Friday 5 October 2007

No to discriminatory boycotts, yes to genuine solidarity

I was about to get hot under the collar about Pryamvada Gopal's article on the UCU boycott in today's Guardian, but Bob from Brockley has got in first and provided an excellent critique of the 'inaccuracies and objectionable statements' in the piece. He nails once and for all the lie that the union's move somehow suppresses open debate on the Israel/Palestine issue. It's a bit rich of Gopal and others to claim that the UCU has shut down discussion, when this is precisely what a boycott of Israeli academics would have done. And as for Gopal's accusation of 'exceptionalism': isn't that precisely what the boycott's advocates were guilty of, in singling out Israel for this unique action and overlooking the suppression of academic freedom in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia or China?

For a full and authoritative account of the boycott affair, and for a decent, progressive call for genuine solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli academics working for peace and justice, see Jon Pike here (via Norm). Jon sees the end of the boycott affair as an opportunity for the Left to take a look at itself:

This is the question for those on the left who supported an academic boycott left. How did you manage to mistake a campaign of discriminatory exclusions for a campaign of solidarity?

It’s only when we can get an answer to that question that we will be able to establish a properly anti-racist culture on the left, a properly democratic trade union movement – and a movement in the UK for a lasting peace and justice between two nations – two states: Palestine and Israel.

A final note: Pryamvada Gopal seems to have been taken on as a regular contributor to the Guardian's comment pages. Given that her pieces to date have all echoed the standard Milne/Steele/Gott/Bunting line (America the source of all evil, terrorism and extremism due to 'root causes' in western policy, condemning authoritarianism and misogyny in non-western countries is culturally imperialist, etc), this prompts the question: doesn't a liberal newspaper have a duty to seek out a diversity of opinions rather than promote a party line? Where are the comment pieces on Islamism or Venezuela by anti-totalitarian leftist writers, or the articles on religion by secularists? As I've said before, I suspect the Guardian editors think they're being terribly provocative in their choice of writers, when in fact they're peddling a staid pseudo-left orthodoxy and lazily pandering to the prejudices of one section of their readership.

There's more on the Gopal piece over at Normblog.

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