Another Boycott Debate

Over at Reset DOC, Mitchell Cohen, Andrew Arato, Ernesto Ferrero, Mohamed Salmawy and Daniele Castellani Perelli debate the boycott the Book Fair in Turin for asking Israel to be its guest of honour. Cohen:

This campaign is wrong-headed, often slanderous, and betrays the best ideals of the left and democracy.

I say this, indeed I would insist on this, as an American leftist who has in fact opposed many Israeli policies, especially the settlements, for decades. When these anti-Israeli campaigners hiss at “the Zionists,” they remind me of American neo-conservatives hissing at “leftists.” The hiss itself should tell you that there is something wrong. And note the fact that attempts in Britain to boycott Israeli universities were thwarted because they contravened anti-discrimination laws. From a political point of view, the efforts were also ridiculous. Israeli universities have been major bastions of dovish sentiment. Israel’s 60th anniversary should be celebrated and Israeli-Palestinian peace should be sought at the same time.


This was not the right time to make Israel the guest of honor at a book fair, unless Israeli Jewish and Arab writers were put into the center of attention. With that said, the boycott is stupid. Why boycott precisely the writers who are critical of government policies? Yes, let us support the Israel’s right to exist. But a state is a people, a territory and a coercive organization. There is no question about the identity of the coercive organization, and we should accept it as such. But should we all accept every Jew (by the very uncertain standards of the Law of Return and subsequent interpretations) to be part of the people of Israel, wherever they live, whatever their religion, when people born in the present borders (1948, 1967, 2008) cannot be because of their ethnicity or religion?