Caroline Lucas defends the Boycott in Jewish Socialist magazine


Financial and moral support from the United States means that Israel has been able to act with relative immunity, hiding behind its incendiary claim that all who criticise its policies are anti Semitic. This does a great disservice to the many Jewish people who support the principle of universal human rights, and who oppose the current policies of the Israeli state.”

Full text of her article entitled: No green light for occupiers, here.

David Hirsh discusses Caroline’s use of the Livingstone Formulation, here.


11 thoughts on “Caroline Lucas defends the Boycott in Jewish Socialist magazine

  1. jim jay

    Thanks for pointing me towards this thoughtful and sensitively worded article. I was particularly stuck by the following.

    “If there were an easy answer to this particular issue, then the conflict between Israel and Palestine that has for so long defined politics in the Middle East, would already have been resolved.

    “The Green Party is, like the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, united in a desire for a peaceful solution to the complex set of conflicts in the region, and we call for an end to violence by both sides. We recognise that in any political or diplomatic endeavour, there will be disagreement about specific means, but the desired end – a just peace – is undisputed.

    “…A just peace settlement with Palestine which translates into real justice for Palestinians, which listens to the many progressive Jewish voices in Israel and elsewhere, and thus seeks an end to the violence perpetrated by both sides, will be the key to establishing a long lasting peace in the region – and a safer, more stable world for all.”

  2. leigh

    Im puzzled by caroline’s reference to the united states in this article – why does she feel the need to invoke the spectre of the american ‘bogeyman’ in her latest assault on israel? ( i wish she was half as vocal on windpower!)

    I fear that in citing the US in this way all she is succeeding in doing is giving succour to those deranged anti-israeli conspiracy theorists who mistakenly believe that a) there is an all powerful ‘jewish lobby’ in america that all politicians must defer too or b) israel is some kind of US military ‘proxy’ in the region and exists only to protect american ‘interests’ there! Both of these claims are of course fallacious nonsense!

    Firstly israel is not the only recipient of sizeable amounts of aid from the US in the region. Egypt also recieves a significant amount of aid from the US – for example between 1978 and 2000 egypt recieved $38 billion from the US in military aid alone..While in the same period the US supplied egypt with almost $1 billion a year in economic assistance!

    Secondly israel is not a particularly useful military ally to the United states! The US has never fought alongside the Israel Defense Forces in any battles. Israel does not fight any battles on the US’s behalf.

    Thirdly the U.S. does not base troops or equipment in Israel. For its military ‘adventures’ in the Middle East the U.S. has used aircraft carriers and bases in muslim countries such as Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc. In effect there is no conceivable conflict in which having Israeli assistance would mean the difference between victory and defeat for the united states.

    Fourthly israel has no oil and – unlike some muslim states – played no part whatsoever in recent US military campaigns in the region aimed at securing its oil supplies (the first and second gulf wars)

    The second part of of the mythologising of the US’s relationship with Israel is of course the usual red herring that all US politicians have to ‘court the jewish vote’ in order to get elected. People of the jewish faith make up just 5% of the US population – in fact the US state dept calculates that by 2010 America’s muslim population will exceed its jewish citizens! Fact is jewish voters account for a very small proportion of the US electorate – numerically they are not a important ‘electoral bloc’.

    Has it never occured to regular critics like caroline who seem to believe that US aid to israel is the chief cause of all the region’s ills that perhaps the major reason why the US is as supportive of israel as it is – and has been for over 50 years under democrats and republicans – is that many american people feel a strong sense of sympathy with israel as a result of the deliberate effort by the Nazis to exterminate all jews (and perhaps too out of a sense of shame for refusing many jewish refugees entry into the US when fleeing Nazis persecution) In the same way that perhaps – after the US – germany is israel’s second largets aid donor!

    I suspect it has not as it does not fit into their blinkered and naive world view!

    Perhaps these recent comments from possibly the most progressive US presidential candidate since robert kennedy will give them a little more insight

  3. Alan Howe

    Dear Jim,

    Thoughtful and sensitive it may be but it is also very carefully worded. Caroline [if it is her own work] writes very well.

    In addition to the points that Jim highlights these are mine:

    “…this is not a policy which attacks Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 boundaries, ..”

