The issue of boycotting Israel — especially academic and cultural boycott — is a hot button one. I can testify to it from the responses I got after I'd sent the call to action to a number of lists: some recipients were quite angry.
Lincoln Shlensky adds:
Obviously, even JPN editors are not all in agreement on this topic (our initial post on this topic included my dissenting view). In the current political context, such diversity of opinion is all too easily suppressed by those who perceive the world in dualistic terms. This is demonstrated in a recent press release of the "Progressive Zionist" organization Ameinu, which claimed that JPN as an organization supports the academic/cultural boycott of Israel (see Ameinu's press release here <http://ameinu.net/newsalert.php?newsalertid=42>). JPN is neither an organization in any traditional sense (we are a loose and volunteer collective of editorialists), nor did our recent post imply that as a whole we "support" the boycott (at least one of us does, and another of us does not). Ironically and symptomatically, Ameinu cannot hear (or cannot tolerate) such a diversity of opinion among "our people" (the English translation of its name).
I thank Adrienne Rich for communicating her views to us. As a long-time admirer of her poetry, I am all the more interested in her perspective when it does not perfectly accord with my own.
And Joel Beinin adds, on the subject of how we work:
The practice of JPN - the range of articles we include, the diversity of the editors, geographically and in terms of particular positions, and the mainly consensus form of decision making - suggests that we view pluralism as a value in and of itself.
And now to the letter:
February 3 2009
Last week, with initial hesitation but finally strong conviction, I endorsed the Call for a U.S. Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel. HYPERLINK "http://usacbi.wordpress.com/" http://usacbi.wordpress.com/ I'd like to offer my reasons to friends, family and comrades. I have tried in fullest conscience to think this through.
My hesitation: I profoundly believe in the visible/invisible liberatory social power of creative and intellectual boundary-crossings. I've been educated by these all my life, and by centuries-long cross-conversations about human freedom, justice and power—also, the forces that try to silence them.
As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I've joined with other concerned Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I've seen the kinds of organized efforts to stifle—in the US and elsewhere-- critiques of Israel's policies--the Occupation's denial of Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the "settlements," the state's physical and psychological walls against dialogue—and the efforts to condemn any critiques as anti-Semitism. Along with other activists and writers I've been named on right-wing "shit-lists" as "Israel-hating" or "Jew-hating." I have also seen attacks within American academia and media on Arab American, Muslim, Jewish scholars and teachers whose work critically explores the foundations and practices of Israeli state and society.
Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel's continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza, and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel's blockading of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind. Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state economic and military power. And US media, institutions and official policy have gone along with all this.
To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from individuals struggling against the policies of that state. So, in continued solidarity with the Palestinian people's long resistance, and also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers, intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the means and ends of the Occupation, I have signed my name to this call.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to http://www.jewishpeacenews.net