Thursday, May 31, 2007

UCU supports boycott of Israel.

So iniquitous. So uncalled-for. International condemnation rains down, government ministers bark their 'regret', a Nobel prize-winner is outraged, concerns for freedom are bruited. The media are universal in their condemnation. This cannot help the peace process, they unanimously gurn.

Not in respect of Israel's recent attacks on Gaza or the open kidnapping of Palestinian ministers, or the US-Israeli financed and armed 'civil war' (coup attempt). Not because Israel has been starving the Palestinians (or "putting them on a diet"). But because lecturers have voted overwhelmingly in solidarity with Palestinian trade unions who are pleading for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including the academia. Not only that, but they also voted to campaign for the "restoration of all international aid to the PA and all revenues rightfully belonging to it", and to oppose any "upgrade of Israel’s status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law". It's a small step toward meeting that obligation, especially in a country that supplies massive amounts of weapons to the Israeli government. Disgracefully, Sally Hunt, the recently elected leader of the UCU, has issued a statement condemning the vote, claiming that it isn't a 'priority' for the union. I'm sorry, Sally, that doesn't fucking cut it. Israeli academic institutions are thoroughly imbricated with the occupation of Palestine, are deeply discriminatory in their own right, and have long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for the occupation. It isn't good enough to say that attacking the infrastructure of the occupation isn't a 'priority'.

There is an international campaign going on to boycott and disinvest from Israel. It is outrageous to say that other nation-states engage in similar behaviour and therefore one mustn't target Israel. No one denies that the victims of other states should be supported, but this pressure was initiated by the targets of oppression themselves, in the form of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), which was launched in April 2004. PACBI is supported by 60 Palestinian trade unions, NGOs, and political and religious organisations. Those who actually have the chutzpah to raise 'academic freedom' need to be reminded that these institutions are themselves violators of that principle by being complicit in the denial of Palestinian freedom of all kinds. And then, god help us, this disgusting, invidious insinuation of antisemitism. Never mind that Zionists have always been happy to collaborate with antisemites, whether Hitlerite or Falwellite: this campaign, as the organisers note, is supported by many conscientious Israelis and non-Israeli Jews.

Happily, and its a sombre happiness in light of the daily terrorist campaign and slow genocide being perpetrated by Israel, the campaign is getting widespread support - even the architects are in on it. The NUJ backs the boycott. The South African trade union federation COSATU backs the boycott. Venezuela backs the boycott. The Liverpool dockers back the boycott. A new group called Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods has been formed. International gay activists back the boycott. Irish musicians back the boycott. There are growing calls for sanctions to be applied. About time. To listen to some of the carping Israel-apologists, you would think that the world has been doing little for sixty years but supporting the Palestinians. Moan, moan, moan, every other week a new initiative to support the expelled and oppressed and impoverished Palestinians. Would that it were so. But it is because the argument is now being won decisively by our side, even if Israel fully and devastatingly commands the military situation, that they are becoming so hysterical.

If you fancy throwing a pebble at Goliath, you can join the campaign here.