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September 30, 2009 – 9:37 am10 Comments

Letters to the EditorBDS unjust and counterproductive

We write in response to the two letters published in The Australian on Monday 21 September by Antony Loewenstein and Jake Lynch, supporting the call for a boycott of certain Israeli universities as part of a more general Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In our view, the call for a boycott and the entire BDS concept is counterproductive, marginalises and disempowers the forces for moderation and compromise within Israel, and reinforces the position of the rejectionists on both sides.

It is simply incorrect for Loewenstein to state that Palestinians “overwhelmingly” support the BDS strategy. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, for example, has been careful not to adopt a position on BDS because of its potential adverse consequences for Palestinian workers.

If people want peace with justice for BOTH the Palestinians and Israelis, then positive measures based on an understanding of the narratives of both peoples are needed. These include co-operative ventures of the kind that currently exist between the Israeli and Palestinian Trade Union movements, an end to all racist incitement against Jews in Palestinian schools and media, stopping new settlements encroaching into the West Bank and the removal of the illegal hilltop settlements by the Israeli government, progressive removal of checkpoints (which is already happening), improving the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and a return to negotiations.

The moral authority of movements like BDS is undermined by their very one-sidedness. They highlight the suffering of civilians on only one side of the conflict, to the exclusion of the suffering of civilians on the other side. This has been the approach of Lynch’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, which invariably promotes the ferociously anti-Israel views of people like Loewenstein and John Docker. Both of these commentators make no bones about their desire for Israel to cease to exist but have been conspicuously silent about the likely fate of the Jewish majority now living there if that were to happen. It is probably futile to hope that Lynch will take a more balanced approach when he organizes his Centre’s “peace research” conference for 2010.

For over 60 years international law has called for the existence of two states for two peoples. Israeli and Palestinian polling over a sustained period consistently indicates that this is also what a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want. The denial of self-determination and sovereignty to either people has no international legitimacy at all.

Inaccurate, polemical and emotive statements of the kind made by Loewenstein and Lynch merely serve to polarize people and create a climate of hate. As such, their statements are impediments to the cause of peace with justice which they purport to promote.

Associate Professor Suzanne Rutland, OAM, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Mark Baker, Monash University, Melbourne

Doctor Yoke Berry, University of Wollongong

Professor Allan Borowski, La Trobe University, Melbourne

Professor Andrew Markus, Monash University, Melbourne

Doctor Julie Kalman, The University of New South Wales

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