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At 70, Israel more than ever deserves a cultural and academic boycott

By       Message Jonathan Cook       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink

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From Middle East Eye

From commons.wikimedia.org: Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction. {MID-292057}
Israel - Boycott, divest, sanction.
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Recent events have highlighted why the continuing refusal by many Western academics and artists to take up the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel is so wrong-headed.

Opponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement argue that such penalties harm, rather than assist, solidarity with Palestinians.

That, for example, was the conclusion of the 18,000-strong Modern Language Association (MLA) in the United States when it rejected a boycott motion last year. Academic freedom was presented as paramount and a route to dialogue with Israeli scholars that could influence Israeli society for the better.

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It is also claimed that Israel's arts community is largely progressive and that continuing cultural engagement will bolster voices expressing solidarity with oppressed Palestinians.

But in reality, the space in Israel for academic dialogue, as well as cultural freedom, is shrinking rapidly. And the few Israeli academics or artists who are taking a stand on behalf of Palestinians are more isolated than ever before.

This week, Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the dispossession of their homeland that they describe as "the catastrophe." But with the conflict still unresolved after many decades, the signs are not only that Israel fully deserves an academic and cultural boycott, but that without such external pressures, the oppression of Palestinians will intensify.

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No welcome for law professor

It emerged last week that two human rights activists -- one a prominent legal scholar -- were barred entry to Israel. They were due to lead a delegation of lawyers and academics assessing the human rights situation in Israel and the occupied territories.

Katherine Franke, a law professor at New York's Columbia University, was among four of the group detained at Israel's Ben Gurion airport. She was deported after a lengthy interrogation during which she was shouted at and accused of lying.

Franke found herself falsely characterised as a leader of the BDS movement. She and Vincent Warren, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, posted on Twitter a photo of themselves under an airport "Welcome" sign, with the caption: "Don't let the 'Welcome' sign fool you. It doesn't apply to #humanrights."

Earlier this year, Israel's police minister, Gilad Erdan, issued a blacklist of 20 organisations accused of supporting BDS whose leaders were barred from entering Israel.

But in fact, the evidence cited by airport officials came from another source: two far-right websites, the Canary Mission and Amcha, that seek to damage the reputations of students and academics in the United States who have taken public positions critical of Israel.

It was for this reason that Franke observed: "The [Israeli] government is essentially outsourcing their security to rightwing trolling websites."

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It is bad enough that Israel is relying on bullying, virulently anti-Palestinian groups to determine which foreign academics will be allowed into Israel to conduct dialogue with Israeli academics and community leaders.

But, given that Israel also controls the entry points into the occupied Palestinian territories, these same hate groups are also deciding whether overseas academics will be able to meet and work with Palestinian academics and civil society leaders.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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3 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments  Post Comment


Kenneth Lee

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It saddens me profoundly that I share a birth year with the "state" of Israel. At least, I was borne of the sublime "violence" of a sexual liaison, not mass murder.

Submitted on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 7:18:03 PM

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Leslie Johnson

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For all the US hoopla in attacking other 'civil rights abusive' countries, which I think of more as an excuse than a reason, its unconditional support of Israel, IMO, makes it an accessory to the crime, and as guilty as Israel. And in the UN, the US consistently abstains from any Israeli condemnation...while in 2016 agreeing to a $38 billion ten year Memorandum of Understanding with respect to their security assistance.

Submitted on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 8:25:00 PM

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Kenneth Lee

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*** THIS is the comment I had written for this article, and mistakenly placed on another article about Trump's "wall". I'm sure you can see why I made that error, since border walls are something that Israel is VERY familiar with...

It saddens me greatly that I share a birth year with the "state" of Israel. I was conceived from the sublime "violence" of a sexual liaison, while Israel was conceived from decades, if not centuries, of political and sociological scheming followed by the very real violence of mass displacement, genocide, and murder.

The one redeeming factor of 1948 is that Costa Rica, in that year, saw the folly and tragedy of having a standing army, and did something about it.

Submitted on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 10:57:46 PM

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BFalcon

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Reply to Kenneth Lee:   New Content

Love Costa Rica.

Submitted on Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 9:45:16 AM

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