Ran Greenstein reflects on academic sanctions

This piece is briefly promising, then it has a relapse. The end result is something which, in the detail, is a departure from the slothful and facile PACBI boycott call and instead a call for something smarter (“sanctions should be applied to practices rather than opinions”), less pompous, more effortful, and more involving of Israeli academics and students. However, his proposals completely fail to engage with Israel’s larger predicament – its enemies, its defencists with their insistence that unilateral withdrawal will not earn respite from attacks. In this respect Ran Greenstein, with his common-sense condemnation of Israel and selective espousal of  “pressure”, turns out to be just as good as any PACBI boycotter at ghosting out the implacable elminationist, inciteful, sometimes genocidal, tendencies within what is often taken for Palestinian resistance.

Advocates for Palestinians need to realise that concentrating only on what Israel should do serves to entrench the dichotomy between Israelis and Palestinians. This is not to deny the asymmetry between the force that Israelis and Palestinians level at each other – it is to argue that there are two sides to this conflict and the way out of the occupation cannot be unilateral.

3 Responses to “Ran Greenstein reflects on academic sanctions”

  1. Inna Says:


    I would be curious as to why you find the piece “briefly promising” and why you would call people who write such pieces “advocates For Palestinians.” After all, if as you point they concentrate only on Israel, they are actually not advocating (and probably not caring) about Palestinians at all.

    They are (in all likelihood) supporting a fashionable cause in order to be good on the cheap. Everyone says Israel is bad and Palestinians are good so repeating it, while using long words makes you sound both learned and good at a cocktail party in London.

    “I say, my dear, isn’t it just dreadful what those awful Israelis are doing. Shaken not stirred please.”



  2. Mira Vogel Says:

    Hello Inna, in my view one of the most insulting things about the academic boycott campaign is the simple representations peddled by its prominent figures – Pappe, Rosenhead, Roses etc, the assumptions they hope we’ll swallow about the complicity of academics, and the consequent crude collective punishment they demand we impose. The reason I found this piece briefly – or slightly – promising, is that it showed that activists can have more or less the same bad analysis of the conflict (i.e. Israel as sole aggressor, no need to “pressurise” Hamas) as academic boycotters, but reject the academic boycott as a facile and counter-productive imposition – as you say, “good on the cheap”.

    I wasn’t calling “people who write such pieces “advocates For Palestinians”” (although I don’t rule that out) – just talking in general about pro-Palestinian activism.

  3. Jacob Says:

    Interesting comments, Mira, Inna I don’t know if either of you have a seen a recent article in Haaretz that quotes from an internal UN report about the refugees:

    “Ex-UNRWA official blasts agency for politicizing Palestinian refugee issue”

    By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent


    From the article:

    “A former top legal official with the United Nations relief agency charged with providing for Palestinian refugees – UNRWA – issued a report last week critical of some of the organization’s practices, accusing the organization of preoccupying itself with the political aspects of the refugee issue.

    James Lindsay, who served as UNRWA’s legal advisor and general counsel from 2002 until 2007, said the agency needs to adopt reforms if it is to adequately address concerns that it has politicized the Palestinian refugee issue.

    Among Lindsay’s recommendations are the need to end UNRWA assistance to hundreds of thousands of Jordanian citizens who qualify as refugees; shifting from a “status-based” system – whereby anyone who was defined as a refugee received aid even though he or she was more well-off than others – to a “needs-based” system of aid delivery; avoid involvement in political affairs; conduct more stringent background checks on its employees so it does not hire Palestinians who are members of terrorist organizations; and to enable those who wish to leave refugee camps to do so by expanding loans….”

    I find a glimmer of hope in this view.

    To me the refugges have been used since 48 by all sides, but especially by their so called supporters, in order to proclaim their own varied causes.

    For too many academics in the West they represent a ready made oppositional force that they can call on to attack either colonialism, capitalism, the West, and of course Zionism, etc.

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