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June 12, 2007

Financial Times Fears Israel Boycott Might Help Netanyahu

The Financial Times of London has come out in opposition to the British University and College Union (UCU) resolution promoting a boycott of Israel, but in large part out of a concern that the boycott might work to Israel's advantage.

The Financial Times offers “five solid reasons” in its editorial, “Boycotting Israel” published on May 31 for opposing the boycott resolution passed on May 30 . Three of the five reasons are tactical considerations that reflect a fear that the boycott might backfire.

To ensure that no one would accuse the Financial Times of being overly sympathetic to the Jewish state, the second sentence of the editorial clarifies where the paper stands:

“No reader of these columns would be in any doubt about the Financial Times’ view of the occupation and the continuing and expanding colonisation of Palestinian land; illegal, immoral, self-defeating for Israel and incendiary for the Middle East.”

Having firmly established its bonafides as a critic of Israel, the Financial Times offers its reasons for opposing the boycott:

1. Israel’s academics are the source of much of the criticism of Israeli policy.

Boycotting them is counterproductive in their view.

2. The boycott is ill-timed. The initiative will interfere with burgeoning efforts to challenge what the editorial describes as the “bullying” Jewish lobby’s control over American policy.

The editors attribute American support of Israel to a nefarious Jewish lobby rather than acknowledge the strong support of the American public for Israel that is reflected in poll after poll. For example, a recent poll found Israel is favored over the Palestinians by a lopsided ratio of 10 : 1 and that Americans oppose Israel ceding land to the Palestinians by a ratio of 5 :1 (McLaughlin and Associates, March 25, 2007).

3. The boycott may backfire by handing a “political gift” to Israel’s “irredentist right” who will be able to pin the charge of anti-Semitism on the boycotters.

If boycott supporter Pamela Hardyment's reported comments on a Jewish community Web site in the UK are any indication of the sentiments of those promoting boycotts, the charge of anti-Semitism may be warranted.

The editorial expresses the concern that the ideological successor (in their view) of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, “modern paladin” Benjamin Netanyahu, stands to gain. The mention of Jabotinsky and the Revisionist Zionists in the final paragraph is most telling of the viewpoint prevailing at the Financial Times. Jabotinsky was the bitterest opponent of English policy in Mandatory Palestine - a policy which opposed the emergence of a Jewish state in the 1930s and 1940s by restricting Jewish immigration and using its military might to seal off the escape routs for desperate Jews facing extermination during World War II.

The editorial also opposes the boycott on the grounds of academic freedom and because of the obvious double standard involved in singling out Israel for approbation. Noticeably absent, however, from the list of reasons to oppose the boycott is any mention of Israel’s status as an embattled democracy that fosters free speech and free thought in a region of the world where such freedom is rare.

Posted by SS at June 12, 2007 04:04 PM

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