Ways to make Jews disappear / the campaign to boycott Israel

Alas, Stephen Hawking, if you think boycotting Israel helps Palestinians, think again.

Let’s hear from other academic voices. Raphael Cohen-Almagor explains the fallacy of a boycott campaign which no longer pretends to target only institutions, and now openly and predictably excludes Israeli individuals. Most Jews consider the boycott of Israel a threat to Jews, if not an active attack on Jews. Consequently boycotts exert strong introverting pressure on Jews. As an anti-Jewish strategy (which boycotting Israel often is) antisemites should understand why they fail to annihilate the object of their hatred. Norman Geras points out that antisemitism is interrelated with Jewish survival – it strengthens identity and mutual bonds between those who are designated and threatened as part of an ethnic group. Norm isn’t the first to note this paradox – unread as yet on my bookshelf is Dan Cohn-Sherbok’s book The Paradox of Anti-Semitism which contains many examples of Jewish leaders recognising this dilemma, from Rabbi Shneur Zalman and the spiritual dangers of integration to Theodore Herzl (“It is only pressure that forces us back to the parent stem”). In contrast, Moses Mendelssohn, Jewish Enlightenment  leader, set out to secure both the Jewishness and the participation. Robert Fine looks at the beginning of Jewish emancipation when the establishment extended a hand, if mistrustfully and conditionally, to German Jews. Ruth Wisse observes that throughout history where Jews suffered a deficit it tended to strengthen their collective resource and tenacity. Since emancipation, freed of the deficit and with a state of their own, but retaining a strong shared memory of persecution and a disinclination to take their continued success for granted, Jews are seen to strive and excel when taken as a group. Consequently in today’s prevailing (and I think ill-conceived) meritocracies, Jews have successful positions in greater proportions than their overall numbers indicate. Consequently it is easy for people affected by antisemitism to forget the obvious: Jews are individuals, not a coordinated group.

So are Jews out of the woods? It depends on the resilience of this society. At the heart of the boycott, political historian Jonathan Lowenstein explains, is envy, and this envy is sharpened by a shrunken economy. And after the Enlightenment came a global competition for resources and a related decision by a great power to do away with all Jews and appropriate their prosperity. So while I think speciesist, tribalist views of Jews about Jews belongs to desperate times, on the other hand to quote Hannah Arendt when attacked as a Jew it’s opportune to respond as a Jew.  Perhaps the desperate times have arrived.

Eve Garrard sets out the pleasures of antisemitism, (if you read nothing else, read that) which brought to mind Iain Banks’ lost tussle with antisemitism as his life reaches its premature end. In my trade union anti-Jewish activity I expected to be against the law has been found to be inside the law. David Hirsh and Sarah Annes Brown respond to the judgment from the legal action taken by Ronnie Fraser against the University and College Union on grounds of antisemitism related to anti-Israel campaigning. More on this from me in due course.

Stephen Hawking talked of pressure to boycott in ways which remind me of my MP’s appeal to populism in explaining that he is against gay marriage or protecting abortion rights because most of his correspondents have urged him to be. Perhaps Hawking represents a second phase, a mainstreaming of boycott. On the other hand, he has embraced the British Committee on Universities of Palestine, an organisation staffed by UK Israel eliminationists who, far from supporting a Palestinian call, instigated boycott themselves before any Palestinians had made call (takes your breath away, doesn’t it). There are so many reasons not to boycott.

Now, go and see if you can form some links with Israeli academics or cultural institutions, which despite all this acrimony are incredibly fertile, humane, questioning places.

UCU’s boycott of Israel blinds it to antisemitism. Is this solidarity?

In a post on Engage, David Hirsh gives context to the invitation UCU, the main British trade union for academics, extended to Bongani Masuku to speak against Israel. Last week, Bongani Masuku was found to have incited hatred against Jews by the South African Human Rights Commission.

Self-righteously, UCU rubbishes the SAHRC and the blogs which have tried to raise the alarm about Masuku. What is the word for an organisation so self-regarding that it considers the actions or decisions of its activists sufficient benchmark of goodness, regardless of any other objective criteria? UCU is like that. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so serious.

David Hirsh points out:

“The Human Rights Commission is a national institution of post apartheid South Africa. Part of the antidote to the old racist system, and independent of government, this institution functions as the linchpin of the new constitution which endows the rainbow nation with a set of legal and democratic guarantees.

