Archive for the ‘Boycotts’ Category.

NUJ boycott motion defeated

The National Union of Journalists’ biennial Delegate Meeting [Conference] in Eastbourne yesterday rejected a proposal to boycott Israel. The motion was similar in tone and content to a boycott motion that NUJ did pass in 2007. It was rejected overwhelmingly, with such a large margin that there was no need to count.

BBC branches spoke against the motion, and the Guardian branch was also a vocal opponent.

After being alerted, UK Labour Leader Ed Miliband spoke out against the boycott proposal during his Israel visit last week. The motion was opposed by the Union’s National Executive Committee. NUJ’s General-Secretary made a strong speech against the motion which might have swayed many delegates. NUJ’s own report of the debate can be read here

A spokesman for the Fair Play campaign said:

“We welcome the decision by the NUJ’s General-Secretary, Executive and Delegates to overwhelmingly reject a boycott of Israel. Seven years ago, the NUJ voted to boycott Israel, provoking a major backlash from serious journalists in Britain and around the world. Today, the Union has renounced this path and has chosen another, better way that’s true to the journalistic values of neutrality and fairness.”

Exclusive: Sir Tom Jones condemns Israel music boycotts

This is a cross post from The Jewish News by Justin Cohen 

Sir Tom Jones this week spoke out against the campaign urging musicians to boycott Israel – and revealed that talks are already underway for him to return to the country where he performed just last month, writes Justin Cohen.

In a fresh blow for those advocating a boycott, the Sex Bomb singer told the Jewish News he was fully aware of the online clamour to cancel his October gigs in Tel Aviv but insisted he never considered giving in to the pressure that have caused other performers to stay away.

He said in an exclusive interview: “I was in Israel two weeks ago where a lot of singers won’t go (because of the boycott campaign). I don’t agree with that. I think entertainers should entertain. They should go wherever, there shouldn’t be any restrictions. That’s why I went there. I did two shows in Tel Aviv and it was fantastic.” He added: “I wanted to go because the Israeli people have asked me. They would like me to go and sing and I don’t see any problem in doing that. I don’t see why anyone would mix up the two things – entertainment and politics.”


Sir Tom Jones performing with disability band The Autistix at Norwood’s annual dinner

The legendary Welsh crooner went ahead with his first visit to Israel in more than a decade at the end of last month, despite the Cardiff Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s petition urging him to cancel garnering 2,000 signatures . “Please don’t whitewash Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians,” the petition read. “A performance in Israel today is akin to a performance in apartheid South Africa.”

In August, former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters wrote an open letter calling on “my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll” to join a culture boycott of Israel by refusing to perform or exhibit there or accept any “funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.

While acknowledging that “not all entertainers are the same and some feel strongly about certain politics or countries”, with decisions on whether to perform being down to those individuals, he said: “I believe entertainment should be for everyone and there shouldn’t be restrictions.”

Saying he was “so glad I went”, Sir Tom revealed he’d “definitely” like to perform there again. “They’re already talking about it. The promoter that took me out there said we’d like you back next week if we could.”

His comments to the Jewish News came during Monday’s Norwood annual dinner in central London, when he joined rock and roll band The Autistix– featuring three autistic young adults – for an impromptu performance that brought the house down. “It’s a great charity and whatever I can do I will,” he said before his surprise invitation to join the band on stage. “I live in Los Angeles and over there the Jewish community do much for charity. Of course I’m from Great Britain and I started seeing Jewish charities first hand in the 60s. I’ve always been supportive.”

BDS continues to fail; Eric Burdon arrives in Israel

The Boycott movement’s threats that made musician Eric Burdon fear for his life is indicative of their failure to convince people to boycott Israel through academic rigor or reasoned debate. This failure has prompted shameful tactics; it is a testament to Eric Burdon’s strength of character that he is not giving in, and plans to hold his concert in Israel.

It is common for artists performing in Israel to endure threatening behaviour and heavy lobbying from the pro-boycott movement.

It is however, reassuring to see many artists ignoring this campaign and continuing to perform in Israel. This summer alone Israel has welcomed Cliff Richard, the Pet Shop Boys, and Eric Burdon, with Tom Jones due to perform in Tel Aviv at the end of October. Bullying artists into avoiding Israel and attempting to culturally isolate the Israeli population only breeds mistrust and causes further divisions. It is our hope that those who are concerned for the future of Israelis and Palestinians focus their efforts on productive campaigns and ignore the venom that emanates from the boycotters. Peace is best served by concentrating on projects that strive to improve the general atmosphere, making it more conducive to dialogue and reconciliation.

The goals of reconciliation and dialogue lie in stark contrast to the aims and objectives of boycotting Israel. The boycott movement’s activities do not stem from concern for the Palestinian people, but rather from hatred of the Israeli people. This is demonstrated by the movement’s decision to purposefully ignore the reality that both sides hold powerful arguments – both are aggrieved and both have suffered.
Moreover, the singling out of Israel proves an obstacle to one of the most basic imperatives for achieving a lasting peace: The need for each side to overcome its respective narrative in order to work towards a better future.

Buy Israeli Goods Week

The Fair Play Campaign Group is supporting a campaign across the UK to buy Israeli goods at Sainsbury’s.

