What Israel’s boycotters will claim

Sometime ago, when the latest reincarnation of the campaign to boycott Israel was getting underway, I created a Diigo tag and began excerpting web pages which gave some indication of how pro-boycotters would respond if the boycott failed. Now that it’s been dropped (though I get the impression there are a few still furtively toying with it) I’m reviewing the predictions.

The Harvard Crimson:

One group, the Harvard Society of Arab Students, pointed out the positive results of the proposed boycott, noting that it “has already prompted the presidents of four major Israeli universities to push for Palestinian rights to travel from Gaza to the West Bank to study.”

So the means of the boycott justified the ends – the debate was the important thing all along.

(This would explain why you couldn’t get boycotters to agree on their objectives – what Israeli academics could do to do to lift the boycott.)

The SWP in Malcolm Povey’s article AUT Boycott Debate That has put Palestine Back on the Map:

Last year’s strike transformed the union and recruited predominantly young and temporary staff.

Many of the new members are part of the anti-war movement, part of the anti-G8 forces and so on.

These radicalised people joined forces with the left at the April conference to pass the pro-boycott motions in the teeth of opposition from the union executive.

Suddenly we found ourselves facing a call for a special council meeting right in the middle of examinations.

Already the University of Haifa had briefed Princess Diana’s former solicitors to write accusing the union of every kind of law breaking.

That threat of legal action was the first thing members heard from the union over why a special conference was taking place.

In other words, authentic union activists, the flower of our youth, devoted to proper causes and so on – confounded in their righteous struggle. The boycott campaign was sabotaged.

Sabotaged by…? Well, already some are talking “external pressure”, and others openly about a Zionist nexus. The lawyers mentioned included Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya – a steady campaigner against antisemitism – and he didn’t accuse them of every kind, to be fair.

From a chirrupping anti-zionist twit who will remain unlinked and unnamed (Flesh policy but you can always search for him):

“Your reference to the “real left” is just a tad enigmatic when you consider the array of rightists, including people who have been encouraged to join the union simply to oppose the boycott, supporting your side. If this left of yours is so real, how come so many weren’t in the union in the first place? And how come Sharon and his cohorts have the same position as you on the boycott?”

So, encouraging union members to overturn the union’s bad decision just wasn’t cricket. And whichever side Sharon is on, we should be on the other side (please note, this also includes withdrawing from Gaza).

From one Parina Douzina Pariaki writing in response to a 2003 LRB piece by Judith Butler titled No, It’s Not Antisemitic (possibly, I’m not sure, the origin of that clause in UCU Motion 30).

“Israeli policy since 11 September 2001 has not encouraged goodwill towards Israel. An impression has been given that ‘since we suffered the Holocaust we can do anything we like now and anyone who dares criticise our aggression in the West Bank, say, is nothing but a bigoted anti-semite.’ I am well aware that this is most certainly not the attitude of all Jews; however, the Sharon Government, assisted greatly by the US’s one-sided stand (the Israelis have a right to defend themselves but the Palestinians don’t), has done a great deal to rekindle a pernicious anti-semitism. Butler is absolutely right to insist that criticism of Israel should in no way be construed as anti-semitism. On the contrary, I believe that Israeli policy should be criticised, and very strongly, with a view to reining it in, or else we risk a horrible anti-semitic backlash that will, of course, target not Sharon and his sympathisers, but ordinary Jews trying to go about their daily business, all over the world.”

So, clearly Israel deserves everything it gets – doesn’t matter what, we all know it deserves it. A big dose of no-holds-barred antisemitism – sorry, criticism – is the only thing that can save Israel from itself and a well-deserved – sorry, horrible – antisemitic backlash. The academic boycott is precisely the thing. (And calling antisemitism ‘pernicious’ proves that I’m definitely not an antisemite, so shut up.)

So on the basis of that, pro-boycotters will say (or insinuate in the case of the more sophisticated ones):

  • The means justified the ends – the debate was the important thing
  • The boycott was a righteous cause – anyone who opposed it is a baddy
  • Lawyers who oppose the boycott are Zionists and the law, a Zionist ass which must be resisted. Or less contentiously, since this pro-boycott policy is inherently virtuous, it must be the law which is wrong
  • Now the Israel Lobby has blocked our decent, peaceful boycott, worse measures will follow and they’ll have brought it on themselves

The responses are already mounting up. In a few days we’ll see.

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