UNISON, the trade union that represents 1.3 million workers in the United Kingdom, decided yesterday to impose an economic and cultural boycott on Israel. Britain's National Union of Journalists made a similar decision in April, and the University and College Union decided to recommend that its 120,000 members boycott our institutions of higher education.
One can understand the boycotters: Israel, through 40 years of occupation, has inspired loathing not only in its detractors, but also in its well-wishers; it has disgusted not only its friends abroad, but also many of its citizens.
And yet, despite all the explanations, I cannot quite figure out why the do-gooders insist on assailing only the bastards who fall under the rubric of the Torah, and not those whose banner is the Koran or the New Testament. Sometimes I just have to view the selective assault on Israel as nothing but a lousy joke, even if the English are known for a more refined sense of humor. You make me laugh.
And they are not the only ones arousing laughter and scorn: The Anti-Defamation League was also quite pathetic this week, with the huge ads it published in newspapers around the world. Like me, the ADL honchos are complaining bitterly about the boycott. Unlike me, they choose to cite examples such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Venezuela - pariah states that, unlike Israel, were not repudiated. The brief list that appears in the ads is odd on one hand and even odder on the other. Was the newspaper space too short for the list to go on?
The ADL, which sought to help Israel, actually hurt it by tying its name to those of the worst countries of all. If Israel is to be exonerated only in comparison to Iran and Sudan, then woe is us. Where have countries like China, which executes people for the purpose of trafficking in their organs, still maintains labor camps that resemble concentration camps and abducts children for forced labor, suddenly gone?
And what of Russia, which suppresses any display of opposition, and where Vladimir Putin appears to envy the Romanov dynasty and its Bolshevik successors? And where has Pakistan gone - a country where a general rules with an iron fist, gives orders to shoot demonstrators, tosses hundreds of opponents of his regime into prison and deposes a Supreme Court president who refuses to bow to his authority?
Could it be that this blacklist was shortened out of self-censorship? Is it more comfortable to stock the showcase of despicability with leaders whom the Western world - rightly - loves to hate than with despicable leaders with whom the West wants to curry favor for reasons having to do with oil and profits and other such necessities? And whatever happened to darling Saudi Arabia?
The ADL and the British academics have also forgotten two other countries, which over the past four years have harmed human rights and been involved in war crimes more than any others. Ladies and gentlemen, you have totally forgotten about the United States and the United Kingdom.
These upstanding nations have felled hundreds of thousands of victims in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have turned four million people into refugees who are now knocking on their locked gates; they have made suspects vanish, of whom some were dispatched to shadowy countries to be interrogated and tortured while others were sent to Guantanamo, and this week, American judges - even military judges - ruled that these were offenses that the American constitution cannot tolerate.
Granted, the Bush-Cheney administration is the one leading this black flag brigade, but the poodle follows after the bulldog. And up to now, there have been no initiatives to boycott American products or American universities. The distinguished British professors would have done well to have first disavowed any contact with their colleagues across the Atlantic; after all, America and not Israel is the leader of the Free World. It sets the example. Others watch it and follow its lead.
But why even cross the ocean, if the learned academics already live and work in a country that is a partner in crime to its bigger ally? Those who are busying themselves with boycotts and ostracism would have acted more rationally and fairly if they had first boycotted the products of their own country. If they had boycotted the institutions of higher education that employ them. If they had boycotted themselves.
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