The Human Rights Commission ruled last week that the statements of Bongani Masuku on the subject of Israel amounted to antisemitic hate speech. He is a senior official in the South African trade union movement and is currently in the UK on a trip paid for by the University and College Union to promote the exclusion of Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic community.

The Human Rights Commission does not makes its judgments frivolously. The Human Rights Commission is aware of the distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. The Human Rights Commission is not pro-Israel and is not concerned with defending the reputation of Israel. It is concerned with racism.”

He then summarises the history of the anti-boycott campaign in UCU, which warned against precisely this welcoming of antisemitism.

To quote a comment which once caught my eye on Engage, UCU’s insistence that its anti-Zionism cannot be antisemitism is “A bit like the commercial for a car where the would-be buyer asks “Do you have any colour but black?” and the salesman replies “Yes, we have noir””.

What kind of trade union would allow law to become the only thing standing between a group of people and the enactment of another trade union’s prejudice against them? Is this what solidarity has come to mean?

UCU Congress delirium

David Hirsh has live-blogged discussion and voting on the international business of UCU Congress 2009.

Aung San Suu Kyi? You must be joking. Israel and the Socialist Worker Party’s cherished boycott. There were 4 late motions, which breezed through undiscussed and unopposed in a derisory 10 minutes.

The Israel business took well over an hour.

Consider for a moment everything that is going on in the world, and then think about how shocking and dysfunctional that is.

The Union’s own legal advisors ruled motions on Israel which campaigned for boycott discriminatory and ultra vires. Two other legal teams working for anti-boycott groups confirmed this. The majority of the membership is against a boycott, no branch has ever managed to carry a boycott motion, and yet the SWP persists (read Jon Pike’s periodical updates on Engage for this). A group of members threatened litigation. These threats sent the SWP into a frenzy of defiance against groups they identified as Zionist, and now they will, they will, have their way and to hell with democracy and governance, obliging the union President to tag on ridiculous additions like this to the motion 28 in the agenda:

“The union received advice from Leading Counsel that to pass this motion would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The union has previously followed advice from Leading Counsel that such a call would be outside the powers of the union to make. If the motion is amended to remove the affirmation of support for the Palestine call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign, Leading Counsel has advised the union may lawfully pass this motion. If the motion is passed in its unamended form the President has been advised that she will have to treat it as being void and of no effect.”

When that was mentioned, there was a point of order which went something like:

“If this motion if passed is void – what is the point of continuing?  do we debate it or not?  we need some guidance.  it is avalid point of order to know what we’re doing with it and what will happen to it.

Sally Hunt [UCU President]:  If it is passed amended we will be able to act on it.  if unamended we will not be able to act on it.”

Then it gets difficult to tell what happened, because the records and agenda don’t show which amendment got voted for (there were several). I guess they decided to test the law. But what does this mean? The union leadership won’t allow them to test the law – what they’ll end up doing is boycotting as individuals, in which case the union won’t be liable. I can’t really claim to understand. And the reason I don’t understand is that this isn’t pro-Palestinian activism, it’s a bunch of people masturbating each other.

I think boycotters in my union are in the grip of a collective delusion. They seem to be in a bubble where they confirm and reassure each other. This is what the SWP is famous for, hollowing out the organisations they colonise. They’re well on the way with UCU. Engagement is terrible unless there’s a pay and conditions crisis on.

I reproduce some of the most illustrative parts of David Hirsh’s write-up, and be aware that the quotes are from his transcript, which he notes is rough.

Governance

Jon Pike (important anti-boycotter and campaigner for both Palestinian and our own academic freedom):

“I would like to take this proposal to the membership of the union.

we have been refused the ability to have a ballot.

This is because the membership of this union strongly oppose an academic boycott of israel.

all the votes in branches have indicated 80 or 90 percent of members oppose this call.

Find out.  have a full ballot of the members of the union.”

Somebody who shouldn’t be representing members:

“We cannot rely on votes.  Lets not make this a bureaucratic procedure.

What we have seen is a fundamental abuse of human rights.

the world stands by allowing israel to get away with virtual impunity.”

Tom Hickey, SWP inner circle:

“We make no apology in relation to the legal opinion.

it is only opinion.  has not yet been tested.

it is about time that this union tested this opinion in court.

we have been as a union extraordinarily careful.

it is not an easy decision to boycott other academics.”

