What's this blog about?

As a result of a combination of factors, culminating in the shameful UCU boycott-in-waiting of Israel, I've grown alienated & silenced, working here in one of the UK's finest universities all the while feeling like a Boycotted British Academic, alone in facing some dilemmas of the moment. In this generally chilling environment, it's hard to speak out and be heard, and hear others...and I find myself writing this blog.

What's it about? At present, it seems to me like a rather tortured articulation of the state of being silenced & mute, beyond words; struggling for the right even to use them, for a voice which can still be heard. When it started, all those successive boycott motions ago, I'd hoped it would function as a blog forum of support & solidarity amongst academics similarly-situated to BBA, to help us break through the boycott movement's silencing strategies. That hope remains notwithstanding this silence... Perhaps it lives in trying to articulate beyond the filter of these coping mechanisms of old (denial, avoidance, withdrawal); by way of this labour of finding the words, this voice...
[A forum of sorts has also arisen in the blog's comments, in which others have adopted the BBA moniker in case of need (e.g.
and here exposing the racist hate speech which masquerades as UCU solidarity activism).]

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Of Boycotts & Blaming

Engage give publicity to a dreadful piece by a boycott-agitator. (It's critical of Engage so I guess that's why it's cross-posted.) In it, we find many foolish, weak arguments but I'll just focus on the one which literally drives me insane whenever I encounter it.

It's the oft-repeated claim that the anti-boycott campaign gives the

implication that Israel’s Jewish identity should protect it from criticism

I fail to see how this implication arises out of the anti-boycott movement. Why can't people get the simplest of distinctions, between proportionate criticism, on the one hand, and demonization and scapegoating, on the other?

This sort of nonsense claim is crawling all over the I/P debate, even making it, in another incarnation, into UCU motion 30 itself, as previously discussed. This is frankly dangerous & anti-racists really need to get a grip before they completely render vacuous values for which we've long struggled.

Good, at least, that even Graun's CiF didn't see fit to publish this (he's been on there in the past, in similarly infuriating form). Perhaps Graun will start having some standards, however low? Perhaps it'll stop publishing pieces such as this which are based on a complete falsification of history and fail to make a single argument with the slightest cogency in favour of a boycott? Miracles might happen... Not.

I think it would be fitting for me to answer this boycott-agitator by reproducing a letter I came across recently. It was sent to Irshad Manji who has predictably suffered simply for the fact that she does not engage in the blame-game being played out by these bonkers boycotters:

The Serenity Prayer for Muslims…

God grant Muslims the serenity to accept the things we can not change, the power to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity to accept the things we cannot change…

Israel clearly is not going anywhere. Muslims can either accept this and put our efforts toward improving our societies. Or, fueled by the prevalent Muslim hatred of Israel, we can allow violence to simply become the “Muslim way” of dealing with any problem, calling it resistance, and placing tribal pride above the lives and souls of our children.

Power to change the things we can…

While this fighting is often thought to be the only way to empower Palestinians, and even all Muslims, it’s really nothing more than the power to self-destruct. Our goals of creating a better life for Palestinians and Muslims are not being accomplished. Instead, life is becoming unbearable across the Arab world. Is that power?

Muslims are not powerless. We have the power to do what no one else ultimately can. We can stop the violence. But we need to convince other Muslims that this behavior is vile, rather than telling non-Muslims that this is not Islam.

Stopping this strain from flowing through our faith and cultures doesn’t mean that bad feelings won’t remain and that Palestinians won’t continue to feel that Israel has humiliated them. It means that as Palestinians get back on the road to dignity, trust will be gained and they’ll eventually be able to give their children something to to look forward to: life.

This is the only chance that Muslims have for gaining the respect we crave from the rest of the world, and it is the only way the Middle East will ever become a viable part of the global community.

Do Muslims value our pride more than our children? Does Islam not have the power within it to inspire us to create just, safe societies? If Islam means peace’ then we should make it, rather than waiting for someone else to first take blame.

Wisdom to know the difference…

One would expect it to be Muslims in the West, enjoying safety, opportunity and freedom, who would have the most wisdom in dealing with our current state of affairs. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather, many Muslims in America and Europe instigate the hatred of Israel while doing little to demand an end to Islamist violence. While done in the spirit of supporting their Muslim brothers and sisters, this actually only prolongs the bloodshed and sentences Palestinians in particular to even more violence, indignity and death.

While Muslims in the West are pushing for Islam to gain better recognition, and sometimes even for Sharia law to enter the court system so that we may feel validated in our faith, others within the Muslim world, Afghanistan for example, realize there is a price to be paid for someone else’s version of Islamic law. (And it will always be someone else’s version). It’s noteworthy that there appears to be more outspoken reformist Muslims in Arab countries than there are in the West, because they are the ones paying the price for this violence.

Muslims face the choice to promote violence (which will never improve our situation) or end it and its instigation. It’s frightening, but we are actually the ones with all the power. We can use it to hold the world hostage by allowing Islamic extremists to be a continuing threat, Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghanis ultimately paying the biggest price. On the other hand, we can exercise our power to finally bring an end to this insanity, start the Middle East on the road to recovery, build the productive societies that we boast have been Islam’s legacy, and save Islam from what’s looking like an unspeakable fate.


Few are more in need of the serenity prayer than Muslims are. We’re likely not alcoholics, but we’re becoming addicted to violence as a means to a non-end. It’s time we hosted our own intervention, while the Middle East still has a chance to become more than poor and Islam still has a chance to mean peace.

Written by Amina Khan, Boston via Irshad Manji


The Contentious Centrist said...

"It's the oft-repeated claim that the anti-boycott campaign gives the

implication that Israel’s Jewish identity should protect it from criticism"

And then he goes on to assault this very identity by fabricating the outrageous new charge, hitherto unheard of, that Israel subjected the Palestinian population to "death marches" in 1948! Thus he scores on two fronts: while he freely slams into Jewish identity by hijacking its core Holocaust pain, he pins down the anti-boycotters' arms by disallowing them to use the memory of the Holocaust in order to rebut his charge. If they are outraged by his use of these historically loaded terms, then he is proven right: That Israel's Jewish idenitity with its Holocaust memories, is used to protect it from criticism. That the criticism is nothing but a defamation and blood libel is quite besides the point.

Seems to me the malign imagination for inventing new defamations is simply inexhaustible with these people.

Boycotted British Academic said...

Hi Noga,

As ever, your take is spot on. You should've posted this on Engage too, to join the utter defeat the author experienced on the thread over there. This is small comfort since his is a truly frightening & malign approach, as you say...

I was answering you on here and then my comment got so long that I'll turn into a blog post which I'll try to publish soon. Hope it doesn't just keep company to the 60 odd posts on there currently in draft! My life seems to be in draft...both here on this blog and in regard to those damned deadlines!

Be well,