June 12, 2007

When all else fails, ask Tony Greenstein

Here's Tony Greenstein, amazingly, in The Times yesterday.
Sir, What is remarkable about your editorial (“Drop
the Boycott
”, June 7) is not merely the lack of sympathy for the problems that Palestinian students face in gaining a university education, but the total failure to recognise that there is even a problem.

Palestinian students in Gaza are unable to access West Bank universities. There is one Islamic university in Gaza, dating from the time when the Israeli military was best friends with Hamas, as it sought to undermine secular Palestinian nationalism. What is this if not an imposed boycott?

Palestinian students in the West Bank find it almost impossible to travel to their classes unless they are prepared to spend most of the day waiting at the 500-plus checkpoints that are dotted around the territories. What is this if not an imposed boycott? Palestinian universities find it almost impossible to obtain the most basic equipment or funding because of administrative barriers that no Israeli university would face.

There is close liaison and cooperation between Israeli academics and the military at every level. Only this week the Hebrew University in Jerusalem appointed as its Vice-President a former head of the Shin Bet security police, Carmi Gillon.

Boycotts are peaceful in intent and are designed to draw attention to a particular evil. From the boycott of slave-grown sugar in the 19th century to the Jewish-led boycott of Nazi Germany in the 1930s to the cultural, academic and sporting boycott of apartheid, boycotts have been chosen when all else has failed.

Contrary to your assertion, Israeli universities have not been in the forefront of opposition to the evils of occupation. Israeli academics such as Professor Ilan Pappe have chosen exile precisely because of the hostile attitude of their colleagues to solidarity with the Palestinians.

The whole of the media has come out against this boycott of Israel idea and yet where have they been while the most powerful states and blocks of states have been boycotting the Palestinians? The government too has supported Israel. In other words, "all else has failed." Time to boycott.


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