On Saturday February 14, a letter was published in The Guardian announcing a boycott of Israel by more than 700 British artists and cultural workers (disclaimer: I am a signatory). The signatories came from the worlds of literature, art, film, stage, and music. They all pledged “to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
The initiative immediately attracted international attention – and a predictable response from Israel’s allies. A Conservative minister described the boycott pledge as “reprehensible” and “unspeakably vile”. The vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called the letter “totally racist”. Read more
Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip over the summer prompted an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity for Palestinians in the West, from street protests to expressions of outrage by mainstream politicians. Israel suffered serious damage to its reputation, while support for Palestinians – including through tactics like boycott and divestment – grew.
This occurred in the context of a slowly but steadily deteriorating environment for Israel in countries whose political leaders can still be counted on, by and large, to offer essential diplomatic, military, and economic support. Read more
As the Pope visits the ‘Holy Land’, much media coverage has focused on the current problems facing Christian Palestinians, and in particular, the so-called ‘price tag’ attacks being perpetrated by right-wing Jewish extremists. Ahead of the Papal visit, Israeli police even issued restraining orders against known activists. Read more
In the end, the deadline came and went, and some people did not even notice. April 29, a day that had loomed on the horizon portending decisive developments for the US secretary of state John Kerry’s stricken peace process, brought neither breakthrough nor decisive failure.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been “paused”, and the US has very little to show for months of shuttle diplomacy, discussions, and proposals. On the ground, meanwhile, Israeli colonisation has continued apace. In nine months of formal talks, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government advanced construction for around 14,000 housing units in West Bank settlements. Read more
Last month at the University of Leeds, a debate was held on the boycott of Israel. The specific motion read: “This house believes that UK academics should boycott Israeli academic institutions until Israel ends the occupation and abides by international law”.
Arguing for the motion were Jonathan Rosenhead and Sue Blackwell, both active members of British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). Against them were Robert Fine and Hugh Hubbard, the former an active campaigner against the boycott of Israel. In the pre-debate vote, the motion was backed 53-37. By the end of the debate, that had shifted to 68-23 in favour of academic boycott, a clear majority. Read more
Last week, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned on Israeli television that the country would face “increasing isolation” if the peace process collapsed, echoing remarks he made in January about a “price to pay” in terms of boycott and divestment initiatives by European companies. Yet last week also saw the official launch of Israel’s participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, making it “eligible to compete for €77 billion worth of industrial research grants over seven years”. This juxtaposition is a useful picture of current EU-Israel relations, with close cooperation continuing even as strains have emerged in the context of a troubled peace process and civil society pressure. Read more
As the world has reflected on Nelson Mandela’s legacy and his fight against apartheid in South Africa, some have recalled his famous observation: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
That special bond between two peoples and their national struggles has in recent times contributed to increasing South African efforts to challenge continuing Israeli human-rights abuses and systematic discrimination. Read more
What is a boycott? A boycott is about applying pressure in an effort to effect change, a nonviolent way of expressing opposition to a particular policy. As part of a wider campaign, it is a way to challenge or end complicity in a practice viewed as objectionable. Boycotts and divestments are strategies of the weak against the powerful, and, in some contexts – such as Palestine/Israel – they are also responses of solidarity with a group that asks for outside support in a struggle for justice.
That is an important place to start because of all the disingenuousness and red herrings used in the discussion by Israel’s apologists and opponents of the boycott. But why is Stephen Hawking right to boycott Israel? Indeed, why are any of the growing list of celebrities, trade unions, faith communities, and student unions right to support the BDS campaign? Read more
As announced by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and subsequently covered by The Guardian, Reuters and others, world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Professor Stephen Hawking has decided to heed the Palestinian call for boycott, and pull out of an Israeli conference hosted by President Shimon Peres in June. After initial confusion, this was confirmed – Hawking is staying away on political grounds.
Here are five reasons why Professor Hawking is right to boycott: Read more