Comment: The hypocrisy of boycotting Israel

Boycotters of Israel are often silent about greater violations of human rights



Last week over 300 British university academics decided to boycott Israel over ‘commitment to Palestinian rights’. The writers vowed to maintain the boycott ‘until Israel complies with international law, and respects human rights’, in a pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) demonstration against violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

Similarly the European Union is being pushed by NGOs to boycott all Israeli products made in ‘Judea and Samaria’ (West Bank) as ‘part of a larger economic war’.

The rise in Palestinian knife attacks and ensuing Israeli retaliation has left 11 Israelis and 69 Palestinians dead in the latest insurgency, mirroring the historically skewed number of casualties in the conflict. Those calling for Israeli boycott cite this numerical disparity, while calling out ‘apartheid state’ Israel’s ‘illegal occupation’ of Palestinian territory.

While it’s hard to argue against the discrepancy in force and violence, it should be equally hard to counter that violations of a much greater degree are being exercised by states around the world. And so one wonders why those jumping the gun on Israeli boycott remain silent on other states’ brutalities.

For instance, no one seems interested in boycotting China for its ‘illegal occupation’ of Tibet, or its blatant anti-Muslim policies in its largest province Xinjiang. There are not many protests against China’s ‘Islamophobia’ when it bars Muslims from fasting during Ramadan, or bans beards and ‘Islamic dressing’.

China’s ‘cultural genocide’ uses the actions of fringe Uighur radicals as justification for a broader state clampdown against all Muslims. The province itself has been occupied territory since 1949, with a separatist movement for self-recognition brimming over for decades.

For those wanting to demonstrate against colonial occupation, the recently signed Sino-Pak agreement over the $46 billion economic corridor should be a good rallying cause, considering it connects Xinjiang with Pakistan-occupied Balochistan, primarily benefiting Islamabad and Beijing. Just like China usurped Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (Xinjiang), Pakistan took over Balochistan immediately after the Indo-Pak partition.

Balochistan is witnessing its fourth insurgency since 1947 as it continues fighting for autonomy. Meanwhile, Pakistan Army continues to lift and dump Baloch citizens at will, in one of the goriest examples of human rights violations in the world, which has left over 23,000 missing persons.

Another mutual Sino-Pak occupation was that of the Kashmir region. While Beijing majorly withdrew, the occupied region has become a point scoring tool for India and Pakistan, with not much heed paid to locals’ rights. Even though the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is still relatively peaceful, albeit without actual autonomy, India’s only Muslim-majority state has suffered savage human rights abuses since 1947.

The recent surge in Hindu radicalism, following right-wing BJP’s return to power in India, has seen Hindu mobs lynching Muslims over beef, as the state ups the ante on torture in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s ruling Awami Party is acquiescing to a killing spree targeting atheist and secular bloggers because it isn’t sure about the viewpoint of the ‘moderate Muslims’ – a significant vote bank. A little eastwards Myanmar is engaged in ethnic cleansing of indigenous Rohingya Muslims.

In addition to these South (east) Asians countries, another broader category of ‘Muslim world’ witnesses mass human rights violations. These 13 countries punish atheism by death – all Muslim majority states. While multiple factors – including Western imperialism – have marred progress in the Muslim world, most of these states have their own decades-long policies to blame for their volatility.

These include democracies and Western allies like Turkey, which occupies Cyprus and targets Kurds in the garb of the anti-ISIS fight, and Pakistan whose multi-pronged apartheid belittles Israel’s ostensible apartheid. In fact the uncanny semblance between the ugliest shades of Pakistan and Israel should be worthy of some attention from the anti-Israel protestors.

While the majority of the Muslim world doesn’t recognise the Israeli state anyway, all Muslims who seriously consider boycott as a means of protest, should actually self-reflect and start with Muslim countries. This year’s Hajj stampede death toll in Saudi Arabia should’ve instigated a mass boycott movement of the Saudi kingdom and the Muslim pilgrimage itself.

