‘Boycotting Israeli culture’
Sir, – Oliver Sears begins his critique of the cultural boycott of Israel by self-identifying as “the son of a Holocaust survivor” (“Boycotting Israeli culture is not the answer”, Opinion & Analysis, July 23rd). The effectiveness of this is somewhat diminished when one considers that in August 2014, in the wake of a massive attack by Israel on the besieged Gaza strip, 47 Holocaust survivors published an open letter in the New York Times which called for “the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel”.
Mr Sears claims that supporters of Palestinian rights “never appear to articulate any dissent towards the governments of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey or any other Middle Eastern dictatorship”. However, not one of these governments employs culture as an instrument of propaganda as assiduously as does Israel.
Mr Sears adds that “the aforementioned Arab states [among whom he seems to include non-Arab Turkey and Iran] are responsible for human rights abuses that simply dwarf the scale of Israel’s illegitimate actions”. While one might debate the relative scale (and historical duration) of such abuses, it is more important to note the complete irrelevance of this argument: should we be passive in the face of Israel’s crimes because there are other criminal regimes in the world?
Finally, Mr Sears is on weak ground pleading Israel’s “democracy” and supposedly just treatment of its Palestinian minority just days after the Knesset passed its nation state law which officially asserts that “the realisation of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. The great conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim has described this as “a very clear form of apartheid” and declared himself “ashamed to be an Israeli”.
Meanwhile, EU governments throw up their hands at the spectacle of Israel’s behaviour, but refuse to avail of the sanctions at their disposal (such as an arms embargo). It is this failure of our political representatives that is the ultimate justification for civil society’s adoption of the boycott tactic. – Yours, etc,