire Says:

    In a 2004 opinion on the illegality of the wall in the West Bank, the International Court of Justice reiterated that it is the duty of all other states to put pressure on Israel to stop this and other war crimes. The government is obviously never going to do so, but why can’t trade unions?

  2. Margi Says:

    Do I stop buying US products because they have built a wall between themselves and Mexico and that without Mexicans sending their teenagers over the border strapped with explosives?

  3. Dave On Fire Says:

    Morally, yes, the USA commits war crime after war crime after war crime, and anything that can be done to restrain it is worth consideration. Practically, however, a campaign to boycott the USA seems pretty unrealistic. You also seem to have made a few completely false analogies:

    1/ The boycott in question is not on Israeli goods, but on Israeli universities. These have a long history of excluding the Palestinians from higher education, collaborating with government policies, and now are very much involved in the current economic boom, where growth rates close to those of China are fuelled by the sale of (ahem) defense technologies ground tested in Gaza and the West Bank. The American academic community is far more diverse, and even if it were doable boycotting it would be pretty counterproductive.

    2/ While I oppose the ‘fence’ upon the Mexican border, I recognise that it is not equivalent to the wall in the West Bank (although, as part of the Israeli arms boom, the builders of the latter are exporting their expertise for the latter). The American ‘fence’ follows a stable and internationally recognised border. The border between ‘Israel proper’ and the OPTs is not recognised as permanent by anyone, and the final status of Israel-Palestine remains to be negotiated. Splitting it with walls is a pretty under-handed way of prejudicing that final status. Worse, the wall does not follow that border, but effectively annexes large swathes of the West Bank.

    3/ The wall is not about security. Commentators frequently talk as if Israel were plagued by a constant an relentless flow of suicide bombers, but that’s not the case. Few of the Palestinian groups are comitted to non-violence (nor is Israel, which kills, imprisons and impoverishes Palestinians in much higher numbers), but nor do they go around blowing up school buses left, right and centre. Hamas in particular has proved itself capable of declaring and sticking to ceasefires for long periods of time – even without reciprocity from the Israelis – and if it hadn’t been so thoroughly frozen out of the political process it would have been able to enforce those ceasefires more effectively.

  4. yucca Says:

    Dear Dave and Margi,

    three points:

    1. We must decide one the point of the boycott is. If, as Dave appears to say, it is to “stop” Israel, then the boycott is not only a mistake, but it is counterproductive. Time has shown that it is not with initiatives of this kind that you “stop” Israel, whatever any of us thinks about the morality of stopping Israel. The boycott, I think, is just to show one’s disgust at what the Israeli government does. And that is why I am against the boycott, together with the fact that targeting academia is from my point of view – the one of an academic – particularly bad: that’s where the chances of dialogue, cooperation, and improvement are. It is, I believe, the worst element of Israeli society to target (apart from the fact that I would probably be against any boycott, just because it targets a country, a population, a group, while there is, if anything, only reason, by the admission of many of the critics themselves, to target only a government, if not a political part).

    2. The distinction between ‘war crime’ and ‘moral war crime’ drawn by Dave is dobious. It seems as though crime as to do with the law, and that therefore there is no such thing as a ‘moral crime’. I guess what you mean, Dave, is that some of the things that the Israeli government has done have been recognised as was crimes, and that there are also things done by the American government that ‘should’ have been considered as ‘crimes’, because of their moral status

    3. your third point, Dave, is i think disrispectful of facts, and of human suffering. It has been shown, I believe, that the wall has improved the security of Israel. You might think that the improved security is not worthed an awful thing such as the wall, but that it a different matter

    (there was another thing I wanted to say, but I can’t remember it just now ;-))

  5. Dave On Fire Says:

    Hi Yucca!

    1. I agree that transational cooperation and free exchange of ideas all-important in the academic sphere, and that if one is critical of government policy alone then the collateral damage of an academic boycott is too high a price. However, as was the case in apartheid South Africa, the Israeli universities are very much a part of the machinery of oppression, and do a great deal to cut Palestinians out of the international academic community. Here’s Prof. Colin Green on why he supports the boycott. Incidentally, would you have supported the academic boycott of South Africa?

