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).]

Sunday 23 December 2007

The Bank(rupt)sy of 'Solidarity'

When I first heard, a couple of weeks ago, that the British graffiti artist Banksy was off to Bethlehem to paint a section of the wall, I thought: how typical. Here's an artist whose country is presently involved in not one but two occupations and he goes off to show solidarity with the occupied somewhere else entirely - someone else's occupied!

It's par for the course over here in Boycotting Britannia. As we know, Palestinians are the totems of the world's suffering and the Israelis, the ultimate bad guys who, alone in this universe, attract boycotts & so forth.

We know why Banksy was likely to choose a wall in Bethlehem over, say, Baghdad: think security, think basic amenities and it's not hard to see why this would be a good deal more attractive an option for these 'brave souls' in the international solidarity crowd (not to mention the press opps it affords since our journos are apparently of equivalent bravery, going by the sick obsessions of places like CiF). We know, from experience, that these solidarity types don't want to suffer personally. Otherwise our bonkers boycotters might have suggested boycotting their own academic institutions instead of Israel's, on account of our occupations (plural) and the absence of any of our universities having "publicly condemned what is being done" in our names as part of those occupations - or, if that defies logic (boycotting of self), they might at least have suggested boycotting the academic institutions of the USA. That won't do, though, oh no - think of all those pay-checks & all those research grants they'd have to boycott & all those prestigious academic conferences and journals from which they'd have to be excluded.

What I hadn't anticipated was that Banksy's gesture would spectacularly backfire, perceived not as showing solidarity but denigration, and causing widespread offence to Palestinians in the process.

This is one of the offending pictures Banksy painted on the wall:

Palestinians didn't much appreciate being likened to a donkey in Banksy's representation here of IDF checks on identity papers. In Arabic - as indeed in Hebrew - the word is also used to mean idiot! The upshot is that the picture is no longer - this is how the relevant section of the wall looks today:

Given what I've seen of our solidarity movement here in Boycotting Britannia, I should really have known better and anticipated this. What with the experience of this whole sorry story of the academic boycott, we know very well that these people are all desperate to do something but they don't really want to get involved. They don't want to engage. Instead, they like to reduce the situation to one of good & evil; they want to have someone who can be blamed for everything. What they don't realize, however, is that this constructs an "infantilizing and dehumanizing representation of Palestinians" - the sort of construction perceived in Banksy's representation of Palestinians here which has so caused offence. In ignorance, they opt for the most inappropriate forms of solidarity. Like proposing a racist boycott of Israeli academics!


The Contentious Centrist said...

It makes you wonder at how irony-challenged Palestinians are, if they found this painting offensive! I thought it was quite amusing and clear in its message that Israelis are paranoid bullies who would suspect even a hapless donkey. Subtlety of this kind does not quite cut it with the target audience. They need to see graphic gore and brutality that will re- inforce their sense of being the ultimate historical victims in the world.

Funny story. Congratulations.

Boycotted British Academic said...

Thanks for the compliment, Noga!


Anonymous said...


has diddums been boycotted by the nasty people??????

Matt said...

no posts in a while?

Boycotted British Academic said...

Hey Matt!

Thanks for inquiring. You and Gordon Brown got me blogging again. Thank you!

I've been enjoying your blog. You're really finding your voice, writing posts which are really tight and effective. It's most encouraging to see. Perhaps it'll happen to me too soon - meaning, hopefully, soon I'll find a way to express all of this as well as you.

Keep bloggin!

And be well,

Matt said...


And most glad to see you're back.