Online or in store please make an extra effort to fill up your basket with Israeli produce, whether it is avocados or sharon fruit, olives or medjool dates, Israeli wines or fruit juices. We are particularly keen to encourage people to buy Israeli produce from Sainsbury’s as they are being targeted by anti-Israel boycotters.

Watch this video to find out more about the campaign:


Hypocrisy and double standard: An open letter to Stephen Hawking

This is a cross post from Haaretz by Carlo Strenger

By deciding not to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, one of the world’s leading scientists is singling out Israel and denying it has been under existential threat for most of its existence.


Dear Professor Hawking,

There are many reasons why you are considered one of the world’s leading scientists. As you know very well, one reason for your achievement is the ability to keep a mind of your own and to refuse caving in to pressure by the mainstream. Innovation is only possible if you are immune to such pressure.

Given my respect for your achievement I am surprised and saddened by your decision, reported today by The Guardian that you have cancelled your participation at this year’s President’s Conference in Jerusalem, and that you have joined those who call for an academic boycott of Israel. I would have expected a man of your standing and achievement not to be influenced by the pressure that was reportedly exerted on you to cancel your visit in Israel.

Let it first be said that I have been opposed to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories for many years, and that I have voiced this opposition with all means at my disposal. I think that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank is indefensible morally, stupid politically and unwise strategically, and I will continue opposing it as long as I can.

This being said, I have always found it morally reprehensible and intellectually indefensible that many British academics have been calling for an academic boycott of Israel. This call is based on a moral double standard that I would not expect from a community whose mission it is to maintain intellectual integrity.

Yes, I think that Israel is guilty of human right violations in the West Bank. But these violations are negligible compared to those perpetrated by any number of states ranging from Iran through Russia to China, to mention only a small number of examples. Iran hangs hundreds of homosexuals every year; China has been occupying Tibet for decades, and you know of the terrible destruction Russia has inflicted in Chechnya. I have not heard from you or your colleagues who support an academic boycott against Israel that they boycott any of these countries.

But let me go one step further: Israel is accused of detaining Palestinians without trial for years. So is the USA, which, as you very well know, to this day has not closed Guantanamo Bay. Israel is accused of targeted killings of Palestinians suspected or known to be involved in terrorist acts. As is reported worldwide, the United States has been practicing targeted assassinations of terror suspects in many countries for years.

The question whether these detentions and targeted assassinations can be justified is weighty, and there are no simple answers. Personally I think that even in a war against terror democracies must make every conceivable effort to maintain the rule of law and avoid human rights violations.

Yet let us not forget that both Israel and the United States are in difficult situations. Israel was on the verge of a peace agreement with the Palestinian people when the second Intifada broke out. Daily Israelis were shredded into pieces by suicide bombings, and it is very difficult for Israeli politicians to convince Israelis to take risks for peace. The U.S. is still reeling from the trauma of 9/11. It has occupied two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade since. I happen to think that it was wrong to attack Iraq, in the same way that I think that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank is wrong.

Professor Hawking: how can you and your colleagues who argue for an academic boycott of Israel justify your double standard by singling out Israel? You are simply denying that Israel has been under existential threat for most of its existence. To this day Hamas, one of the two major parties in Palestine, calls for Israel’s destruction, and its charter employs the vilest anti-Semitic language. To this day hardly a week goes by in which Iran and its proxy Hezbollah do not threaten to obliterate Israel, even though they have no direct conflict with Israel about anything.

Singling Israel out for academic boycott is, I believe, a case of profound hypocrisy. It is a way to ventilate outrage about the world’s injustices where the cost is low. I’m still waiting for the British academic who says he won’t cooperate with American institutions as long as Guantanamo is open, or as long as the U.S. continues targeted assassinations.

In addition to the hypocrisy, singling out Israel’s academia is pragmatically unwise, to put it mildly. Israel’s academia is largely liberal in its outlook, and many academics here have opposed Israel’s settlement policies for decades. But once again, British academics choose the easiest target to vent their rage in a way that does not contribute anything constructive to the Palestinian cause they support.

Israel, like any other country, can be criticized. But such criticism should not be based on shrill moralism and simplistic binary thinking – something I do not expect from academics. The real world is, unfortunately a messy, difficult place. Novelist Ian McEwan is quoted in the Guardian as saying that “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed … It’s not great if everyone stops talking” when he was criticized for coming to Israel to receive the Jerusalem Prize for Literature in 2011.

He certainly has a point. Living up to the standards of human rights and the ideals of democracy in an imperfect world is difficult. Major thinkers like Philip Bobbitt and Michael Ignatieff have invested deep and comprehensive thought into the difficult topic of how to maintain the human rights standard in a world threatened by terrorism.

Professor Hawking, I would expect from a man of your intellectual stature to get involved in the difficult task of grappling with these questions. Taking the simple way out of singling out Israel by boycotting it academically does not behoove you intellectually or morally.

If your cancelation was indeed a function of pressures and not from health reasons, as stated by your university following The Guardian’s report, I would respect it if you were to reconsider your decision and come to the President’s Conference.


Carlo Strenger