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The Israeli Boycott & Virtue Signalling

I’ve just Googled ‘UK Academics Boycott China’. This returned 440,000 results in just 0.76 seconds. However, I gave up looking for evidence of such a boycott about 70 articles in. There doesn’t appear to be any.

Which leads to two questions. Why not, and if not, why is there one for Israel?

The boycott of Israeli academic institutions, announced in the UK’s Guardian newspaper by 343 professor and lecturers, is in protest at what they call ‘intolerable human rights violations against the Palestinians.’ So far, so they are entitled to their opinions. It is a good thing to care about Palestinian human rights, and let’s face it, they are abused on a regular basis, but why do the learned ones not boycott Chinese institutions?

It is possible they have not heard of the massive human rights abuses in China, after all intellectuals are often not very well informed, but that seems unlikely given that President Xi has just been in the UK. It’s doubtful that they are unaware that China occupies Tibet and that millions, yes millions of Chinese settlers now live there. And yet – no boycott of Chinese academic institutions, or Russian, or Syrian, or Iranian, Saudi Arabian…. etc. There is certainly no boycott of Palestinian academic institutions despite them being overseen by the PA and Hamas governments which oversee routine torture including of academics who dare to criticise the leadership.

It therefore seems legitimate to ask why the 343 educated types have singled out one particular country.

It is possible that they do not know they are (marginally) harming the education of thousands of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who attend Israeli universities. For example, more than half of students at Haifa University are Arabs. Perhaps they don’t realise that the selective outrage they display in the Guardian causes many on the Israeli left, who are actively trying to help human rights for Palestinians, to ask the same questions posed above.

Many of the academics will never have been to Israel or Palestine. Most will over emphasise the importance, and the effect, of their self-righteous public display of virtue signalling. All have in fact instead signaled that they appear fixated on one set of human rights violations and expect everyone to share their world view.

They should ask themselves why. After all, they’re the educated ones.


6 Comments on "The Israeli Boycott & Virtue Signalling"

  1. The reason is that Israel doesn’t hide its troubles from the world. You rarely get to see China’s human rights abuses and images are the only thing that matters in this media-led age. The social media outcry about migrants dying in the Med has noticeably decreased once the media turned their attention elsewhere.

  2. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 27th October 2015 at 8:19 pm | Reply

    I am against boycotts of all sorts. Better to engage, criticise and demand change of behaviour. You will have more influence doing business with the people you are boycotting.

  3. i was once told, that in every Gentile, there is the seed of anti-Semitism !!

  4. There are several good reasons why the two cases are treated differently.

    Israel is (supposedly) a democracy and claims to uphold democratic standards, which imply a certain liberalism and an attempt at equal civil rights for all. Its founders are Europeans, and it has Western intellectual ancestry, and in particular we Brits were deeply implicated in its creation, and so we react quite strongly to deviations from the ideal of democracy and liberalism, much as we do when (say) Hungary veers towards illiberalism. In the case of South Africa, a country with not dissimilar Western connections, such boycotts successfully produced reform. Also ethnic/racial unfairnesses tend to stir people to action, as in the cases of South Africa, Burundi, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.

    China is one a very large group of authoritarian states which are on the path of development. We tend to believe that eventually these states will democratise as we did, as part of the development process, and in any case there are too many of them to boycott them all, even if the usefulness of such boycotts were evident. The governments of two not dissimilarly authoritarian Asian countries which were both highly repressive, Korea and Taiwan, eventually opened up, democratised, and liberalised, without much pressure from the West. Why shouldn’t it also happen in China?

  5. It is fairly obvious why Israel is treated as an exception, which is that they constantly claim they are an exception. In claiming their exceptional status as the only democracy in the Middle East, they are able to secure billions of dollars in aid each year and an outsized influence on the British and American foreign policy, which they typically use to press us into war with Islamic countries, notably Iran and Iraq. In this way, their policies become our own, sullying the reputations of our governments and weakening our support for democracy elsewhere.

    And while Israeli human rights abuses may put it a step above Syria and China and a few steps below Hungary, they are not inconsequential. For China to do something demographically comparable, they would have to wall off 700 million of their residents in ethnic enclaves, with limited resources, and often totalitarian control. Moreover, if a country like China or Russia possessed land from all of its neighbors, as Israel has at times done, there would be dozens of conflicts with which to deal. Israel’s abuses only seem small when you ignore its size.

    Finally, the greater portion of people leading this boycott are Jewish and Palestinian. Precisely because they were ethnically cleansed from their country in 1948, and because Palestinians are continually being administratively cleansed from their homeland by not being allowed to return when they leave, the Palestinian diaspora is massive, and they have special duties to their family that has remained behind. Meanwhile, Jews have special duties to what is done in their name. And personally, as someone of Jewish heritage, I refuse to allow this slow motion ethnic cleansing and apartheid to take place in my name.

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