The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

No to racist boycotts! Israelis and Palestinians welcome here!

Last night, the second largest union in Britain, Unison, voted to call for "an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott" of Israel. This follows similar calls by two other unions -- the NUJ and UCU.

If you oppose the boycott, please print out this A4 sized full colour poster proclaiming "No to racist boycotts! Israelis and Palestinians welcome here!" and hang it in your workplace and in your home. (The poster is in PDF format.)

And please encourage other opponents of racist boycotts to link to this page and to download the poster themselves.


Surely "boycotts of racist societies" rather than "racist boycotts"?

I have to disagree with Jeff's post which characterises Israel as a "racist society". I note he says "society" and not "state".

That is good, because I think it is rather difficult to maintain that the Israeli state is racist. Formal racial equality under law is a foundation stone of the Israeli legal system.

But wait! Isn't it a Jewish state?! Yes it is, and thus in some respects Jews enjoy preferences. But on a racial basis? I don't think so. Jews come in all colours and from all continents. So where is the racism? Is it a society based at least in part on discrimination? Yes. But so is any other state where citizenship and its attributes are fundamentally linked to common membership in an ethnicity.

In Germany, for example, it has long been easier for the so-called "volksdeutch" to immigrate than for Turks or others. Volksdeutsch are the presumed descendants of German speakers in Eastern Europe, many of whose families have not spoken German for generations.

It is almost impossible to become a Japanese citizen unless you are Japanese (or descended from Koreans or Taiwanese who moved to Japan when their countries were still Japanese colonies, and even they try to mask their identity due to discrimination they suffer).

In China (where I spent 7 years) in a number of administrative respects, there is racial preference given to ethnic overseas Chinese.

In many countries (in the Middle East but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh and elsewhere), Muslims enjoy both formal legal superiority and also exercise sometimes severe social discrimination (sometimes murderously so, as in Pakistan) against
religious minorities.

Well, Jeff, I guess it depends on where you draw the line. If your touchstone for the existence of "racism" is the presence of social discrimination then certainly Israel is a racist society (but then so are all the places I have mentioned PLUS everywhere else in the world).

If instead your problem is its formal legal preference for "Jews" (who, as I have mentioned, are not a single race and in fact can be Black, Latino, Greek, Arab (yes, Arab jews -- that is how some Yemeni Jews and Moroccan Jews have traditionally viewed themselves) etc etc.

Muslim and Christian Palestinians vote and serve in parliament.

None of this addresses the problems in the Occupied Territories. I personally am in favour of relinquishing all the OT (including East Jerusalem) to create a Palestinian state. I dont agree with many of the practices and policies of the Israeli government. But I do not agree that it is a racist society other than in the way that so many other societies are.

And if Israel is no worse than China or Mauretania or Syria or Egypt etc etc, why the boycott?!?!?!

It's what in French is called "deux poids, deux mesures" --- double standards.

Eric - Very nice. A suggestion - you might also shrink it down and make into a "blog button" that people can put on their blogs to show support - like the Darfur one, and many others.

I support your suggestion, Eric. Let me analyze briefly what is the real effect of the boycott on Israel and the Palestinians. Does anybody who knows a bit the Israeli society believe that anything can change in Israel without the active engagement of the massive support of the mainstream? Since the issue of the boycott has emerged the Israeli public has been constantly discussing... the legitimacy of boycotting Israel (and certainly not the Palestinian claims that have pushed UNISON to boycott Israel). Many Israelis, although convinced that Israel has a major responsibility in solving the Palestinian problem, interpret the boycott as unilateral, antisemitic, uneven, etc and believe that "the world" is again "against us"... Who's the main looser...? Obviously - Palestinians. Shouldn't they say "with friends like these, we prefer our enemies"...?

Hi Eric
It was not really a call to boycott (no action points - anyway the really nasty motion 54 on sanctions was firmly rejected by UNISON regional delegates). The margin in favour was a simple majority (not 4:1 as some reports may have it). The motion is not in my view going anywhere except the filing shelf.
All this sort of motion does is to encourage Israeli & Palestinian extremists and undermine moderates from both sides who want a feasible 2 state solution.

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