‘Boycotting Israeli culture is not the answer’


Sir, – In reply to Raymond Deane’s letter (July 25th) commenting on my recent article (Opinion & Analysis, July 23rd), I am saddened by how he has successfully missed all the points I was hoping to make. My so-called “self-identifying” as a son of a Holocaust survivor was not made for effect to defend Israel – an unnecessary ad hominem insult.

Nowhere do I agree with Israeli policy towards Palestinians in the occupied territories. I state this starkly. I invoke my family legacy to illustrate the twin experiences of suffering from cultural boycott and then having to make the moral choice of engaging with any element of German culture or society. That other Holocaust survivors see cultural boycott differently is their right. I only speak for myself.

Nowhere do I call for Israel to escape censure, sanction or punishment for its transgressions. I, too, am appalled by the passing of a law defining Israel as a Jewish state and all that that entails. Binyamin Netanyahu and his administration have effectively killed off any hope of an equitable settlement with the Palestinians, heightened divisions among its own citizens and made Jews globally feel less secure.

However, more than one fact can be true at the same time. Israel has had a disproportionate number of UN sanctions, negative press and opprobrium directed at it. The Israelis responsible for its transgressions are Jews. My own historical inheritance does not permit me to ignore this connection.

Finally, if Mr Deane is calling for an arms embargo, I will join him. On the one condition that he simultaneously calls for embargoes on Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Iran and Russia. And why not include France, Britain, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece and the US? That should deal with the supply chain.

Regimes fall when they run out of money. Cultural boycotts achieve nothing but humiliation and further division. I have had a lifetime of reading comments by those with limited knowledge passing judgment on the Jewish experience in the Holocaust. I suggest Mr Deane would benefit from some education in this corner of history. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – Oliver Sears acknowledges the horror of Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people, but feels that boycott is not a legitimate tactic against Israeli policy. He is wrong: boycott was adopted as a tactic by Jewish people themselves, against the Nazis in the 1930s. Mr Sears cites the example of Paul Simon’s Graceland as art made in breach of the boycott of apartheid South Africa, but there is not one political song on that album which can match Peter Gabriel’s Biko.

Mr Sears brings out the hoary chestnut of the non-democracy of many of the Arab states, as compared to Israel. Those Arab states are mostly horrendous tyrannies (with several of which Israel is nowadays in tacit alliance, eg Saudi Arabia and Egypt) which make no pretence of democracy, whereas Israel trumpets its democracy to the skies.

It’s striking that Mr Sears can still hold to this notion in the immediate wake of the promulgation of the new Israeli nation state law, which codifies and makes explicit Israel’s claim to be the state of the Jewish people everywhere, thereby vesting sovereignty in the global Jewish community, to the permanent detriment of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israel is not a democracy: it’s an ethnocracy, and must be protested against.

Boycott is non-violent, is organised at the level of civil society and has been called for by dozens of Palestinian civil society organisations. As such, it’s entirely legitimate. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Raymond Deane notes how 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” and how the conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim has described this as “a very clear form of apartheid”. Of course America and Canada and Australia were, themselves, founded by racist and apartheid European colonists who confiscated land, murdered or converted or ostracised the natives and reduced native cultures to a mere curiosity. The mote in the eye? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – Your editorial (July 25th) states: “Jewish critics lament the shift towards a much less tolerant and pluralist Israel reflected in the governing coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu. Diasporic Jews in Ireland and throughout the world say this does not reflect their more inclusive values” .

As yet, these claims have no foundation, but seem to be made to convey an impression that in general diasporic Jewry oppose Israel’s recent nation state law. As far as I am aware, there has as yet been no polling of diasporic Jews to ascertain their attitudes in this regard and thus the suggestion that there is general opposition to it here and worldwide is at this point in time is in fact unwarranted. Thus, the editorial should have been more accurate and should have stated that there are some Jewish critics and voices who oppose the law, while pointing out that there are also some Jewish commentators and voices who support it.

My own view is that this law is a bad and unnecessary law and may, as some critics have cautioned, very unfortunately lead to a deterioration in relationships between Israel’s Jews and its minorities. The only hopeful sign is that this law was only passed by a small majority, and this may indicate that a future coalition government may possibly be able to revoke it without too much difficulty. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Like Jewish-Irish film maker Louis Marcus (July 21st) and many Jewish groups throughout the world, as an Irish and Israeli citizen, I too am totally opposed to Israel’s nation-state Bill.

Anything but new, the nation-state Bill enacted by Israel’s alt-right government, enshrines in law what Zionist colonialism has always been about. It was socialist liberal Zionism that colonised Palestine, discriminated against the Palestinian owners of the land, occupied Palestinian lands in 1948 and 1967, stole their lands and properties and declared them “present absentees”, enacted laws that grant racially-based automatic citizenship to people with a Jewish mother but not to the Palestine-born owners of the land, conducted a permanent war against the Palestinians, enforced a military regime on the Palestinians between 1948 and 1966, started the settlement project in the West Bank, and illegally annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Since the advent of the alt-right Israeli regime the Gaza Strip has been under bombardment and siege, its people starved and deprived of livelihood, electricity and drinkable water; villages of Bedouin citizens have been repeatedly demolished; and extrajudicial executions of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers go mostly unpunished. And the list goes on: night raids, administrative detention, the detention and torture of children, etc. Meanwhile Israeli Jews hark back to an imaginary past “democracy”, live in a consumers’ bubble and tell themselves they are the real victims, and that Israel has the right to defend its never declared “borders”.

We should thank Binyamin Netanyahu’s alt-right government for dropping the democratic pretence and finally admitting that Israel is a racial colony and an apartheid state. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.