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Boycotting Middle East peace


The Israel boycott resolution of the British UCU academic union, and the announcement by the larger UNISON federation that it too is considering a boycott, follow similar resolutions by a UK journalists' union (NUJ) and an Irish artists group. These resolutions are not the product of legitimate concern over the sometimes heartbreaking aspects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Nor are they stepping stones on the way to peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, they are the fruit of a long campaign to delegitimize Israel, aimed at blocking any peaceful settlement.

Though some academics are outraged by the UCU boycott resolution, we must admit that the anti-Israel boycotters have acted cleverly. Like a virus, or aliens from extra-galactic space, they have taken over the leadership of the UCU, and their resolution states essentially that they can use union funding and facilities to push their cause. It is a brilliant implementation of a classic Bolshevik strategy.

The UCU resolution stipulates that the union will "circulate a motion to all its branches to discuss calls from Palestinian trade unions for a "comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions." The motion is going to branches for "their information and discussion." The resolution is one sided of course, as it will not discuss calls for boycotting trade unions controlled by terror groups, Arab Palestinian trade unions that support terrorism or anyone else. Only Israel is on the agenda, and only one course of action is on the agenda.

The UCU resolution allows boycott leaders to use union facilities to brainwash membership. It gives them a way to keep the Israeli-Palestinian issue alive and gather support, even if they can never get enough votes for an actual boycott. The discussion will engender an atmosphere that precludes objective analysis and free discussion of the issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in British academia. Anyone who voices any objection to the boycott will be branded a reactionary.
The boycotts are not intended to bring about peace between Israelis and the Arabs of Palestine. Rather, the initiators of boycotts in the UK, Sue Blackwell being among the most prominent of them, make no attempt to hide the fact that they consider Israel to be an illegitimate state, and that they deny the right of self-determination to the Jewish people.

Ostensibly, the boycott initiatives are responses to the request of Palestinian trade unions, but this is a convenient fiction. Boycotts of Israel, called "anti-normalization," have been endemic to Arab world trade unions for many years, in particular, Jordanian and Egyptian trade unions have used these boycotts to sabotage their countries' peace agreements with Israel, and to terrorize journalists and academicians into breaking off any contact with Israelis. This activity began long before the current crisis and has nothing to do with the occupation.

The Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, which requests the UK anti-Israel boycotts, is a peculiar labor organization. It doesn't have many workers among its members, and its only activity seems to be promoting boycotts of Israel. Aided by British anti-Zionist activists, this organization has now succeeded in exporting their racist campaign to other countries.

Another group promoting boycotts of Israel is the previosly discussed Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which tells youth that dialogue groups like "Seeds of Peace" are dangerous, and explains that there is no point in dialogue, since Israel is a foreign implant in the Middle East and must be eradicated. They insist that Palestinians involved in dialogue are traitors who take crumbs from Americans and Europeans. Under the guise of human rights advocacy, they go about the world promoting a message of hate and confrontation. Their founders are mostly Bir Zeit university sociology professors and instructors, and several relative unknowns. They are: Bashir Abdel Razek (unknown), In'am Obeidi (Bir Zeit), Islah Jad (Bir Zeit), Omar Barghouthi (studying at Tel Aviv University), Riham Barghouthi (NYC boycott activist), Lisa Taraki (Bir Zeit), Rowan Faqih (Ramallah film maker) and Zuhair Sabbagh (Bir Zeit). If any of these people address your group, ask them if they support two states for two peoples, if they grant the same right of self-determination to the Jewish people that they ask for themselves.

Real peace and dialogue groups must make themselves heard at all meetings and forums that discuss boycotts, and must ensure that meetings are not engineered to only allow a one-sided message. We must take a proactive program to those meetings, of the type that was used to successfully change a similar one-sided divestment resolution of the Presbyterian Church USA) and should probably consult the organizers of that campaign. The basic question that UCU and other union members should be asking themselves is whether they are for dialogue and reconciliation in the Middle East, and whether or not boycotts and anti-normalization campaigns will support these goals.

Some key points of the discussions should be:

  • Is the proposed resolution going to further peace between the sides in the conflict?

  • Who is calling for the boycott and what are their motives? Examine the real agenda of "peace" activists like Sue Blackwell and Jeff Halper, and the nature of the Palestinian "Trade Union" Federation.

  • What actions will support dialog between the sides?

  • What actions will promote a peaceful outcome that guarantees the personal and national rights of both Palestinians and Jews?

  • Should unions and other groups seeking peace in the Middle East support or oppose "anti-normalization" groups and inititiatives?

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000590.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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