    2. The US is guilty of war crimes as defined by international law – indeed, the only meaningful definition, and if I were only giving my own subjective condemnation I would not have used the word “crime”. The distinction I made was between the moral grounds for a boycott – on which grounds the US, and indeed the UK, is perfectly fair game – and practical grounds – I don’t think a boycott of the US is remotely plausible. Apologies if I was unclear.

    3. I didn’t say that the wall had not improved Israel’s security (the jury’s still out on that as far as I can see), I was denying that that was its primary purpose. Determined suicide bombers will still get through, and the “awful thing” that the wall represents will only recruit more of them. If Israel were serious about its security, it would negotiate a political settlement with the Palestinians. Hamas has kept to, and enforced, long and unreciprocated ceasefires, and has offered a long-term truce during which a permanent peace can be negotiated. That’s the way to security! If the wall were about keeping Israelis safe, it would have been built in Israeli territory. The wall is a land grab, pure and simple.

  6. yucca Says:

    Hi Dave,

    1. So the point of the boycott is not to put pressure on the Israeli government, but to punish Israeli universities for their immoral behaviour. That is, you see, quite different. But even here, apart from whether I agree that they deserve to be punished, it seems to me that punishing individual academics and their prospects is just like boycotting a nation to influence a government: it is, in a word, overapplied; and therefore undeserved by most of the people that it is supposed to punish

    1.1 On South Africa: yes, I would probably have. But I have never accepted the analogy: Israel is not a racist state, and the Israeli are not racist. They are not one nation, as South Africa was and is. The difference between the way in which South Africa has been solved (to be optimistic) and the way in which people propose to solve the Middle East shows that there is no analogy.

    That is not to say, by the way, that Palestinians are not being discriminated. The difference is in the reasons for the discrimination, the mode of discrimination, and the status of palestinians

    I will read Green’s reasons and get back to you about that.

    2. So you think that US, Britain, and Israel all deserve being boycotted – ourselves included, that is. But that a boycott is only pratical against Israel. I guess it will turn out that the reasons for which you think that a boycott would not be practical or effective against US and Britain are the reasons why I think that it would not be against Israel

    3. I think there is plenty of evidence that negotiation alone doesn’t deliver security, and moreover that to get to a decent negotiation table you need to be tough on violence. But I guess we will have to wait and see to settle the issue of the wall.

  7. Dave On Fire Says:

    Who said anything about punishing? The boycott is certainly intended to make a difference.
    I don’t see how you can deny the racism inherent in the Israeli state; the “Israeli Arabs” are second class citizens in many respects (not least land ownership rights; 93% of land is reserved for Jewish owners, that’s more than apartheid South Africa ever denied the black Africans), while the Palestinians in the OPTs are not citizens at all, with literally no civil rights. I don’t see the relevance of there not being “one state” – the whole of historic Palestine is controlled by Israel.
    The US/UK are different because they’re simply too big for an economic boycott. It would take a truly enormous campaign to make even a dint in the British/American economies. Israel has one of the largest armies in the world (fourth, I believe), but its economy is not so massive. As for an academic boycott, Israeli academia are far more tied into the industrial-military complex than their British/American equivalent, so the boycott makes a lot more sense here.
    Finally, negotiations are perhaps not sufficient for stopping violence, but they’re a necessary first step. If Israel were serious about peace and security, it would open up to negotiation and political settlement. Remember Northern Ireland: troubles are not ended through repression.

  8. micene Says:

    Hi Dave,

    I know that one would like to argue that the point of the boycott is political and not just to take a moral stand. What I was objecting is that I don’t see any practical or political advantage arising from the boycott. And that, since the absence of those advantages is very obvious, then the only rational alternative for most people must have been to just take a moral stand. And a moral stand with which I do not necessarily identify (while the political goal of, for example, two states is something that I identify and that I would be willing to take political action for).

    On the racism: it is important to establish whether we are talking of. And you acknowledge it yourself by distinguishing between Israeli Arabs and palestianians. The latter, not being part of Israel, cannot be said to be victim of racism just because Israel does not treat them as it treats Israelis. Italy does not treat Sudanese people as it treats Italians (it leaves sudanese people die to an extent to which it does not leave italians to die). I am quite simpathetic to the kind of internationalism according to which Italy’d distinguish between italians and sudanese isn’t justified. But, because of the above, if you think that Israel is racist on grounds of how it treats the palestinians, then every state in human history has been a racist state (OPT included, if you consider it a state). and therefore ‘racism’ cannot be grounds for a distintive boycott against Israel.

