Unjust, unhelpful: arguments against the academic boycott of Israel

Hirsh, David. 2008. Unjust, unhelpful: arguments against the academic boycott of Israel. Democratiya, 13, pp. 135-148. [Article]

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I am reluctant to write this article because it should not be necessary. No antiracist and no scholar should need the case to be explicitly set out against a campaign to exclude Israelis from the cultural and economic life of humanity; especially from the global academic community. There is no campaign to exclude anybody else; only Israelis. That a reputable scholarly journal feels it has to commission an article giving reasons why such an exclusion is a bad idea should tell us something worrying about the depth and scope of contemporary anti-Semitism. There are a number of reasons to oppose a boycott of Israeli academia and I will, in spite of my reluctance, set them out as clearly as I can in this article. But for me, the central reason, and in fact the reason behind the other reasons, concerns anti- Semitism. The actual intentions of people who support this boycott are positive and antiracist; they want to help Palestinians. But were it to be instituted the boycott would be in effect if not intent an antisemitic measure; it would normalise an exclusive focus on Jews as fit targets for exclusion and punishment. To be quite clear, I am saying that it would be better if this debate was not happening; it is not a legitimate debate. I am well aware that I will be accused of being part of a powerful ‘Israel lobby’ which dishonestly ‘plays the anti-Semitism card’ in order to de-legitimize criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. I want anti- Semitism to remain unthinkable and so I am becoming accustomed to the charge of violating freedom of thought. But people are more and more seeing through the lazy claim that those who raise the issue of contemporary anti-Semitism do so for instrumental reasons. In truth the libel that Jews aim to benefit instrumentally from anti-Semitism is an old one, classically articulated in the ninth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2010 07:24

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 09:30

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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