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Friday, June 01, 2007

Against the Boycotts

I have quite a lot to say about the recent boycott attacks against Israelis, but for now this piece will have to do. I send my respect to those in the union who fought this absurd measure and those who fight against this reductionism which leads only to more violence.

Boycotting Israel as moral masturbation
By Bradley Burston

Just for the sake of argument, let's suppose that you're a British academic. You believe strongly that the occupation must end, that the Palestinians should have an independent state, that Israel's military and diplomatic policies are wrongheaded to the point of immorality.

What to do? Simple. Find the one group within Israeli society which has consistently, vigorously and courageously campaigned against the occupation since its inception.

Then attack them.

Single them out for professional ruin. Do your best to get as many of their colleagues around the world to shun them. Yes, just as if you were in seventh grade and had decided to alleviate your own feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, panic and lack of requisite cool by cutting another victim from the middle school herd and lobbying your equally insecure colleagues to abuse the chosen victim.

Choose your victim with care. Select the one group in Israel which has taken substantive physical, professional, legal and personal risks, which has defied the spirit of Israeli nationalism and the letter of Israeli law, in order to seek out Palestinians to search for equitable solutions.

Select the one group which has, from the very beginning, spoken out eloquently for the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination, to freedom from Israeli domination, to freedom from disproportionate and often indiscriminate use of force, to freedom from social injustice.

Then denounce them.

Decide that your moral vision fully empowers you to declare Israeli professors and other university and college faculty to be unworthy of practicing their calling. All of them.

That is, perhaps, the real beauty of the British campaign to declare a quarantine over Israeli academics.

You really must envy the U.K. far-left for its blindness. Its consummate inability to see more than one side, which is to say, its demonstrated refusal to see Jews as fellow human beings, is only exceeded by its exquisite sense of timing.

No matter that in the whole of the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam Hussein managed to hit all of Israel with a total of 39 missiles, and that two weeks ago, Hamas sent 40 rockets into the Sderot area in the space of a single day.

No matter that Sapir College, Israel's largest public college, has for years been a primary target of Qassam crews.

No matter that in boycotting all Israeli academics on the basis of their being Israelis, the measure is patently racist, a grotesque reprise of the history of curbing academic freedom.

No matter that Israeli Arab academics who are staunchly opposed to the occupation are vehement opponents of the boycott as well.

No matter, even, that opposition to the boycott runs strong within the British University and College Union itself. In fact, all the more reason to press on.

For the genuine elitist, the unpopularity of an opinion is the best assurance of its real value.

Perhaps this is why the whole boycott campaign smacks of a uniquely far-left British brand of moral masturbation, a desperate, delusional, sterile, supremely self-contained form of non-activism that risks nothing even as it changes nothing.

There must be some reason why no one in this world does condescension better than the British far-left. There must be some reason why the British far-left manages to satisfy itself with a uniquely public, uniquely self-congratulatory form of ideological self-abuse.

Leftists abroad would do well to respect their Israeli counterparts for defying societal norms to work for the rights of people with whom their nation is at war. Perhaps the Israeli left deserves respect, as well, for having to do this while enduring the racist abuse of leftists abroad.

I agree with most of what you posted.

I'm against a blanket boycott which hurts workers and the Israeli left, and academic boycotts.

See: blanket boycott of Israel?.
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