Shown above is Captain Charles Boycott, apparently wearing a jacket derived from
his Norfolk homeland. The Captain gave his name to a fine old custom, in the course
of his work as land agent for Lord Erne, an absentee landlord in the County Mayo, and a right grasping old bugger too, by all accounts.
The Captain has his contemporary friends -- among them Bernard Avishai, Israeli professor, financial finagler, and editor of the Harvard Business Review, whose pissy sour puss is shown at left. Bernie writes in the Nation -- yes, the Nation! -- as follows:
Against Boycott and Divestment
[T]he Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.... will be coming soon to a campus near you.
...professors, students, union activists, etc. torturing logic to depict Israel's faults—which are serious enough to be unique—as "apartheid," while rehearsing the principles of action that arguably worked against South Africa a generation ago.
I say "arguably" because some of apartheid's most courageous critics, who helped to bring about an end to white rule, were opposed to B and D, even when they cautiously favored S.... Tony Bloom, CEO of the South African food processing giant Premier Group... rejected apartheid's foundations... [and was generally wonderful; some eulogy snipped --ed.] Though he eventually moved to London, he continued to transform his conglomerate into a model postapartheid firm.
What Bloom told me in 1987 was that, yes, foreign government sanctions on South African trade made sense in certain cases. But the boycott of South African universities and business people, and especially divestment campaigns against international companies doing business in the country, were seriously counterproductive. Why? Because those actions generally undermined the very people who advanced cosmopolitan values in the country. To get social change, you need social champions, in management as in universities.
This is rich, isn't it? Enlightened corporate honchos like Bloom, and beautiful professorial souls like Avishai -- relatively beautiful, anyway, compared to, say, Bugsy Siegel -- are the folks we have to rely on to vanquish Israeli apartheid.
(Lemma: The Palestinians themselves have no agency in the matter, and need to shut the fuck up and behave themselves while the Blooms and Avishais work their magic.)
This is an awfully familiar argument. It seems to be especially compelling among academics, who know in their bones that they are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, and feel a tender guild solicitude for their brothers of the mortarboard in Fort Zion. For example, a correspondent of mine at a well-known university writes:
[WKU] has a Holocaust Studies Center, founded by the late [famous name], the dean of Holocaust Studies. So an academic boycott would be a particularly hard sell. The current chair of Holocaust Studies has already written complaining how such a boycott would interfere with the work of his center given that many of the scholars are in Israel.
It would certainly be an awful tragedy if some "studies center" were interfered with, and particularly a Holocaust studies center, considering how poorly studied the Holocaust has been.
But of course this is all complete nonsense; boycott or no boycott, people will continue to study history, and use or misuse it to the top of their bent. There is really no fear that the "work" of the Holocaust Studies Center, for what it's worth, will grind to a halt if Israeli academics get the Quaker shunning treatment, or that people will stop scratching their heads about string theory or what have you.
Even if it were interfered with -- thought experiment here -- really, what's the downside? Some splendid monograph appears a few years later than it otherwise might. An Israeli mathematician who might have been first past the post with a proof of Scheisskopf's Conjecture has to content himself with place position. Bernard Avishai has to stay in one spot, instead of dividing his time, academic jet-setter that he is, between the Promised Land and the bosky dells of New Hampshire.
(I have no great love for New Hampshire -- more of a Vermont- and Maine-type guy, myself -- but even so, for New Hampshire's sake, I hope Bernard is enough of a Zionist patriot to choose the Mousehole on the Med, to borrow a phrase from my old pal Lenni Brenner.)
It is gratifying to note that there are people in the world who are more intelligent and more principled than college professors, or The Nation magazine (what were they thinking of, to publish this bolus of reactionary Chamber Of Commerce bromides?).
For a quasi-nautical and quasi-musical guy like me it's particularly nice to see that the honest intelligent stand-up folk include longshoremen and rock musicians:
Sweden to launch weeklong boycott on Israeli ships
Swedish dockworkers are set to launch a weeklong boycott of Israeli ships and goods to protest Monday's raid on a Gaza-destined aid flotilla, a union spokesman said.
Britain's largest union, Unite, has unanimously passed a motion to
boycott Israeli companies at its first policy conference in Manchester
June 4, 2010 -- At its central executive committee (CEC) meeting Friday,
SAMWU unanimously endorsed a motion to immediately work towards every
municipality in South Africa to become an Apartheid Israel free zone.
As part of the global Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions Campaign
(BDS) SAMWU has agreed to engage every single municipality to ensure
that there are no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other
linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime. Every SAMWU branch will
immediately approach municipal and water authorities to become part of
the BDS campaign, and to publicly declare their solidarity with the
The Associated Press
reports (http://www.billboard.com/news/pixies-calls-off-israel-concert-after-gaza-1004095841.story#/news/pixies-calls-off-israel-concert-after-gaza-1004095841.story) that
several bands have canceled scheduled concerts in Israel in the wake
international outcry against the country.
and Klaxons (http://pitchfork.com/artists/4964-klaxons/) were among the
bands scheduled to play Tel Aviv's Pic.Nic
festival (http://picnic2010.walla.co.il/) this week, but all three
groups have pulled out. According to festival
organizers, the cancellations are related to the naval raid, AP reports.
Elvis Costello (http://pitchfork.com/artists/835-elvis-costello/) was also
scheduled to play a pair of Israeli shows this summer, but he also pulled
out, though he did so before the flotilla raid. On his website, Costello
wrote an entry explaining his
"There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert
schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than
anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for
the suffering of the innocent... It is a matter of instinct and conscience."
Responding to calls by the Palestinian Workers Union and other calls by
different workers unions and organizations around the world, the Norwegian
Ports Union decided to join its Swedish counterpart in boycotting all
Israeli ships starting on June 15.
*Activists prevent Israeli ship from unloading at US port *
For the first time in US history, a peaceful protest was able to stop
workers from unloading an Israeli cargo ship on Sunday, 20 June, in the San
Francisco Bay area. From 5:30am until 7pm, social justice activists and
labor union organizers blocked and picketed several entrances at the Port of
Oakland, preventing two shifts of longshoremen with the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to come to work and unload the Israeli
Zim Lines cargo ship.