Monday, 26 January 2009

Debate on the boycott

170 people came along this evening to the occupied Arts A2 to hear and discuss different perspectives on the question of the boycott of Israel:

Lee Vernon of Socialist Students spoke against a blanket boycott of Israeli goods on the grounds that it would affect the working class and increase a siege mentality, calling for an active condemnatory working class movement.

Alana Lentin of the Sociology department spoke for a consumer boycott, arguing that this is something called for by Palestinans and Israeli radicals and drawing attention to the way in which an economic boycott, although largely symbolic, would enable engagement with ordinary people who would not otherwise be politicised by the situation.

Dr. Paul Oestreicher, speaking for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, called for a partial boycott of targeting the import of arms. Boycott as an instrument in the hands of all people that really want to help the Palestinian people.

Dr. Paul Oestreicher, speaking for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, called for a partial boycott targeting the import of arms intially followed by a gradual boycott targeting other areas that enable the military to function. He spoke in opposition to an academic boycott, expressing the view that the exchange of music, knowledge, culture and humanity is desperately needed by Israel in order not to be isolated from the world.

Tom Hickey, national executive of UCU, spoke in favour of an academic boycott of Israel stating that inaction against those institutions complicit in the occupation of Palestine is to become complicit in this crime ourselves. He made the points that an academic boycott targets institutions not individuals, and "constitutes a dagger threat that goes straight to the heart of the Israeli state" stating that "when you have that kind of pressure it is grossly irresponsible not to use it in these circumstances."

Another speaker session is scheduled for tomorrow at 6pm.

Update Monday afternoon

It has been a fairly long and tiring day (as Mondays usually are) and having declared our occupation a no-alcohol zone, quite a few people have departed for the pub for a long-overdue pint before the boycott discussion this evening. We are all very excited about it: we have an excellent line-up of panel speakers including (confirmed today) Alana Lentin from Sussex sociology department and a representative from Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Please come along to Arts A2 at 7pm to join in the debate.

A detailed and positive response was received from management this afternoon following a meeting with occupation representatives this morning. We will be discussing this in depth at our general meeting at 9pm tonight following the boycott discussion.

Petition signatures from faculty and students are being totalled up and support looks to be pretty overwhelming: several hundred signatures had been counted at the time of this post. We also have 889 current members on our facebook group: thanks for your support!

In less positive news today, the Sussex student newspaper 'The Badger' ran several predictably atrocious articles on the public talk last Tuesday with Dr. Azzam Tamimi at which the occupation was launched, linking the negative and biased perceptions of the authors more or less explicitly with the occupation (another article on the same page condemning Hamas). The only positive article in connection with the occupation was one concerning the current national UK wave, with LSE named in the headline. In fact this echoes reports from LSE of slanderous coverage of the occupation in their student newsaper. For anyone who was present at the talk on Tuesday or who has visited our occupation over the course of the week the unrepresentative and one-sided and unrepresentative nature of these viewpoints will be self-evident and we encourage those who feel betrayed or misrepresented by their own student media to post their own comments on the website to give a fairer picture.

Finally, a delegate from Sussex visited the Cambridge and King's occupation yesterday, and a write-up can be viewed on the Cambridge occupation blog. We have also heard of negative tactics and hostility today from the Cambridge administration and we offer our solidarity and urge you to keep strong. Another update to follow this evening...