[Too easy, I'd say]

“we have an obligation to go further in relation to BDS.

that is what Motion 29 called for originally.

But more.  What was rerquired as a union is to continue the process of debate that we have started and that we have an obligation to continue.”

“…if we lose an argument here then it is back to here that we should bring the argument because if we don’t do that then we rubbish this union and we rubbish democracy.

we should not walk away, whether threatened by the law or by anything else.

Test the law.”

Self-aggrandisement

Haim Bresheeth, chronic Jewish anti-Zionist and boycott campaigner (huh? Iis he now a union rep? Are they desperately short at UEL?)

“i am speaking as an Israeli and as a Jew.”

“it wasn’t just black workers struggle.

It was us – millions of people everywhere that brought apartheid down.”

Camilla Bassi, Sheffield Hallam (she’s not a self-aggrandiser, I excerpt her for purposes of comparison) had just noted that the end of apartheid was brought about by black worker militancy.

“We need to do something to help Palestinians but a boyoctt campaign writes off the role of the Israeli working class.  We need solidarity not boycott.  2 state solution.  solidarity between israeli and palestinian workers.”

Somebody giving the wrong end of the stick:

“If the law says we are not allowed to express our solidarity then the law is wrong.  (applause)”

[If the limit of your solidarity is entrenching divisions, then your solidarity is wrong.]

Topsy-turviness

Steve Wilkinson isn’t gripped by topsy-turviness:

“I beg you read the report produced by Amnesty about Hamas.

Discover what Hamas did to supporters of Fatah.  hamas went round and machined gunned in their hospital bed supporters of Fatah.

That point needs to be made.

Apart from that I support the resolution.”

He didn’t convince them.

Demonisation

Laura Miles:

“British government is complicit with repression against Gaza.

Western leaders failure to denounce by shared silence – to endorse attacks and war crimes.”

Somebody from the Scottish TUC:

“Constructive engagement would be the worst thing.  The only constructive engagement we can have with the Israeli authorities is one  backed up by the idea that they face isolation.

All that matters is the political campaign to end the occupation.  Nothing else matters.”

“Indiscriminate bombing of civilian population in Gaza.  unlawful us e of white phosphorous.  1400 civilians killed, many of whom children.

Not counting those who were severely traumatized.”

That was Motion 25 – Disabled people and conflict – but turned out it was only about disabled Palestinians.

So there we are.

I’m for constructive engagement. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be ostracised out of existence, and what we are doing surely strengthens the most virulent elements. I’m for academic freedom – I’m certainly against academic boycotting – it doesn’t even work, it’s just a gesture. And I’m for Jews.

Jon Pike:

“Dr Barham wants us to rank rights, so that “loftier” ones, such as academic freedom, are sacrificed for basic ones. This is deeply problematic. It completely undermines the idea of academic freedom, making it conditional on a wider political project. We are asked to suspend the academic freedom of Israeli colleagues because of our opposition to the actions of their government, but this is not a test applied anywhere else in the world. The proposal to boycott Israel exhibits an unwarranted exceptionalism.

And that is why the proposal is discriminatory. It discriminates against a group of people; applies hard treatment to them. It does so in the absence of a morally relevant property that the group – and no other group – possesses. This makes it unjust.

The group harmed consists almost entirely – and not by coincidence – of Jews. Whatever the intentions of the boycotters, this discrimination against Jews is undoubtedly one effect of the exceptionalism of their proposal.

The proposal is discriminatory, and the union has been told as much by its lawyers. It also takes us beyond the bounds of our proper purposes, which will come as no surprise to lecturers fighting to hang on to their jobs and keep their courses open, frustrated by our obsessive annual slanging match over Israel and Palestine.

We should offer support and solidarity to Palestinian academics. But we cannot and should not exclude Israeli universities from the international academic interchange that benefits us all.”

We mustn’t mistake a campaign of exclusion for a campaign of solidarity.

UCU Members – vote UCU Unity by 5th March

Via Engage, UCU Unity are getting my vote.

