Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Dutch version of the following article, that I wrote based on an idea by Karin Kloosterman, was published two weeks ago in the Dutch daily Friesch Dagblad:
Last week was a good week for Israel-bashers worldwide. Iran's president once again used the international stage to attack Israel and the Jewish people, blaming us for sabotaging his planned trip to the FIFA World Cup and calling the German people prisoners of the Holocaust. More importantly, though not more surprisingly, pro-Palestine or rather anti-Israel members of two major unions in Canada and Great Britain managed to pass resolutions in support of boycotts against Israeli companies, academics and universities. Automatically labeling such actions as anti-Semitic is both wrong and counterproductive. Not only does it diminish the value of the A-word, we also should not forget that many of those who criticize Israel's politics do so out of a genuine concern for the wellbeing and security of the Jewish state. Yet this time the accusation might not be unjustified. Just have a look at the websites of both the Canadian Union of Public Employees and of Britain's National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. It almost seems that the only injustices outside Canada and Britain that prompt union members to issue resolutions are committed by Jews against Palestinians. Apart, of course, from the US-led invasion of Iraq, opposition to which has become a routine act for every self-respecting progressive activist in the West. Interestingly enough we hardly ever hear those activists protest against the attrocities committed by the worst enemies of America, Israel and the West. Look on both unions' websites under 'Israel' and you will find numerous references, a call by UK lecturers to end Israeli attacks against Palestinian schoolchildren, or even a book review titled "The Myths of Zionism". Search under 'Darfur' or 'Tibet' and you will get zero results. O.k., nobody can fight all injustices in the world at once, but a slightly more visible even-handedness and consistency on the part of so-called progressive individuals and NGOs would make the constant claims by Israel-bashers who insist that they are not anti-Israel or – heaven forbid – anti-Semitic much more credible and convincing. Talking about consistency, we wonder how CUPE will implement the boycott. Will its members stop using cellphones that use technology developed by Motorola Israel, or computers with Intel's Centrino chips or its new multi-core processors, both of which were largely developed at the company's facilities in Israel? Will they no longer use AOL Instant Messenger and Skype, both of which use technologies that were pioneered and/or developed in Israel? Will they stop taking or prescribing Copaxone, Rebif, Exelon, Doxil and other drugs that save lives or make lives more livable for thousands if not millions of people all over the world, and that were developed by Israeli companies and/or researchers? Will they refuse to enjoy the benefits of PillCam Capsule Endoscopy technology, developed by Given Imaging? Israel and the Israelis contributed much more to humanity than only that accursed occupation. Because of their ignorance and their hypocricy, many CUPE-Ontario members who voted for the boycott are a bit like the a vegetarian who sneaks meat when nobody is watching. Both Palestinians and Israelis are victims. Victims of their non-leaders, whose bad choices, big egos and personal interests are one of the main reasons why this superfluous conflict has not been solved yet. Victims of different kinds of religious and nationalist fanaticism. Victims of some of our self-proclaimed supporters abroad. The latter often happen to support the most uncompromising and unshakeable views and the most extremist parties to the conflict. There still are ambassadors of sanity and reason among Israelis and Palestinians, those who adhere to a critical, moderate version of their respective religions and/or nationalisms, and who know and admit that not only the other side should change and compromise. They are the ones who hold the key to a better future for both peoples. Unfortunately they are also the ones whose voice is often not really heard abroad. Their complex and subtle views on reality are less attractive for media, and political activists – pro-this or anti-that – who want to make a statement and to feel good about themselves prefer to identify with only one victim, thus ignoring the misery of the other and continuing the suffering for both victims. The only ones who profit from oversimplified resolutions and one-sided boycotts such as those supported by CUPE-Ontario and NATFHE are the fanatics on both sides of the conflict: their prejudices ( "It is all Israel's fault", or "Those anti-Semites only want to destroy Israel" ) are confirmed, they are enabled to keep on holding the vast majority of Palestinians and Israelis hostage, and the situation which turns both peoples into victims is perpetuated indefinitely.

No comments: