Yet more on BDS

When I started this blog the idea wasn’t to write about BDS all the time but anway, that’s what there is for the moment. I just posted the comment below here

I’m glad of Mark’s contribution to the effect that a boycott would have to be harsh and coercive.  Were it not so, it would not be one at all. And Mohan is also right, if you think the harshness and coercion necessary to   put an end to some worse wrong, then you’re on the way to having a defensible justification.

I might be wrong, but I’d guess that the chances of a boycott of Israeli educational institutions gaining enough traction to have any real effect on them are slight.  Indeed attempts to impose one may prove to be illegal in some countries.  There are people, however, who are sure to be affected by a boycott and they are non-Israeli Jews working in academia.   Some will be affected positively of course as they will have opinions similar to Judith Butler’s and would be pleased to participate in a boycott. However, the many that don’t would face some difficult choices. They might assent to the boycott for the sake of a quiet life and to show in public that they are lined up with the righteous, either without being especially convinced of its merits or even while actually disagreeing with it. “Ah but the boycott would be strictly voluntary! No one would be forced to do anything against their will”.  If  no method, formal or informal, exists to enforce a boycott then it’s not a boycott at all and there’s no point in advocating it that it be implemented. After all, as things stand now, no one who doesn’t want to is obliged to collaborate with Israelis or Israeli institutions.

Or they might refuse to cooperate with it and risk being branded as supporters of what some people now see as a uniquely evil and illegitimate state, and being subjected to some degree of ostracization, however mild.

To which it might be replied: it’s not just Jews who would have to decide that, it would be all academics.  The thing is though, about half the world’s Jews live in Israel.  Whether they love it, hate it or aren’t too bothered about it either way, asking Jewish colleagues to boycott it isn’t the same as asking non-Jewish ones. Their reactions to a boycott would be subject to particular scrutiny. While a boycott would give some a chance to demonstrate what they would see as their high degree of moral probity by endorsing it, it would likely make others very uncomfortable indeed, if talk of it hasn’t already. Of course, some may regard such discomfort as trivial and a price well worth paying if it helps to put an end what they see as uniquely evil activities elsewhere.


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