Yaba Yaba

what? another blog? you must be joking.

Racist? Not even.

with 6 comments

Like hayfever, summer brings with it news of British academics calling for a boycott on Israel. Some call this racism, antisemitism, some say it is a proper action against an Apartheid regime. I say neither.

It is plain laziness and cowardice, with a touch of white-European arrogance and hypocrisy. Next time the motion comes up for vote, I suggest the title:

Let’s quickly do something that will make us feel like we’re on the good guys side so we can get out of this stinky room and enjoy a pint down the road.

I’m tired of explaining why this is a stupid, counter-productive, unjustifiable idea. If you have a facebook account, you can read some good arguments here. Or you can go straight to the petition.

By the way, the official press release of UCU explicitly notes:

that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘As I have made clear in the past, and as I reiterated on the floor of congress this morning, I do not believe a boycott is supported by the majority of UCU members, nor do I believe that members see it is a priority for the union.


Written by yishaym

June 3, 2007 at 12:14 pm

6 Responses

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  1. To be honest, I don’t know wether it is a productive measure or not. However, I certainly don’t see why it would qualify any more for racism or even european arrogance than boycotting South Africa in the Eighties. Also, I am pretty sure there are Israelis who would call for boycott. Again, I don’t at present have an opinion. I guess it depends on what is to be boycotted. It’s obviously not the same to boycott goods (personally I don’t buy israeli avocados, but then I don’t like to buy food which ahs flown thousands of miles generally) as it is to boycott universities (there are plenty of israeli academics who need to be heard).

    To be honest, I suspect this debate lacks the qualities of proper debate. To recap,here are a few important questions:

    -When is a boycott morally acceptable/necessary?
    -What are the reasons for calling for a boycott of israeli products/academics?
    -What should be boycotted?

    Anyone can and should address these questions, not just people who are for a boycott.
    As I have mentioned elsewhere, we need to be careful before we fling words and expressions around without any explanation.


    June 3, 2007 at 1:27 pm

  2. I think we agree on most of these claims. However, I doubt that there are many Israelis (other than Ilan Pepe) who support the call.

    Even in the case of South Africa, the issue was debated. However, in my view there was a clear argument for boycott of academic, sport and cultural institutions on the grounds that these were discriminatory by stature.

    Economic boycott is a different issue, and personal ethical shopping is yet another. I try not to buy packaged fruit and vegetables. That is not a political action.


    June 3, 2007 at 1:35 pm

  3. here is an interesting article by an Israeli academic regarding the boycott back in 2005. It’s probably worth taking a look.



    June 3, 2007 at 1:36 pm

  4. going off on a tangent slightly, but I’d say ethical is political. By being aware of what I buy, I minimise my responsibility for the suffering of producers all over the world, be they in Israel-Palestine or elsewhere. Suffering which is usually caused by politics.


    June 3, 2007 at 1:39 pm

  5. Thanks. I quote the first paragraph:

    The angry responses in Israel to the decision passed by the Association of University Lecturers in Britain to boycott two Israeli universities, Bar Ilan and Haifa, because of their acquiescence with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, have, as usual, succeeded in diverting attention from the main issue – the occupation, to the secondary issue of the boycott.

    (translated from the Hebrew at Kibush magazine)
    Which is my #2 beef with the boycott idea. It simply diverts the discussion away from the core issues. Rather than engaging in genuine, constructive, well-thought critique of Israel’s actions we are drawn into a debate about the ethical grounds for purely symbolic measures which do not change the life of one child in the Ballatta refugee camp.


    June 3, 2007 at 1:45 pm

  6. True, and by the sqme token, we should not be taking part in a counter campaign which relies on emotional accusations of antisemitism (not your own accusation, I know) or even antizionism or arrogance.

    It seems there are plenty of racist academics in Israel who need to be opposed even if there are also many courageous academics such as Uri Ram.

    Again, as Uri Ram says, the real issue is the occupation. The real victims are Palestinians, not Israeli academics. Let’s keep things in perspective!


    June 3, 2007 at 3:38 pm

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