May 26, 2007

Israel boycott gaining momentum

I'm loving all this boycott stuff. Israel is undeniably a pariah among pariahs. Yeah yeah yeah, all states abuse human rights and Israel doesn't have death camps yet and yada yada yada. But Israel wouldn't exist if it wasn't for its on-going human rights abuses. Israel exists on an open invitation for outsiders to come and enjoy more rights than insiders. But surely this is like America or Australia are? Er no actually. It's like they were; not like they are. Ok, America and Australia didn't desist from eliminating the natives until they had, er, eliminated the natives - as a political force anyway. But these are still supposed to be more enlightened times and do we really want to wait until Israel has eliminated the natives of Palestine or the wider Arab world?

Anyway here's Hilary Rose in the Education Guardian piling on the agony mostly by describing the agony felt by the Palestinians:
Faced with these brutal abuses Israeli academics, excepting a handful of brave dissenters, have remained silent - less surprising if we understand that Israeli academics serve in the military. One distinguished natural scientist explained to me that he served until he was 55. This is not discussed by Israeli academics, yet for many non-Israelis the image of the small boy terrified in his father's arms deliberately shot by the IDF is printed in our memories. Even within Israel itself, the universities, sitting on occupied Palestinian land, share institutionally in the general discrimination against Arab-Israelis (20% of the population).

In these desperate circumstances it is not surprising that South African leaders, from Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish ex-head of the armed wing of the ANC to Bishop Desmond Tutu, declare that the sufferings of the Palestinians are worse than those of black South Africans under Apartheid. Those who know apartheid at first hand are well able to recognise a racist state. And all the blustering by the Israel lobby cannot wash this away.

The call from Palestinians for an academic and cultural boycott did not come from any political party but from Palestinian civil society itself. They saw that any claim to academic freedom and even the right to education was being destroyed. As members of civil society we have to consider such a moral and political call. Some, like the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine and the solidarity movement, have accepted the challenge. But it doesn't matter that every part of civil society responds in the same way.

What matters is that pressure is put on Israel until it complies with international law and works for a just peace. Thus British doctors are questioning the legitimacy of Israel's medical association, which condones torture; artists and filmmakers have called for a boycott, and a galaxy of international architects, including several Israelis and Palestinians, published a challenge on Thursday to Israeli architects concerning their human rights record and their professional ethics. Boycotts and such professional pressures are not fast in their effects, but like water dripping on a stone, eventually the stone wears away.
Like a cliff crumbling into the sea.


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