None of these wrongs make Israel’s injustices right. However, a complete lack of nuance and perspective in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict obviously aggravates the historical crisis.

While the Palestinian clerics and leaders’ incitement to violence is given a pass, and genocidal Islamists like Hamas are deemed freedom fighters, while global activists don’t even know – or care – about what’s going on in Balochistan, Kashmir, Xinjiang or Kurdistan, it’s easy to understand the common Israelis’ sense of victimhood.

Blatant depiction of Israel as evil and Palestinians as victims strengthens right-wings (Likud and Hamas) in both territories. Paranoid citizens worrying about their security don’t care much for ideologies, as Erdogan-led AKP’s return to a majority in this week’s Turkish elections testifies.  

Anyone who doesn’t accept a two-state answer to the conflict can’t obviously be a part of the Palestinian solution. The same is true for all those who paint either of the two sides as the sole culprit.

An Israeli-Palestinian peaceful solution can only be reached via strengthening the inward-looking moderates who acknowledge and highlight their own side’s wrongs. An Israeli boycott that dubs the Jewish state as the ultimate evil would silence actual peacemakers on both sides.

 Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a Friday Times journalist. Follow him on Twitter

227 Responses to “Comment: The hypocrisy of boycotting Israel”

  1. NicoleS

    Netanyahu didn’t say it wasn’t Hitler who suggested the final solution, although he did exaggerate “the old Arab guy”‘s (Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) influence.

  2. NicoleS

    Oh do pay attention. The Palestinians think, because they have been wound up by their leaders, that the Israelis are going to stop them praying on the Temple Mount, although the Israelis have no intention of doing anything of the sort.

  3. NicoleS

    No, the Arabs invaded Israel. Several times.

  4. Ian Harris

    The usual rag-bag of leftie lunacy

  5. Woo11

    ‘But that was a long time ago since when Israel has developed into a liberal democracy…’ – a liberal democracy not quite so good for Israeli Palestinians (look it up) or theft of land over and over again (look it up!)

  6. Ian Harris

    I have to admit I don’t really understand the rights and wrongs of Israel’s ‘annexation’ of parts of the West Bank. What I do know is that the Palestinians have done very little with their land, whilst Israel has turned a desert into productive farmland. What I object to is the demonisation of Israel which has far more virtues than faults, as opposed to a negative terrorist regime which denies any possibilty of advancement to its own people quite apart from the appalling fundamentalist religion they seek to apply, and their stated and re-stated desire to wipe Israel off the map. Israel, on the other hand, seceded Gaza to the Palestinians, a larger give-back than any amount of land the new settlements may have taken, and are now suffering for it. Whatever Israel’s perceived faults, how can one support a terrorist state against a liberal democratic state seeking only to defend itself against attack from all sides? It is pure anti-Semitism masquerading as bleeding heart, .

  7. Woo11

    ‘second class dhimmis….’ you mean like the Israeli state treats Israeli Palestinians? Little better than living under apartheid. And so many Palestinians who have to undergo the indignity of going through the border posts every day to work, as you say as “second class dhimmis” inside what was their own country, their cities, their shared Jerusalem….disprove me, I’d be happy to hear the good news….addressing Terry Kelly as a “genocidal anti-semite” – not only is it a false charge but the attempted emotional blackmail doesn’t work. Additionally, look at the measures and the magnitude of the Romani genocide – Porajmos as they would call it – exactly the same measures were taken against them, and though figures are difficult to ascertain with certainty due to their culture for oral rather than written history, at the very minimum 24% and possibly upwards of 70% of the entire Romani population of Europe were slaughtered by the Nazi state, similar to the Jewish population, and then there are all the other groups. Out of 11 million Europeans killed by the Nazi state, 5 million were not Jewish. But it was reported as a Jewish Holocaust, and everyone who objects to how Israeli Gvts have acted are called anti-semite by some such as you, though not all Jews would agree. Should each persecuted group should have its own “genocidal” slur ready? But to get to where we are now, the Israeli Gvt is doing itself no favours where neighbouring countries are concerned – it’s a big mess, and the Israeli Gvt must take some responsibility and act. Just as the force of Zionism was, partly, a reaction to persecution – so are the Islamists of today, they see the continued alliance of Israel with Gvts who arbitrarily declare war on Muslim countries. …. its not all Arabs Lamia, but extremism seems to have the loudest voice – personally I’m sick of it, all of it. Not same but equal … why can we not just live like that?


