Antony Loewenstein and Jake Lynch (The Australian, Letters blog, 22 September) criticise Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth for their opposition to the campaign for “boycott, disinvestment and sanctions” directed at Israel. But they fail to address the central issue pointed out by Mendes and Dyrenfurth – the hypocritical and one-sided nature of this campaign.
Sudan has killed at least 400,000 civilians in its genocidal war in Darfur. Russia killed about 40,000 people in its two brutal wars against Chechnya. Millions of people are suffering under dictatorships in Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria and others. Protesters are being shot down in the streets in Tibet, East Turkistan and Iran.
Are Loewenstein and Lynch calling for academic, cultural or communications boycotts against these countries? No, they’re not. Only Israel is so uniquely evil that it merits such treatment. The Israel-Palestinian conflict, which over the past 20 years has caused approximately 8,000 deaths (a third of them Israelis), is apparently worse than Darfur and Chechnya, worse indeed than anything else in the world.
Loewenstein and Lynch’s attack on the Australian columnists do serve a useful purpose in drawing out their real purposes. Firstly the perversity of the Director of Sydney University’s “Peace” Institute, which backs boycotts of Israeli academics rather than enhancing peace between the parties, could now not be starker.
Loewenstein’s support for the elimination of Israel coded as support for a one state solution shows that he was trying to sucker the few hundred who signed his Independent Jewish Voices “two state declaration”. Either way no serious Australian policy maker takes seriously ideas of boycotting Israeli academics and universities.
Michael Danby MHR is Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
My original piece addresses many of the issues inherent in this letter. Always remember the first rule of dogmatic Zionism: change the subject, never talk about the occupation and ignore the gross human rights abuses in the occupied territories.
UPDATE: Here’s Jake Lynch’s response:
I picture apologists for Israel’s serial breaches of international law, like Michael Danby, huddling together in an overheated room somewhere, getting terribly excited when they feel they’ve hit upon a particularly convincing argument, and sallying forth into the real world, certain it’s going to prove persuasive, only to stumble over the one obvious point they forgot.
I’ll let him down gently, then. He may be amazed to learn that, when I was going around, persuading people to boycott South Africa in the 1980s, I was not wholly oblivious to the human rights abuses being endured by the people of Iraq, El Salvador and many others.
In the words of Naomi Klein, boycott is not a dogma: it’s a tactic. The reason for trying it on Israel is that it might work, which is why Danby and his ilk are getting so uptight about it.
Israel presently enjoys impunity for its crimes, which incentivises repetition. End the impunity through BDS and it becomes clear that carrying on the brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory is not in Israel’s interests. That would be a first.