Monday, December 20, 2004
Omar Barghouti: Why Boycott Israel?
Just as a curiosity; today my country, Italy, had just undersigned an Accord of Collaboration between the Weizman Institute of Israel for researchers in Bio-medicine (staminal cells, mainly). Don't tell me there wasn't some sort of coincidence in timing.
Omar Barghouti: Towards an Academic Boycott of Israel
"The most urgent type of support the international community can provide to the Palestinian academy is to adopt various forms of boycott against Israel’s academic institutions, forcing them to disengage themselves from their direct and/or indirect collusion in their state’s oppression. This will serve not only the Palestinians, but also, in the longer term, the moral left in Israel, academics included. Challenging the fanatic, militaristic establishment may strengthen its grip on power in the short run -- extreme populism and the rise of fascist tendencies in Israel today attest to that; but in the longer run it will weaken that establishment, just as in South Africa. Repression under apartheid did not die down in a smooth downwards spiral, after all.
Some sincere advocates of Palestinian rights have argued that boycotting Israel is a self-righteous act that ignores the pressing need to alleviate the immediate suffering of Palestinians under occupation. But, as I have argued elsewhere, regardless of all intentions, this type of logic is not only patronizing -- claiming to better know what’s best for Palestinians -- but also based on an unconscious premise that Palestinians have somewhat less than normal human needs. Implied in it is the supposition that food, shelter and basic services -- which would be better served without boycott, the argument claims -- are considered by Palestinians to be more profound or dear than their need for freedom, justice, self-determination, dignified living and the opportunity to develop culturally, economically and socially in peace.
From an entirely different angle, some argue that, in spite of all the above, it is still necessary for Palestinian academics and intellectuals of all people to maintain and foster open communication channels with their Israeli counterparts, to debate, to share, to convince, to learn, to overcome the "psychological barriers" and ultimately to reach a common vision and a common struggle for peace.
I beg to differ. Those who imagine they can wish away the conflict by suggesting some forums for rapprochement, détente, or "dialogue" -- which they hope can lead to authentic processes of reconciliation and eventually peace -- are either clinically delusional or dangerously deceptive.
How can an ethno-religious supremacy that is also a colonial power ever qualify as a democracy? Israel may be a democracy for its Jewish citizens, but it is an apartheid for its Palestinian citizens, as argued earlier. New York University professor Tony Judt, for instance, calls Israel a "dysfunctional anachronism," categorizing it among the "belligerently intolerant, faith-driven ethno states."
-----Unlike in South Africa during apartheid, the majority in Israel is opposed to sanctions.----(an argument "against sanctions that Mr Barghouti debunks)
Of all the anti-boycott arguments, this one reflects either surprising naiveté or deliberate intellectual dishonesty. Are we to judge whether to apply sanctions on a colonial power based on the opinion of the majority in the oppressors’ community? Does the oppressed community count at all?"
I urge you to read the entire article if you have serious doubts about the utility or the ethical nature of an academic boycott of Israel.