    The main thing is the Israelis know what is in store for them if they weaken. Terry is a bit old now and will not make the grade of Camp Guard!

  9. Woo11

    When I say Israeli Palestinians I’m speaking of those living within what Israel has declared its own land. Not West Bank Palestinians. And I’ve heard the argument of turning it in to productive land blah blah, they used to say that in all the tourist brochures and trips when I was there about 40 years ago. Firstly many helped them to do that, and they had to if they were set on claiming that land, in order to survive, what you are ignoring is the massive issues pertaining to the continued agricultural survival of what’s left of “Palestinian land” in the West Bank: water theft, land theft, burning down of olive groves, farmers being shot at during harvest time – many documented reports by international observers about that. Settlerisation of the West Bank has not stopped – it’s absolutely still a live and on going issue, settlers see no separate Palestinian land. As for Gaza, dont even go there! You object to a demonisation of what you say is Israel while you yourself use the same methods to speak of the Palestinians! And so it goes on, and nothing changes….

  10. Jane Miller

    However hanging out with Israeli terrorists would be fine?


    Tzatz. Best comment in a very long time and I note Terry has not responded. His Vatican was up to its eyeballs in the slaughter of the Jews yet he pretends he is a different type of Catholic. The Vatican spin machine since 1945 has been on overdrive to cover up their complicity in genocide.

  12. Terry Kelly

    You are justifying the war crimes of Israel on what the situation was according to you over 2,000 years ago, you are a disgrace to decent jews everywhere.

  13. Terry Kelly

    You would like people to believe that Iran and Hamas want to kill every Jew and that is a massive lie. The maps tell the true story, compare 1947 Palestine with today, you have no defence for this. That is why you are murdering so many people, killing more and more unarmed people does not mean that you are right.

  14. Terry Kelly

    People who deliberately and with malice aforethought murder helpless children and occupy a country that has no army, air force or navy are a sick bunch.

  15. Terry Kelly

    Calling people who disagree with you anti semites is a very weak argument and is is getting weaker by the day.


    Terry, stop this porkies from yourself, you know they would wipe out the Jews and I suspect you would revel in this. And I have never murdered anyone even here in Scotland.


    Decent Jews are those that fight for their families and survival. No more holocausts by the Christians and Islamic Fascists.

  18. Lamia

    I am not remotely Jewish, and it doesn’t say much for you that you assume that someone who defends Israel against your calumnies must be Jewish.

  19. Lamia

    I am not Jewish.

    You, however, are today yet another suspended Labour Councillor. 🙂

  20. Terry Kelly

    I have no quarrel with the Jewish religion, my quarrel is with the state of Israel And the zionists who run that state. I am not anti Semitic in any way.

  21. Terry Kelly

    I am a victim of a very obvious zionist smear and I look forward to the enquiry.

  22. Terry Kelly

    I didn’t say you were Jewish, I said you were a disgrace to decent Jews everywhere.

  23. Terry Kelly

    Decent Jews are not zionist Israelis, decent Jews to not persecute innocent Palestinians.

  24. Lamia

    How could i be a disgrace to them if I was not one of them.

    How’s it down in that hole of yours, Councillor Kelly? Would you like another spade?

  25. Anton Deque

    “Decent Jews’ I suppose are the ones who gas themselves.

  26. Terry Kelly

    I don’t follow you.

  27. Anton Deque

    I should hope not.

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