Filed under: News & Current Events, Politics, Civil Liberties, Social Issues
Although not an immediate personal concern, I have followed with some interest the unfolding story of the AUT boycott of Israeli Universities which has featured over the last few weeks on a number of blogs, not least of which has been Harry’s Place, Norman Geras’ blog and Engage.
Boycotts, in general, are only really effective if they get to the ‘guilty party’ either directly or indirectly, which never really looked likely in the case of the AUT Boycott - an academic boycott of a couple of Israeli universities was never really going to make a dent in Israeli government policy on the Palestinian issue, not least because both universities would have little difficulty in ‘taking their business elsewhere’, particularly the US and I have to agree with Norman Geras that analogies drawn, by some, with apartheid-era South Africa were specious at best.
What’s really caught my eye today, however, are the comments of Dr Sue Blackwell, one of the main supporters of the boycott, who’s response to the vote to overturn the boycott has been reported by the BBC as follows:
…she was disappointed but not surprised by the vote. She had believed it would be a “stitch-up”.
“The struggle goes on. This is the end of the beginning,” she said.
“We are not surprised. We saw people who did not come to earlier meetings there and we knew what the outcome would be.
“We won the moral argument. They just won the vote.”
And also by Israeli site Haaretz as:
“the outcome seemed to be “fixed.” She said many people who had never participated in the AUT would come with the specific aim of stopping the boycott.
“I have never heard of such a thing in the 14 years I have been active in the AUT,” she said, noting that special sessions are convened only when there have been changes. “There is something anti-democratic in this,” she said. Even when a vote was taken and she lost, Blackwell said, she had never tried to get signatures for a new vote.
Now hang on a second here. If these reports are correct then the simple fact that people who usually don’t turn out to meetings or votes of the AUT suddenly decided to show for this one is, in Sue’s mind, evidence that the fix was in on the vote and the whole thing was ‘anti-democratic’. This seems to be some strange new interpretation of the meaning and purpose of democracy that I’ve not quite come across before.
A bunch of people who generally don’t get typically get involved suddenly find themselves faced with an issue that, a matter of principle, they care enough about to actually get up and do something about it and thats ‘anti-democratic’ - if anything it would seem that this vote is actually far more democratic than the original decision to impose a boycott simple on the grounds that it looks like far more people who were entitled to vote actually did so on this occasion.
Ok, given the source of the ‘anti-democratic’ comment it is possible that Sue could be being misquoted on that point, even if the comment does seem consistent with her other comments about the vote being a ’stitch-up’ but even so to suggest that just because you lose a vote it necessarily follows that the ballot was somehow unfair, without any apparent evidence to substantiate your view seems not only churlish but bordering on the dictatorial.
Sorry sue, but for all you claim to ‘won the moral argument’ by taking the attitude that your defeat was a stitch up you not only lose the argument but any credibility you might previously have had and have exposed yourself as being little more than a proponent of the same kind of hardened ideological zealotry you otherwise profess to be trying to oppose…
… and a really, really bad loser as well.
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