Dear Friends,

Please find below a list of recommendations for the current round of UCU elections. The list is a recommendation, designed to maximise the number of seats these candidates can win: if you have your own preferences please follow them but continue preferences for these candidates. The candidates listed below all strongly support the position that the priorities for UCU must be to put workplace and industrial issues to the forefront of the agenda. Unlike others in the election, all of the candidates below were free to write their own manifestoes and set out their priorities directly to you, the members. All are free to vote on their own platform and will vote in the NEC according to the arguments made on issues, not according to policy decisions determined in external bodies to stifle debate in the NEC.

While voting may seem a laborious process, we would strongly encourage you to vote this year, as the NEC more than any other body sets the direction which the Union takes. Please exercise the preferences to cover all those in the list: the first two years have proven that transfers and fractions of votes are vital in the election. In addition, please resist the urge to only vote in sector-specific elections.

Also please forward this list to as many colleagues and UCU members as possible encouraging them to vote through unofficial e-mail lists, research lists etc (NB: UNLESS IT HAS BEEN SANCTIONED THROUGH COMMITTEES OR GENERAL MEETINGS, PLEASE DO NOT USE BRANCH MEMBER LISTS AS CANDIDATES HAVE BEEN WARNED ABOUT THIS). Voting does make a difference in this election as there are vast differences between candidates as to what the union’s priorities and directions should be.

Vice-president from the higher education sector

  • Terry Hoad (University of Oxford) # 1
  • Stephen Desmond (Thames Valley University)# 2

Honorary Treasurer

  • Alan Carr (Open University) #1
  • Fawzi Ibrahim (College of North West London) # 2

North West, higher education sector (2 seats)

Recommend that those in University of Manchester, Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University vote Dobson(1), Brooks (2), Other NW members vote Brooks (1) Dobson (2)

  • Roger Brooks (University of Liverpool)
  • John Dobson (University of Salford)

South, higher education sector (3 seats)

Recommend that those in the University of Kent post-92 institutions (except Portsmouth) and vote Hayes (1); Sussex, Southampton, Exeter, Bath, Bristol and Portsmouth vote Guild (1); Open, Oxford, Surrey and Reading vote Kane (1). After that vote the remaining two candidates #2 and #3

  • Jim Guild (University of Sussex)
  • Dennis Hayes (Canterbury Christ Church University)
  • Lesley Kane (Open University)

Scotland (HE): Honorary Secretary

  • Angela Roger (University of Dundee)

Scotland (HE): President

  • Lesley McIntosh (Robert Gordon University)

UK-elected members, further education (5 seats, at least one in land-based education, at least two women)
PLEASE GIVE PREFERENCES TO ALL THESE CANDIDATES

  • Monica Goligher (Belfast Metropolitan College) woman
  • Tricia Gott (Bradford College) woman
  • Kathy Taylor (Northumberland College) woman

UK-elected members, higher education (7 seats, at least one post-92, at least two women)
PLEASE GIVE PREFERENCES TO ALL THESE CANDIDATES

  • Dave Anderson (University of Glasgow)
  • Philip Burgess (University of Dundee)
  • John Dobson (University of Salford)
  • Jimmy Donaghey (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Joe Gluza (University of Cambridge)
  • Anne-marie Greene (University of Warwick) woman
  • Bob Langridge (Oxford Brookes University) post-92
  • Bethan Norfor (Open University) woman

Representative of disabled members

  • Roger Walters (Open University) HE

Representative of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members

  • Stephen Desmond (Thames Valley University) HE

Boycott Peres, boycott peace

Shimon Peres, a stately and upright 85 year old, was elected President of Israel by the Knesset in 2007. I have an earlier biography of his ‘Fighting for Peace’ – he’s seen it all. He got out of Poland in ’34, fought hard to establish Israel, and has been fighting to keep it there ever since. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in ’94 for his work on the Oslo accords, the closest to peace that Israelis and Palestinians have come. Peres was Oslo. These days he is seen as a realist dove. He is not in favour of attacking Iran – he calls for an international alliance to turn Iran from an atomic bomb. The Peres Centre for Peace is responsible for, among other initiatives, making the case for reducing the number of checkpoints in the West Bank and working out the equitable distribution of water.

