Boycotting the boycotters

While the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 16 May 2010

Most people here are appalled at the notion that anybody beyond Israel’s borders would think to boycott their country, products or universities. Boycotts, after all, are viewed in Israel as illegitimate. Anyone who calls for such a step is perceived as an anti-Semite and Israel-hater who is undermining the state’s very right to exist. In Israel itself, those who call for a boycott are branded as traitors and heretics. The notion that a boycott, limited as it may be, is likely to convince Israel to change its ways – and for its own benefit – is not tolerated here.

Even an obvious, logical step – like the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of products made in the settlements – is viewed by hypocritical Israeli eyes as provocative. Moreover, while the international boycott against apartheid South Africa is credited with leading to the regime’s downfall, here it is considered irrelevant and unworthy of comparison.

It would be possible to identify with these intolerant reactions were it not for the fact that Israel itself is one of the world’s prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. At the same time, almost no one here utters a dissenting word questioning the legitimacy of these boycotts. Yet the thought of boycotting the boycotter? Now that’s inconceivable.

The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see firsthand the unbearable sights.

In addition, Israel bars entry to anyone who wishes to lend humanitarian aid. We should note that the boycott isn’t just against Hamas, but against all Gaza, everyone who lives there. The convoy of ships that will soon sail from Europe to try to break the siege will carry thousands of tons of construction material, prefab houses and medicine. Israel has announced that it plans to stop the vessels. A boycott is a boycott.

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Tom Sullivan