Rene — Throw A Pebble At Goliath: Don't Buy Israeli Produce

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Throw A Pebble At Goliath: Don’t Buy Israeli Produce
Saturday, May 26, 2007 by _The Guardian/UK_
by Yvonne Roberts
`The boycott campaign is not really about what happens in the Middle
East but about what happens in our unions, on our campuses and in our
public discourse. The damage that it does in the UK is that it
disables politicalwork in solidarity with those who fight for peace in
the Middle East by polarising opinion around an artificial and
destructive issue.’
So _writes_
David Hirsh on Comment is free, on the vote next Wednesday at a
conference held by the University and College Union (_UCU_
(http://www.ucu.org.uk/) ), arguing against what he calls `the boycott
So the boycott movement allegedly `disables political work in
solidarity with those who fight for peace in the Middle East’ does
it? Is that thesame political work that is so highly effective that
the only major change sincethe 1970s, when I regularly reported from
the region, is of a profound deterioration in all aspects of life for
ordinary Palestinians?
In contributing his blog, David Hirsh ironically illustrates precisely
why the boycott movement has an impact. It clears a space in the
public arena which, in the UK and the USA, is normally hopelessly
biased in favour of Israel – not least because Zionist supporters of
Israel in both countries have money and political clout on a scale the
Palestinians cannot hope to match.
While we frequently see and hear about the lives of ordinary Israelis,
whether illegally settled on the West Bank or endeavouring to live
under harrowing rocket bombardment or simply `being’ Israelis – when
was the last time the reality of day-to-day life in the refugee camps
was regularly portrayed?
Back in the 1970s, long before the war on terror was launched, we
tried to do precisely that for the now defunct current affairs series
Weekend World. John Birt, its editor, fought furiously to have the
film screened, but the battle with his superiors at LWT was lost. The
film was shelved, deemed, ` propaganda’.
Regardless of the rhetoric of some of those advocating a boycott, one
hopes that the majority of us are not so naive or so daft as to think
that the issue of the Middle East, as Hirsh suggests, splits into a
simplistic polarisation of Israel – bad; Palestine – good. Or that
excluding Israeli Jewish _academics_
from UK campuses, journals and conferences is anything more than an
attack on the right to freedom of speech.
However, a double standard pertains. The Israeli treatment of
Palestinians shows a total disregard for human rights. Apartheid
doesn’t seem tome to be too strong a word – and its consequence, as
many have pointed out, is a recruitment drive for Islamic
In this month’s _New Internationalist_
(http://www.newint.org/issues/current/) , psychiatrist Samah Jabr,
describes his work in Ramallah and Jericho and the `mental health
emergency’ under way. For a population of 3.8 million, there are 15
psychiatrists and disastrously too few nurses, psychologists and
support staff. He points out that 53% of the population is under 17 –
especially vulnerable to family deaths, absent fathers and constant
Add poverty, affecting 67% of the population, unemployment at 40%, 20%
of the population are prisoners and ex-prisoners, many suffering the
psychiatric after-effects of isolation, and the daily violence does
the rest.
Palestinian factionalism and Israel’s brutal retaliation, plus its
pre-emptive strikes and demolition of homes hits the Palestinian
people with a savagery that destroys any semblance of normal
living. (The ordinary Palestinians in the Lebanon are again paying the
heaviest price.) Of course, ordinary Israelis are affected too – but
their community remains robust, well cared-for, with needs
met. Psychological trauma, for many Israelis, is at best held at bay
and at worst given help. Hundreds of Israeli political prisoners are
not rotting in Palestinian jails.
A _boycott_
is neither self-indulgent gesture politics nor an indicator of
powerlessness, as Hirsh suggests. It is an international protest
against the way in which Israel behaves on a daily basis in an area
that will, in all probability, never see peace.
June 9 sees the _Global Day of Action_
(http://stopthewall.org/worldwideactivism/1393.shtml) on
Palestine. Throw a pebble at Goliath – don’t spend your pennies on
Israeli produce.
Yvonne Roberts has been an award winning journalist, writer and broadcaster
for over 30 years.