Yesterday Peres addressed staff and students at the Sheldonian, Balliol College, Oxford University on the topic of ‘Globalising Peace’. He was the subject of a banning/boycott campaign which included PACBI, and some other groups. Here he is captured on a phone by the look of things (update: better vid from the JC – dead link last time I looked – shows the interruptions)

As well as the chanting  you can hear in the video from the tens of students protesting outside, he was heckled every five minutes by 8 kitsch pro-Palestinian activists touting the usual slanders – ethnic cleansing, apartheid, mingled with protest about the settlements. I guess maybe they thought that Peres might have forgotten about the Palestinians for a minute. I always wonder why the facts don’t speak for themselves – why do they need exaggeration, discrimination into ethnic cleansing, occupation into apartheid. I’m cheered that Balliol let students into the event on a first-come-first-served basis, even though the event was evocative of Maoist youth shouting down the dalai lama.

Here we have a pro-Palestine movement of mostly led by, from what I can gather, white Stalinists, that shouts about debate and free speech as a way to make hair-raisingly discriminatory points and policies against Israel, but when there are moves to give an Israeli a chance to make his case you realise that free speech and debate are simply convenient pretexts. Double standards and contorted values characterise this movement.

Peres talked about the origins of Zionism in antisemitism and it occurred to me that the dominant kind of anti-Zionism fits the bill of globalised antisemitism pretty well these days. The weirdly intense and aggressive kind which of confuses Zionist with Jew, perpetuates war, subordinates all principle to the single cause, and has given more principled anti-Zionists, particularly Jewish ones, reason to recoil.

The boycott campaign against Peres – supported by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is the most recent bit of evidence that the boycott is a continuation of the campaign against a peace settlement with nationally-minded Jews in the region, which came into focus with the Arab Revolt of 1936-9. It isn’t possible to boycott the leading Israeli peacemaker and at the same time make a credible claim to want peace in the region. The boycott campaign is a rallying cry for Palestinian militancy. The peace in question is a simple victory – a forcible end to the Jewish state.

So, Ali Bahrer Chair of the Hebrew University’s Arab Students Committee, has the right to refuse to shake Peres’s hand. Certainly the opportunity to vent your disapproval at a leader on a walkabout doesn’t come up every day. That he did this while screeching “child murderer” was hateful as well as politically facile, and to treat Peres as if he had set out to kill 108 Lebanese civilians who sought refuge from the war between Hesbollah and Israel in a UN shelter at Qana was nasty. But for his idiotic outspokeness Bahrer didn’t deserve (and Peres had no part in it) harassment, the removal of his student card or the termination of his accommodation. This is no way to treat a member of the most excluded social group in Israel who has merely spoken his bile, however idiotic. The Hebrew University has since reinstated them.

More Peres – a tantalising Times interview which reads as if it was done in a hurry, Cherwell’s write-up, and this from the pro-boycott Tehran Times:

“Muslims, Christians, and Jews peacefully coexisted in various places for centuries, but the establishment of a political movement called International Zionism, which has no connection to Judaism, created a regional crisis and a chasm between Muslims and most practicing Jews.

The organizers of the meeting could have invited real Jews, like the members of Neturei Karta and representatives of the Islamic and Christian religions to participate, but the presence of Arab leaders and Zionist regime officials politicized the gathering.”

Pro-Palestinian campus activism forcing Jews out

Maybe the majority of pro-Palestinian activists in this country aren’t terrible but pro-Palestinian activism is famous for being terrible: irrelevant; futile; distorted; bitter; hostile to Jews; anathema to peace – no help whatsoever.

As at least one of my readers may recall, I had a long conversation last night in the pub near where I work with somebody I like, a very clever and compassionate anti-Zionist who doesn’t understand the problem with comparing Zionists to Nazis. I could hear my voice rising until, as my Matt would put it, only dogs could hear. Luckily my interlocutor was patient. He was trying very hard to understand, but he didn’t understand.

It’s some consolation that more knowledgeable and articulate people than me also face this problem. Imagine having these conversations every day because it’s your academic area and because there’s an intensification of activity and you understand the threat. David Hirsh, an immensely patient and forbearing person, does.

Here he is trying to communicate the point once again, and further to an awful event on his campus where a woman posing as a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto was invited by the Student Union to propagate fear and hatred of Israel and build for a boycott. It is a great piece. He ends:

“It is false to say that Israel is trying to achieve a ‘final solution’ by killing the Palestinians. We should not educate students in London to believe what is false.

