A collective punishment against common sense"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Periodically, you hear of boycotts against Israel, Israelis and Israeli products for their long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Even in unassuming New Zealand, you saw a bizarre protest against an Israeli tennis player and a restaurant owner declaring he wouldn't serve Israeli guests. Bear in mind, these protests weren't against Israeli leaders or anyone in any kind of decision making capacity or even against Israeli bureaucrats. They 'shrewdly' targeted tennis players and tourists because they were too impotent to think of action that was meaningful like, I don't know, organizing fundraisers to help Gazan families.
They protest a collective punishment by... imposing a collective punishment.
People who do this insist they are not anti-Semitic and that they just detest what the Israeli STATE is doing. I have some sympathy for that. What the Israeli state is doing in the occupied territories, keep them as de facto prisons for 40 years, is unconscionable. Their recent annihilation of Gaza (1300 Palestinians dead, 5300 wounded, 1.5 million made homeless) is the worst atrocity of all.
But how often do you hear for such sanctions against other human rights abusing countries? I've never been sure why human rights abuses by the Israeli state merit a boycott against everything related to that country but human rights abuses by Syria, Sri Lanka, Eritrea and countless other places barely merit a mention, let alone a cause célèbre. How come no one boycotts the local Chinese restaurants in solidarity with, say, Tibet?
The Israeli government should be punished. Their leaders should be sent to The Hague or, at the very least, be subject to a travel ban like Robert Mugabe and his thugs. Protest in front of Israeli embassies and consulates all you want. But what purpose does it serve to protest tourists, except reinforce the already impenetrable Israeli siege mentality?
Most absurdly, I've periodically heard members of western academia call for cultural boycotts against Israel. If you call for a cultural boycott against any country or people, then you should be automatically kicked out of academia. The whole point of universities is to foster cross-cultural understand, increase exposure to different ideas and expand knowledge. It's completely antithetical to that purpose to call for a cessation of cultural links, a decrease in exposure to different ideas and shrink knowledge.
In times of war and other time, cross-cultural exchanges, such as via universities, are even more important not less. If these so-called academics are going to make their ivory tower into a prison, then they have no business being paid to influence young people.
Today, I read a great example of the sheer stupidity of such cultural boycotts. I'm sure many of you have heard of the film Waltz With Bashir, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign film. The film maker Ari Forman was part of an Israeli army unit that was involved with the infamous Sabra and Sathila Massacre, in which Israeli-backed Lebanese Christian militia slaughtered nearly 3000 Palestinians refugees during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
The film maker had great guilt about being part of such an atrocity and the film explored that. Much like All Quiet on the Western Front, the film was an anti-war piece made all the more powerful by the fact that it was told by a soldier.
So here you have a powerful anti-war film, an anti-war against Lebanon film, an anti-massacre film, a film that casts the Israeli army in a dubious light.
And it is banned in Lebanon, because the country has a law prohibiting the importation and viewing of all Israeli films, regardless of content.
Sounds more like a collective punishment against common sense.