    Israeli Arabs are, by the above standards, importantly different from palestinians as long as they have a Israeli passport. I get the impression that Israeli Arabs are probably the freest muslims in the area. But I would be interested on getting some evidence on the way in which they would be supposedly discriminated. I had never heard before, for example, that they are not allowed to buy 93% of Israeli land. have you got anything on it?

    On the difference between UK/US and Israel it seems to be that your argument is, basically, that we should boycott Israel and not UK/US because Israel is weaker. If you add that to the boycott being nothing more than a moral stand, it becomes a bit of a funny moral stand: choosing to take a moral stand aganst the weakest link.

    on northern ireland: don’t know enough about it (im not british), but it seems to be that the claim that the IRA was brought to disarmament by negotiation alone is very controversial, and probably false. on this latter point, there is some discussion (with relation to McDonnell) in the archive of this blog, if you are interested.

    sorry for the delayed reply

    ciao,
    yucca

  9. Dave On Fire Says:

    Hi yucca/micene.

    The discrimination against “Israeli Arabs” is well-documented; you only have to look. I see no relevance in speculating on the relative freedom of other Arabs in the region; are you trying to imply that discrimination is the Arabs’ natural lot and that they should be grateful to what rights Israel does grant them? As for the 93% figure, that is the amount of land controlled by two quasi-private governmental bodies, the JNF and the ILA, who issue long-term leases exclusively to Jews.

    As to your rebuttal of Israel’s racism, it only makes sense if we consider the OPTs to be independent, unconnected to Israel. They are not; the O stands for occupied, and Israeli checkpoints and soldiers discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians within the OPT. Full freedom of movement within the West Bank, for example, is impossible, and even limited freedom of movement usually requires an Israeli passport.

    For the rest, you’ve clearly cherry-picked from my responses.

    How many times must I say, Israeli academia is very closely linked to the crimes of the state; British and American academia are far more independent and diverse. Beyond that, there may nevertheless be arguments for a hypothetical boycott against the US/UK, I am not required to disprove that in order to support the real boycott against Israel. Nor do I see an “obvious” absence of practical reasons for a boycott.

    On negotiation, you’re the one tacking the word “alone/only” onto what I said. If you deny that engaging with the IRA politically was essential to ending the Troubles, then with all respect you’re the one courting controversy.

  10. yucca Says:

    Hi Dave,

    (sorry for the micene/yucca ambiguity; as you might have guessed, i was working on another blog and too lazy to logout and login again)

    On Israeli Arabs: I shall look around (I didn’t know, for example, of these JNF & ILA organizations). I guess the problem goes back to what I think is the main issue with the state of Israel: namely the fact that it is not secular. But that is, for me, one more reason to support it: Israel has to evolve into a secular democracy (if you read italian, you can go here: nullo.ilcannocchiale.it . it’s my italian blog, and recently i have talked of how both peoples under one state could help secularization). But Israel can evolve into a secular democracy only if we recognise and support its right of self-defence. That’s why, in short, i support Israel: it is the only country in the area who has both the power and potential to evolve into a secular democracy.

    on how OPT residents are treated: im sure life’s hell there; my point was only that it cannot be reducible down to racism, for the reasons given in the previous comment

    on the rest: im sorry if i gave you the impression of cherry-pickin for argument’s sake: my point was that if there are no practical/political reasons for the distinctive boycott against Israel, then the boycott can’t be anything other than a moral stand (which doesn’t mean that you can’t go on with it; but it does mean that it needs a different justifications from the ones provided: your man Green, for example, which i forgot to reply to you about, gives a justification only for the moral stand: it goes something like: i have been there, i have seen the suffering of the people, i have seen the crimes of the israelis)

    finally, on northern ireland: i did add “only/alone”. because you were denying the right/usefulness of the wall. and if you deny that, then you must argue that negotiations alone can do the job. because the israeli government will not tell you that the wall will alone do the job, but only that the wall is a necessary condition

    ciao,
    yucca

  11. yucca Says:

    hey Dave,

    here are the links to the posts (in italian) i was talking about:

    http://nullo.ilcannocchiale.it/post/1521633.html

    http://nullo.ilcannocchiale.it/post/1522020.html

    ciao,
    yucca


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