It is true that conditions in Gaza are extremely difficult. The borders are tightly controlled by Israel and by Egypt. The de facto government in Gaza, elected in January 2006, which later took total power in a coup against the Palestinian President, promises war against the Jews of Israel to the end. The Israelis pursue the Hamas fighters into the streets and housing estates of Gaza, resulting in the inevitable and routine deaths of civilians. In Gaza there is agonizing poverty and shortages, for example of medical supplies. There is little freedom of movement for Gazans. But talk about Gaza being a prelude to a ‘final solution’ is just false.

But it is more than false. It is vile. Why can’t you see that the designation of ‘Zionists’ as Nazis is vile? Why don’t you feel it in your political bones? Why doesn’t it set your internal racism alarms ringing?

I think the reason is that too many radical people no longer understand irrational and disproportionate hostility to ‘Zionists’ to be a form of racism. They have internalized a commonsense notion that demonization of ‘Zionists’, in Jennifer Jones’ sense, while perhaps not entirely right, is neither entirely wrong. ‘Zionists’ are thought of as being at the centre of bad things that happen in the world. ‘Zionists’ oppress the Palestinians and the Palestinians stand for the oppressed everywhere. ‘Zionists’ are in favour of war and they are responsible for sending America to war in Iraq and perhaps in Iran. ‘Zionists’ have lots of power – in the media, in Hollywood, on Wall Street. ‘Zionists’ failed to learn the lesson of the Holocaust as we learnt it so well in Europe. ‘Zionists’ failed to learn the lessons of imperialism as we learnt it so well in Europe. ‘Zionists’ are behind Islamophobia, which eats at the heart of the new Europe.

Can you see it now?”

Background to the event in the Jerusalem Post. Petra Marquardt-Bigman comments.

The Facebook event promotion said that Suzanne Weiss survived the Warsaw Ghetto:

“Suzanne Weiss is a member of ‘Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Against Zionism’ and has flown all the way from Canada to speak to us at Goldsmiths.

Suzanne will be speaking about her time in the Warsaw ghetto in Poland as a child and her experiences in the ghettos of the Gaza Strip.”

But she wasn’t in the Warsaw Ghetto.

I’m not sure who is responsible for this Holocaust survivor impersonation, Weiss herself or the twinning organisers, but she certainly capitalised on this status to pronounce that Gaza is like the Ghetto and Zionists are like Nazis, and then to shout for boycotting Israel out of existence. What depths.

It listed Jennifer Jones as a contact. Jennifer Jones gave a statement to the Jewish Chronicle in which she voiced hopes that:

“the few vocal Zionists on campus become involved in a more positive capacity to support those suffering under the occupation”

Personally I hope that the few vocal Zionists (see Hirsh’s definition on the end of the above link) on campus are joined by the hitherto silent ones who comprise the majority of the student and staff body and develop a better practice of pro-Palestinian activism.

David T and Harry’s Place commentariat developed the episode into an allegory with an entire cast of characters. As Mark G from the Community Security Trust observes in the comments, the humour has a brittle quality. How could this woman have been invited onto that campus?

Boycotting Israel, boycotting Burma

Where I work, you are confronted with demands that you boycott Israel very frequently. This is the most recent contribution to an ongoing attempt to vilify Israel, on a toilet door.

By what measure is Israel “the most barbaric occupation of our time”? Is Israel conducting an occupation? Yes. Why? It’s complicated. Partly because it tells itself it is doing a bad thing to avoid a worse thing. Partly because it estimates it has less to lose by occupying Palestinians and blighting their freedom than it has by not doing so with the threat from Hamas, Hesbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al Asqa Martyrs, and Hizb ut Tahrir whose stated aim is to obliterate Israel and – this is important – eradicate Jews from the region. Partly because its ridiculously pure proportional representation system enslaves it to its expansionists (and who else but Israel is responsible for its own political system?) Partly because it lacks the creativity to find a way out of the cul-de-sac of laying responsibility for ending the violence on the parties who are wedded to violence. Partly because some politically influential Palestinians are so quick to use or threaten violence as a way of grabbing and keeping political power. Partly because, in Abbas, Israel has failed to recognise and work with the most moderate Palestinian political leadership to date. Is the occupation barbaric? No, although it is often violent and it is intrinsically racist. The most famous claims to barbarism – the massacre at Jenin and the death of Mohammed al Dura – were fabricated (they were blood libels). Barbarism to me looks like this lynching. Israel doesn’t do anything like this (and I don’t think Palestinians are either systematically or intrinsically barbaric either).

