Teachers and boycott of Israel

 

Sir, – Like Paul Milne (January 10th), I am opposed to academic boycotts of Israel, but for different reasons.

I spent two very enjoyable months studying Hebrew at the University of Haifa, and one of the things which made it so enjoyable was the mix of Jewish (European, American, African etc), Arab (Christian, Muslim and Druze ), and Bedouin Israelis studying and living on campus – as well as students from all over the world who came for study or research. Unsurprisingly, Israeli universities are the most liberal aspect of Israel society, which is also very diverse demographically, but unfortunately rarely so well mixed.

I am a supporter of Israel, but I am not blinded by that support to the suffering of those in the Gaza and the West Bank, and I am hopeful of a lasting Middle Eastern settlement in time. But boycotts of Israeli academic institutions (or culture, or businesses outside of the West Bank) do nothing to further the achievement of this end. On the contrary, they strengthen the siege mentality of those who are already extremists, and radicalise those who remain liberal – and that mentality does not need further reinforcing, strong as it is after the Holocaust, the constant threat of attack since before the foundation of the state of Israel, and the ubiquitous security measures that threat necessitates.

I question whether a boycott of Israel is an expression of support for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Surely the campaign ought to be to buy Palestinian goods and support Palestinian adademia and culture?

On the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s website there are seven boycott campaigns, four political lobbying campaigns, but only one campaign to support Palestinian goods.

The lack of such a campaign has long given me the impression that the so-called friends of Palestine couldn’t care in the slightest about the Palestinians beyond the opportunity they afford to attack Israel.

I would be very happy to support such a campaign, partly because I have also long held the opinion that a well-educated, culturally accomplished, and prosperous West Bank and Gaza are necessary to the achievement of a lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For the record, the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s website does list retailers selling Palestinian goods, including Oxfam on South King Street, Dublin 2. – Yours, etc,

LAURENCE CLEARY,

Eldergrove,

Trim,

Co Meath.