June 12, 2007

Well I never Observed this!

A big thank you to Deborah Maccoby for telling me that she saw a letter by me in The Observer on Sunday. I checked it on line on Sunday and it wasn't there then. They must hold stuff back to get people to buy the newspaper. Anyway, it was a response to an editorial headed This academic boycott is an empty gesture
This week sees the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War between Israel and an alliance of Arab states. It was the ultimate Pyrrhic victory. Israel saved itself from annihilation, but condemned itself to decades of further conflict by seizing land from its neighbours. It also condemned millions of Palestinians to a life in exile or under military occupation.

By coincidence, British academics, as represented by the University and College Union, last week passed their judgment on the Six Day War. They voted to recommend a boycott of Israeli universities in protest at the occupation of Palestinian land. The union will now debate the matter over a year.

Apart from the fact that the timing was quite good, there is nothing positive to be said about this decision. It will not ease the suffering of Palestinians and it will not soften Israeli policy. In fact, by snubbing even liberal Israeli academics, a boycott strengthens the case of hard-line politicians who prefer isolation since it justifies unilateralism and disengagement from the peace process.
And here are some letters, including mine, criticising the editorial:
Your editorial attacking the University and College Union for recommending a boycott of Israeli universities in protest against the occupation of Palestinian land ('This academic boycott is an empty gesture', Comment, last week) was unfair.

I am not a member of this union, but applaud its efforts to do something about the injustices being perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinians.

Your newspaper seems to believe that mildly critical articles are the way to bring the Israeli authorities to their senses. You argue for the freedom of the liberal Israeli academics, but where are the arguments for the freedom of the Palestinians?
Denis Lenihan
London N16

You are mistaken. Constructive engagement with Israel has had no success and the suffering of the Palestinians increases by the month.

You correctly criticise Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt for their human-rights abuses. However, unlike Israel, they are not occupying another country, a situation that is manifestly unjust and contrary to international law.

It was only targeted sanctions that eventually forced apartheid South Africa to negotiate seriously for an end to its iniquitous system.
Chris Staples
East Sussex

Your leader repeats the Zionist myth that Israel faced annihilation in June 1967 and in so doing highlights one reason why academics and indeed any seekers after truth should be doing all that they can to bring attention to and end the plight of the Palestinians. Just about everyone involved in planning and prosecuting that expansionist war has now gone on record to say it was a conflict of Israel's choosing. Academics are merely honouring their calling by trying to ensure that their Israeli counterparts honour theirs.
Mark Elf
Dagenham, east London

Public protests and boycotts prodded Western governments to help bring apartheid to an end in South Africa. They were no empty gesture. Nor need they be if they were applied to Israel, as your leader suggests.
Joseph Palley
south west London
I suppose it was kind of big of them to publish letters that even called into question their command of the facts whilst disagreeing with their opinion. What with Tony Greenstein's letter in the Times yesterday, I think zionism is taking quite a battering in the media these days. Certainly, they have lost their monopoly there.


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