A pro-boycott attitude is an excellent predictor of profound ignorance about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and I feel very confident that there is more to this conflict than any boycotter understands.

From what I can gather, the Israel boycott isn’t spreading. Because most people can’t see how it will help Palestinians, only people who think Israel it detestable are joining it. In order for boycotting to grow, boycotters have to make as many people as possible hate Israel. And that’s how they work.

Compare with Burma, a regime which relies on forced labour, denies its people any democratic power whatsoever, fails to protect them after an earthquake, and suppresses all political dissent with terrifying violence. A targetted campaign to get Cotton Traders to stop sourcing clothes from Burma works in days. The reason for this is that, if we want to get into league tables, it’s hard to think of a state that treats its people with more contempt than Burma.  Unlike Israel, there’s a good case for boycotting Burma: the reinstatement of democracy is entirely in the power of the regime. You don’t have to hate anybody to boycott Burma – you just have to be satisfied that the boycott will work to lever political power.

Funding pots can’t cure veruccas

Moan, moan, moan, moan, moan. These anti-boycotters are never happy. Just belt up, get a life.

But, but, but. The arguments I’ve found most convincing against the boycott of Israeli academics always stopped short of attributing antisemitic intent to pro-boycotters. With the exception of a small minority who were evidently hateful people associated with Holocaust denial (which is always politically motivated), who am I to say what they meant by their attempts to bring about a total social and material boycott of Israel? Effect, not intent, is the important thing here. Unintended racism is still racism. The boycott effectively discriminates against Jews. Intent, therefore, was not at the crux of the argument. But, although it’s a hard argument to have, intent matters.

Interesting developments this week. A generous pot of money unveiled for academic collaborations between the EU and its neighbouring countries (including Turkey and the Occupied Palestinian Territories). The Israel programme’s budget is E1m (for how long I’m not sure) excluding running costs. In the words of European Commissioner for Media, Culture and Sport, Jan Figel, the effect of this funding (though maybe not its aim) would be to make “boycott efforts a lose-lose situation”. It certainly does reinforce this lose-lose point.

A few days later, Gordon Brown announced a new UK-Israel academic partnership too – £700k over five years.

The funding will advance knowledge, help academics, and build international awareness and understanding. If you boycott, you lose out on these opportunities – simple. Very good idea. It effectively ends the boycott. Effectively. Just like the legal opinion in 2007 effectively ended the boycott. Until it came back with a self-righteous vengeance the following year passed by a group of UCU delegates who “will not be intimidated”. The next slogan, equally wide of the mark, will probably be “We will not be bought off”.

Funding doesn’t argue against the root causes of the boycott. The senior politicians who secured the budget simply rejected the very idea of a boycott by riding roughshod over it, in much the way that UCU rejected its members worries about antisemitism. The effects of funding collaborations effectively negate the boycott. Leaving the verucca-type thing on the left and in the unions isolated but untreated. The roots are still there.

The boycott is, and always has been, an occidentalist, essentialising campaign advanced by anti-imperialists who think that the US and Israel, as its supposed bridgehead in the Middle East, are the source of the world’s problems. It’s a campaign which needs oxygen of controversy, and in that respect it’s good to blow it out of the water. When boycotters rehearse their arguments against Israel, and inevitably against the people who make Israel’s case, from this fundamentally bad premise they expose themselves to, and often regurgitate, many of the old antisemitic themes about Jewish which have come to attach themselves to Israel. Steve Cohen has observed this in anti-Israelists, and so has David Hirsh.

The will to boycott Israel, or to talk of Israel as a pariah state, is a political (ethical and strategic) matter which also needs a political response as well as what appears to be something of a funding-as-decoy response.

So it’s that intent does matter after all – not as well as the intent to harm Jews, but also the intent to carry out a boycott which is generally accepted to contravene anti-racist law.

Wikipedia says that salicylic acid often works.

Another UCU member leaves, repelled by its determination to punish the Jewish state

Eve Garrard, one of the most articulate, nimble and outspoken of the UCU (University and College Union) members who oppose boycott, and a great inspiration, has left UCU because of the way it has handled the boycott campaign. Her letter of resignation can be found on Normblog.