    This indicates to me a subtle rejection of the so-called single state solution and a clear rejection of other comments I have seen elsewhere like “Either you support it [Israel] being crushed by popular resistance or you defacto support the genocide of arabs.”

    “… Israel has been able to act with relative immunity, hiding behind its incendiary claim that all who criticise its policies are anti Semitic. This does a great disservice to the many Jewish people who support the principle of universal human rights, and who oppose the current policies of the Israeli state.”

    This is saying that it is the State of Israel that is using the anti-Semitic card. This may be so, but I would like to see the evidence.

    What it does not say is that the anti-boycotters are using the anti-Semitic card.

    My personal opposition to a boycott has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. I just think it is plain wrong. It is, however one may feel it is justified, an act of taking sides and draws the “sider” into the conflict making them part of the problem rather than the solution.

  4. miravogel

    Caroline says “The Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories is causing untold suffering across the region”.

    I think it’s true that the suffering is untold, and I always find it bizarre how little I know about Israel and Palestine as a result of the constant and long-standing debate Caroline welcomes. There’s been much insistence that Palestinians are suffering but in very little detail. You have to ask yourself, how does skipping over the detail help the boycott campaign? I believe Palestinians are blighted by this occupation, but I don’t think that Israel’s acts are cruel and gratuitous as pro-boycotters would have us believe. People who want to tell Israel that Israel has the wrong approach to security are going to have to act to strengthen the progressive parts of Israeli and Palestinian society, not boycott Israel.

    Further to Alan’s final para above, my objection to the boycott has a lot to do with antisemitism. People who hate (rather than merely feel critical of) Israel often take it out on Jews, and the boycott campaign either actively (through demonisation and caricature) or passively (through failing to distinguish itself convincingly from Israel-hate) contributes to hatred of Israel because boycotters depend on representing only one side of the story. Other than that, I have no confidence that boycotting Israel will end the occupation because I don’t think that the occupation is a symptom of Israel’s inhumanity and ruthlessness. Under these circumstances, boycotting seems to me likely to force those countries we designate as pariahs into trade with other regimes regarded as pariahs. It’s happened before.

  5. jim jay

    Alan – I agree that it is carefully worded, if only all articles on this subject were so well crafted!

    I expect she does reject some of the arguments that are part of the “pro-Palestinian” camp. I think one of the mistakes it’s very easy to make on both sides of the argument is to think there is only one opposing view, which leads to some rather sterile discussions sometimes.

    For instance, it’s not nescesary (spelling?) to be in favour of the wiping out of Israel to oppose Israeli policy and it isn’t true that all of Israel’s supporters think the IDf can do no wrong. It shouldn’t need saying but sometimes it does.

    Mira – “There’s been much insistence that Palestinians are suffering but in very little detail.” I don’t think that’s quite right to be honest. If anything I’ve found the details of the effect of road blockades, economic hardships, water, education, et al to be a constant theme so i was surprised to see you say this. Perhaps we look in different places, but thanks for the well laid out, and rational, exposition of your position.

  6. miravogel

    Jim Jay, these are indeed important details. But your implication that the *effects* of the road blockades, hardships, education are all that matters suggests that you assume that these things could be repealed very easily without detriment to Israel – that the occupation is gratuitous. If this is the implication then, to put it bluntly, it’s preposterous (I don’t intend offence but I want to make the point strongly).

    One small example – I am convinced that a number of the checkpoints could disappear – not because a boycotter told me, but because I read a report on a number of specific checkpoints by people I’d accept as qualified to make an assessment. Boycotters don’t tend to draw on this kind of inclusive appraisal of the situation because it implicitly allows that, say, some of the other checkpoints are justified, and this acknowledgement of Israel’s side of the story doesn’t fit with the boycott narrative. And yet I’ve heard from a number of different sources which I don’t have to hand that it is the WB checkpoints which have prevented suicide bombings in the ongoing intifada. So where does this leave us on checkpoints?

    (Uh – let me head a proportion of readers off at the pass: it’s not right to blame Israel alone for the intifada – read some of the accounts of veteran negotiators instead. Yossi Beilin’s The Road To Geneva is illuminating, as is Dennis Ross’s The Missing Peace, which I have yet to finish).

