[Marxism] Boycott Israel?

Jscotlive at aol.com Jscotlive at aol.com
Thu Aug 9 06:43:56 MDT 2007

In the latest issue of the British SWP's monthly magazine, Socialist Review,  
leading member of the SWP, Chris Harman, questions the efficacy of the  
international campaign to boycott Israel. Below I've pasted his article. Below  the 
link I've also pasted a letter that I wrote to Socialist Review in  response. 
Solidarity With Palestine by CHRIS HARMAN - Socialist Review July/August  
Supporters of Israel want to undermine union support for the Palestinians.  
The left must be clear about imperialism's role in the region, and about how to 
 maximise solidarity, writes Chris Harman. 
A big debate has broken out after the annual congress of the lecturers' UCU  
union voted to hold discussions in branches around the country on how best to  
show solidarity with the Palestinian people. This has come just as the plight 
of  the Palestinians has gone from bad to worse, with civil war between the 
elected  Hamas administration which controls the Gaza Strip and the Fatah 
regime based in  the West Bank.  
Although the motion passed by UCU merely called for discussion over forms of  
support for the Palestinians, including debating the possibility of some sort 
of  boycott of Israeli institutions, it has caused a furore. The journalists' 
NUJ  union has also faced criticism after its annual conference passed a 
motion in  favour of boycotting Israeli goods. A three to one vote at Unison's 
conference,  in favour of a motion that talked about boycotting and putting 
sanctions on  Israel caused far less controversy.  
A very powerful pro-Israel lobby has gone to work to denounce these decisions 
 with the support of the pro-war "left". Meanwhile arch Zionist and Harvard  
lawyer Alan Dershowitz has threatened to "devastate and bankrupt" any  
organisation which commits to a boycott of Israel. These figures want to block  
discussion of Israel's actions. We must defend the right of trade unions to  
democratically pass resolutions and hold political debates without being  subjected 
to such threats.  
Letter To Socialist Review  
Dear Socialist Review,
Chris Harman's piece in Socialist Review (building solidarity with  
Palestine, July/August issue) gives succour to Israeli apologists and  supporters 
everywhere, and in effect aids their attempt to  weaken a growing international 
movement to isolate Israel and provide  meaningful and active solidarity with the 
long  suffering Palestinians, who continue to endure and resist the  most 
prolonged, barbaric and savage occupation in modern history. 
   Not only does he suggest that a boycott is not the way  forward, he 
provides no alternative, which suggests a complete abandonment of  the Palestinians 
and their struggle at a time when it has reached probably the  most critical 
stage in its entire history.
   His attempt to suggest that a boycott would actually play into  the hands 
of Israel's supporters, that it would undermine efforts to solidarise  with 
the Palestinians, is merely more of the same weakness that has plagued  sections 
of the Left when it comes to the issue of Palestine, a section  which time 
and again succumbs to the huge Zionist propaganda  machine that equates support 
for Palestinian human rights with  anti-Semitism, conjuring up in the process 
the history of the Holocaust, which  has been and continues to be manipulated 
in order to justify the expropriation  of Palestinian land and resources. 
   Yes, there may be confusion among some trade union members  within the 
various unions that have passed resolutions calling for a  boycott. What of it? 
Surely the task of socialists now is to provide leadership  on the issue by 
explaining to those people, to all people, why a boycott of  Israel is absolutely 
necessary and not to allow that confusion, resulting  from a lack of 
consciousness, to hold it back.
   Chris Harman also states that 'hardcore supporters  of Israel' are 
bombarding the UCU with calls for a referendum on the  issue of a boycott because 
they see an opportunity to take advantage  of the confusion that exists among 
their members. This is absolute  nonsense. The reason the UCU have been bombarded 
with calls for a referendum by  supporter of Israel is because the UCU 
resolution undermines the moral  legitimacy which is absolutely essential to 
Israel's  continuing occupation of Palestinian land. This is why Israel's  
supporters, and members of the Israeli government, are so exercised, and this is  why we 
must put all our weight, all or our collective muscle and mind, behind an  
international campaign to boycott Israel. 
   Destroy this foundation of moral legitimacy which underpins  the 
occupation and the occupation collapses. Not only would this be a great  victory for 
the Palestinians, it would be victory for human  progress.  
John Wight,


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