Boy­cotts are mis­guided

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MICHAEL DUGHER

I JOINED more than 150 Bri­tish artists and au­thors, in­clud­ing JK Rowling, Tom Hol­land and Si­mon Schama, in back­ing a new net­work pro­mot­ing co­ex­is­tence and di­a­logue be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans last week.

This was about say­ing that rather than boy­cotts, it is di­a­logue and in­ter­ac­tion that will pro­mote greater un­der­stand­ing and mu­tual ac­cep­tance and ul­ti­mately play a part in mov­ing to­wards a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict.

At­tempts to boy­cott Is­raeli academia are not new and have al­ready been shown to be com­pletely mis­guided. Boy­cotts do not soften poli­cies of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment nor im­prove the lives of Pales­tini­ans. They serve to per­pet­u­ate the con­flict.

Peo­ple, of course, can ques­tion or crit­i­cise the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment. I am a friend of Is­rael, but I don’t sup­port set­tle­ments in Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and I don’t con­sider my­self a friend of the cur­rent Is­raeli gov­ern­ment.

But we in the UK and else­where need to sup­port ini­tia­tives that help rather than hin­der con­struc­tive en­gage­ment.

The sad irony is that the at­tempts to cen­sor Is­raeli academia tar­get the very el­e­ments of so­ci­ety that any­one in­ter­ested in fos­ter­ing di­a­logue should be work­ing to strengthen.

How does it make sense to boy­cott places of col­lab­o­ra­tion? How can it be help­ful to harm the ed­u­ca­tion of thou­sands of Is­raeli Arabs and Pales­tini­ans who at­tend Is­raeli uni­ver­si­ties?

In the spirit of aca­demic free­dom, Bri­tish aca­demics should be seek­ing to pro­mote fo­rums for aca­demic and cul­tural ex­changes be­tween Pales­tinian and Is­raeli uni­ver­si­ties.

In­deed, as venues for con­struc­tive dis­cus­sion ap­pear to shrink away in the re­gion, aca­demics should be fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing bridges, rather than burn­ing them. This is pre­cisely where civil so­ci­ety and academia ful­fil their role as safe havens for con­struc­tive de­bates.

I want to see a ne­go­ti­ated two-state so­lu­tion, with Is­rael safe and se­cure in her bor­ders along­side a vi­able and demo­cratic Pales­tinian state.

Those who truly care about build­ing the foun­da­tions for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and peace should join ini­tia­tives like Cul­ture for Co­ex­is­tence, work to open up spa­ces that fos­ter di­a­logue and re­ject th­ese coun­ter­pro­duc­tive cam­paigns that help no one. Michael Dugher is Labour’s Shadow Sec­re­tary for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport

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