Boycotting Israel – Response to Johann Hari in the Independent

Last Friday, the British daily newspaper The Independent ran a column by Johann Hari which while it opposed the AUT boycott of Israel did call for “smart sanctions” instead. My letter in response to Hari was published today, and appears below.

Johann Hari suggests that “smart sanctions” are a better way of dealing with Israel than the academic boycott which was overturned last week. Certainly compared to the proponents of that boycott, Hari’s suggestion is a step forward.
But it is still the wrong approach. If there is ever to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it will come about because both peoples have grown tired of war and more willing to make the painful concessions that peace requires. In that sense, there is very little that we in Britain can do at all.
To promote peace, we must be guided by what the moderates on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides want from us. The peace camp in Israel does not want well-meaning people in places like the UK doing things which strengthen Sharon at home, as the short-lived AUT boycott did.
The Israeli left is also acutely sensitive to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere. Every Israeli listens attentively to criticism of the Jewish state to catch the nuances that would indicate whether this is constructive criticism coming from a friend, or whether it is tainted with hatred of all things Jewish.
I am also struck by the insistence in these debates that we must focus on positive ways to change Israel’s behaviour. This is a conflict in which there are two sides. Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories is indefensible, but Palestinian suicide bombers have done their fair share of indefensible things, too. What sanctions are being proposed against them?
Sanctions and boycotts will do no one any good. We in Britain should be asking ourselves one simple question: what can we do to support those brave souls in Israel and Palestine who are struggling for peace?

3 Comments on "Boycotting Israel – Response to Johann Hari in the Independent"

  1. Well said, Eric – a sensible and balanced voice.

  2. You put your finger on it,
    do the boycott ‘people’ REALLY want peace in the middle-east?
    or just increased vilification of Israel?
    their intent and motives must be called into question, many of the boycott people are singling out Israel for de-legitimisation, and see this as a first step along that nasty path
    It would be far better if people strove to reduce political tension at this time rather than stoke it up

  3. P Eaceful | 23/06/2005 at 19:58 |

    Israel is a state created from nothing, Palestine is not – this is something to remember..
    Israel has blatantly flouted numerable UN resolutions, but being backed by the US this is acceptable.. We in the UK can do nothing, only try and persuade..
    Harsh as it may seem but I feel the Jews are still fighting WW2 ideals and fighting back against the horrific oppresion they endured – they see Palestine as a threat to their existance, just like Hitler was. If they tried to encompass the Palestinians and allow give and take (as the Palestinians should also) they would find themselves in a much more peaceful environment – I’m not saying it would be completetly free from terrorism but what country is!!?
    A bit of give and take on both sides would help matters considerably….

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