“The primary impact of Motion 25, as with previous boycott motions, will not be to harm Israel, whose academics will simply transfer their valuable contributions to other, less prejudiced, collaborators. Nor will it have any discernible impact on Palestinians, except perhaps a negative one. The discriminatory procedure which the motion mandates will certainly discredit UK academia. But its principal impact will be on British Jews and Jewish academics. Most, though not all, Jews in the UK, and most Jewish academics, support the existence of Israel, and are extremely concerned that it has been singled out for hostile treatment in this way. Most of them feel that the palpable hostility to Israel and its supporters displayed by the pro-boycotters is based on an astonishingly one-sided, partial, and often quite false account of the troubled history of the Middle East; and that the principal effect, and quite possibly the principal aim, of the boycott project is to demonise and delegitimise Jewish national identity and self-determination. Most Jewish academics feel that Jews have as much right to self-determination and national aspirations as any other people, and that the UCU has become a place where such rights are being dismissed and denied. They increasingly feel that the Union is no longer a place where they can be as much at home as any other members, and that its increasingly chilling attitude to Jewish self-determination is creating an unwelcoming and even hostile environment for people with their political sympathies. And the Executive of the Union has made no attempt whatever to address such concerns. It has treated the worries and fears of its Jewish members with contemptuous neglect.”

Engage reviews some of the other ways that UCU has fucked its members – particularly its Jewish members – over in order to gratify the obsessions of a loud, self-indulgent and unethical minority.

Anyone else feeling a bit Jewish these days? A bit perched? Robert Fine is.

“I used to visit Israel, where I have relatives and friends, but I haven’t been back for some years now – in part because I disapprove of the occupation and the militarism that has accompanied it. I think it has damaged Israeli society from within as well as adding to the suffering many Palestinian men and women have had to endure throughout the Middle East. Over the last few years, however, we have had to listen to the grotesque vilification of Israel and exaggeration of its crimes. We have had to resist relentless calls to exclude Israeli academics from our campuses, editorial boards and research networks. With an increasing sense of adversity we have honed our arguments. Now for the third time our own union has chosen to go down the road of considering ‘the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions’. The tones are mellow but they give me a shiver and make me feel my Jewishness in a new way.”

For some years now anti-boycotters who have wanted to organise with colleagues to resist the intrusion of the private sector where it doesn’t belong, resist cuts and closures, campaign for a decent wage and conditions, for academic freedom, to name a few activities trade unions are needed for – basically if they’ve wanted to be active members rather than normal members – they’ve been obliged at the same time to vocally fight the discrimination represented by the boycott campaign, because to be an active member and strengthen UCU in its rightful business but to do nothing about the canker of this discriminatory policy would be tantamount to acceptance of that policy. I think this kind of position is known as a ‘detriment’. In fact, UCU says it is.

For no good reason at all (this needs to be stressed – UCU’s chosen action against Israel is no help to Palestinians, no leverage on the occupation, and in stark constrast the the supportiveness of its other international policy) UCU – activists and National Executive Committee – have made Jews feel like strangers. It’s common knowledge that European Jews in the shadow of the Holocaust are prone to feel perched. Or if it’s not common knowledge, go to UKNova and download the BBC4′s Jews – The Next Generation. Why else do UCU delegates and officers suppose that so many Jews view Israel, despite its dreadful occupation, as a place of last resort, a bolt-hole, insurance against antisemitism in the countries where they live? They should read the sections on Zionism’s Prominent Position in Jewry and The Distortion of the Jewish Predicament in Steve Cohen’s free, revelatory online book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic.

Nobody wants to feel like a victim-in-the-making but it’s the analysis of antisemitism embodied in the anti-Israel campaign along with the effects on British Jews which makes what UCU is doing particularly repellent, particularly un-left and absolutely un-Marxist.

But UCU isn’t an institutionally antisemitic organisation, it protests. I’m finding it hard to see how it’s not.

Report on UK and Israeli links

Commissioned by BICOM. The links look pretty strong to me, confirming what was said in the Israel and the Great Powers conference at SOAS the other month. The trend is for things to normalise with Israel after a long period of rejection, and this normalisation is to the benefit of everybody. Except of course those who wish to precipitate a crisis.

Anyway, this report is a kind of benchmark which will allow us to gauge the success or failure of the boycotters’ neo-Gramscian attempt to inculcate a hegemony of anti-Israelism.

Table B1-5 details research and development collaborations. When I saw this sample laid out like that I got angry all over again at the pointless destructive impulse of campaign to boycott Israel.