Anti-Israel culture war of British liberal elites is not a grassroots movement

Too many of our leading British academic and cultural institutions are in the thrall of left-wing activists, but anti-Semitism is far from rife at the British grassroots

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The NUJ has been a prominent backer of the boycott
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Peter C. Glover
On 5 July 2012 09:08

It's not just Hamas rockets that regularly strike Israeli interests these days. It is just as likely to be the long-range politicized 'ordnance' of British liberal elites. Given, that is, the British Left's penchant for cultural boycotts against Israel.

Over the past few years the unions for British journalists, architects, doctors, even the Synod of the Church of England, have all sought boycotts or censure motions against Israel. In 2007 British academics added themselves to the list - imposing a boycott of relations between British and Israeli universities at a conference of the British University and Colleges Union (UCU).

In 2009, after yet another violent spat with Hamas in Gaza, Britain’s leftist culture warriors again took to the streets. In March, 400 British academics lined up outside London’s Science Museum to protest against workshops merely celebrating the achievements of Israeli Scientists.

A letter to the museum’s organizers, written by Professor Rosenhead from the London School of Economics and signed by 150 academics, said, “This is a dubious venture at the best of times but at this particular moment, after the offensive in Gaza, it’s particularly insensitive.” It went on to claim that the seven academic institutions involved in the workshops were “up to their necks” in Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In April the same year, London’s Bloomsbury Theatre was forced to cancel a Zionist Federation event that included an act put on by an Israeli Defence force dance troupe.  That May, the Anglican Communion, yet again, condemned Israel for allegedly creating “severe hardship” for Palestinians.  In the same month Liverpool city council cut funding for a festival that was to include an anti-Semitic play after the organisers rejected the chance to include a response play by Richard Sterling. And May ended with the hypocritical victimization of a young British Jewish film director at the hands of international British film director Ken Loach and others.  The anti-Semitic nastiness of the British elites – every bit a match for the vileness of the leftie Hollywood glitterati – is exemplified by this particularly illogical spat.  

Prior to his appearance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), Loach put out a statement, ostensibly under the auspices of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. In it Loach rounded on the Israeli embassy’s funding the attendance at the EIFF of the 31 year-old Israeli film-maker Tali Shalom Ezer.  

“I’m sure many filmmakers will be as horrified as I am to learn that the Edinburgh International Film Festival is accepting money from Israel,” said Loach. Loach went on to call for “all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation, and stay away.”

Such strong views expressed by a leading light at the festival, was sufficient to prompt the EIFF to hand back the small sum involved, however, the EIFF did subsequently agree to fund the film-makers attendance themselves. For the record, Ezer’s film, ‘Surrogate’, was a romance set in a sex therapy clinic – hardly the stuff of frontline politics. Ezer was simply targeted by Loach because she was from Israel.  None of this bigotry is anything new.

A short history of boycotts

In April, 2007 the National Union of Journalists, which represents 40,000 British journalists, voted by meagre 66 to 54  to call for a boycott of Israeli goods demanding that the British government impose sanctions on Israel after denouncing Israel for its "military adventures" in Gaza and Lebanon. 

The conservative Daily Telegraph suitably skewered the move by journalists as “brilliantly singling out the only country in the region with a free press for pariah treatment”.  Even former Guardian reporter and Yahoo Europe news director, Lloyd Shepherd, was moved to respond cryptically: "I look forward to similar boycotts of Saudi oil (abuse of women and human rights), Turkish desserts (limits to freedom of speech) and, of course, the immediate replacement of all stationery in the NUJ’s offices which has been made or assembled in China." They didn’t come.

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