Boycotts are misguided
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