by Ben White
On Tuesday, October 27, a full-page advertisement appeared in The Guardian, announcing the support of more than 300 UK-based scholars for an academic boycott of Israel. A week on, the list of supporters had grown to some 600.
Criticism from the usual suspects was immediate, with condemnation by the Israeli embassy in London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC). Opponents of the boycott also expressed themselves in various op-ed columns and on The Guardian’s letters page.
Here I will suggest responses to the most common arguments advanced by critics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and specifically its academic component.
What we need is dialogue – boycotts are counterproductive
This is one of the most common arguments heard against the academic boycott. It was found on The Guardian’s letters page, and voiced by the Israeli embassy, who claimed that “divisive boycott initiatives…serve only to sow hatred, alienating the sides rather than promoting coexistence.”
According to Rabbi Janner-Klausner in The Telegraph, “stamping out academic dialogue may feel cathartic, but it prevents the dialogue desperately needed to solve the present situation in Israel, and to satisfy the need for Palestinian self-determination.”
This kind of argument is based on a misunderstanding of both the nature of the academic boycott (it is not about ending conversations), as well as what is required to end the ‘conflict’ (the answer is not more conversations). Continua a leggere