    Clearly it’s important that Israel’s critics hold up examples of Palestinian impoverishment (material, social, humanitarian) as evidence of the costs of Israel’s current interpretation of its own security. And so they do – B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, is an important sources of information for pro-boycotters, but B’Tselem is neither pro-boycott or anti-Zionist. For Israel to end this occupation sustainably requires bilateral agreements – and yet Hamas is still talking about killing Jews… This is not a conflict for ignorant international players to start taking sides on – we should be pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian.

    Co-existence, democratic process and restoration of Palestinian rights are going to have to go on in parallel in order for the peace process to advance, is the consensus.

  7. jim jay

    “But your implication that the *effects* of the road blockades, hardships, education are all that matters” I didn’t say anything like that Mira. The straw man you’ve erected *is* “preposterous” but as it has nothing to do with my position I don’t feel offended by it.

    You said there was an absence of detail about how the “Palestinians are suffering” I was just saying my experience is the exact opposite. If anything I read, see and hear too many details – that doesn’t imply either that I think these details are all that matters, nor that the “occupation is gratuitous” in the sense that you mean.

    To be honest I don’t know how anyone who is interested in this question can feel there is a lack of detail, but I accept that’s the way you feel.

  8. greensstoptheboycott

    Jimjay (it’s mira – i can’t be bothered to log out and back in again). No preposterous straw man – you have misquoted me.

    I said “There’s been much insistence that Palestinians are suffering but in very little detail”. I say that the boycott debate is poor on detail, you say that it’s good on “details of the effect of road blockades, economic hardships, water, education, et al”. I take what you leave out as significant, because I know this boycott campaign very well. It positively relies for support on being one-sided – you don’t hear anything about Israel’s rationale, and without engaging with that, well, of course all that’s left is outrage and knee-jerk things like ostracisation, exclusion, boycott. And the irony is that boycotters often smuggle in a campaign on the pretext of having a full and frank debate (c.f. University and College Union).

    Engaging properly with all sides of the story is a basic requirement for any decision about a response. I say again, the boycott campaign, which the Green Party has taken up, is bad on detail and biased. It is important to recognise, and make central, Palestinian suffering, but there is so much more to a decision about how to respond.

  9. jim jay

    Mira, this is quite frustrating so I’ll probably leave it at this last comment.

    I have not misquoted you. You said “There’s been much insistence that Palestinians are suffering but in very little detail” That’s a direct quote and a sentance I took gentle issue with.

    Grammatically the detail refered to can *only* be about the palestinians’ suffering. If you intended to say it left out wider questions – like the motivation for israeli actions or that it’s a one sided and biased picture then that’s a useful clarification- but it isn’t what you said the first time round. That isn’t what the sentance I raised with you says even though you clearly think it does.

    To say I misquoted you is to say I’m misrepresenting you, which I’m not.

    I’m very forgiving you know, if you intended to say something slightly different and expressed yourself poorly then fine, that happens to us all. Genuine misunderstandings we can move on from. My concern is that you seem to be making assumptions about people’s positions regardless of what they actually say rather than engaging with thier arguments.

    I wasn’t leaving anything out of a wider argument because I was making a specific response to your point about the information on palestinian suffering being short on detail. I happen to think that the reasoning of the Israeli government and the experience of Israeli citizens is/are very important, as well as the wider context, and I don’t believe anything I’ve said up until this point has implied anything different. But if I can’t persuade you of that, so be it.

  10. raphavisses

    Mira, Jim,

    You disagree on the boycott, but the discussion above seems effectively to stem from a genuine misunderstanding. You both need to move on.

    I think Jim should not leave it at that point. It is good that Jim is here and engage.

    Jim, to move on a little, would you accept to comment on: 1) the use by Caroline of the Livingstone formulation; 2) the fact that the boycott campaign is poor on details about the reasoning of the Israeli government, the experience of Israeli citizens and the wider context, which you agree are all important parameters for progressing towards peace.

  11. miravogel

    “Grammatically the detail refered to can *only* be about the palestinians’ suffering.”

    Here’s the crux of our disagreement: you think it is possible to be “in detail” about Palestinian suffering without considering the explanations, reasons, excuses for that suffering. I don’t.

    You are willing to make a personal, or Green, policy based on accounts and reporting from only one side of a conflict. I’m not, because that’s a fundamentally biased approach to policy-making. I want to hear all sides in detail before we move to a decision. But we only get one side – what have boycotters got to fear from the whole truth?


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