John Strawson on the anti-boycott letter in the New York Review of Books.

This letter is an extremely important development and marks a serious challenge to arguments for boycott from This letter artists who are public and active supporters of the Palestinian cause. This is their letter and contains their political views. This broadens the campaign against the cultural boycott – and can attract many others who have similar view. The comments about the “destroyed villages” part are somewhat misplaced. The point of the argument in a North American context is demonstrate the hypocracy of those who focus on Israel while ignoring their own political heritage of occupation, forced migration, settlement and colonialism. That is also critical to seeing Israel as a state like others, not dfferent. Most significantly the letter explains that the boycott campaign is not not about peace but about fueling the conflict. The authors should be congratulated and their views which should be widely known.

John Strawson

6 Responses to “John Strawson on the anti-boycott letter in the New York Review of Books.”

  1. NIMN Says:

    As always, Jon, spot on.
    However, in an area where the irrational passes for the rational, I do sometimes worry that comments such as these simply get ignored, their authors pilloried and accused of “bad faith”.
    It has happened in the past, you know?

  2. Empress Trudy Says:

    I’m afraid that Macbook Marxists like Redgrave have long ago exhausted their one strike. You cannot spend a lifetime cheering on bloody murder and then when it suits you, pick at your own western likeminded supporters for embarrassing you with silliness you’d rather stayed indoors in your own polite company.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Most people change some of their views in the course of their lifetime – why not Vanessa Redgrave? Take the letter on it’s merits, ET. Not so long ago she unequivocally gave support to Israel’s existence. Here she is, with Julian Schnabel, who has just finished (I think) a film about a Palestinian woman Hind Al-Husseini, who rescued children orphaned by Israeli soldiers at Deir Yassin, and Martin Sherman, who made one of the few films about the treatment of gay people by the Nazis. And they are raising the right points – the double standards and bizarre singularity of boycotters and the need to address the fear of Israeli people and sustain Israeli peace activists. Good for them.

      • N. Friedman Says:


        I think you read too much into the letter.

        The authors of the the letter suggest, by their objection to the term “regime,” but not the term “apartheid,” in the phrase “apartheid regime” that Israel is not a legitimate nation. After all, “Apartheid” is a label directed at the Israelis to delegitimize them.

        And the term “apartheid” is more divorced from reality than to call Israel a “regime,” something that you can hear during a tour, for example, of the Quebec province legislature in Quebec City, where the tour guide will typically refer to the Canadian government as the Canadian regime.

        The letter writers also seem to think that Israelis merely imagine that the surrounding Arab states are hostile to Israel’s existence. (Their words: “Thousands of Palestinians have died through the years because the Israeli government, military, and part of the population fervently believe that the Arab states and, indeed, much of the world do not want Israel to exist.”) Evidently, these writers have never noticed that the hostility – a great deal of it, anyway – in the region is to Israel’s existence. They merely prefer to ignore that, perhaps hoping to convince the Israelis that they have nothing to fear but fear itself.

        I do not think that support from the likes of Ms. Redgrave is worth having, at least as expressed in the letter.

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    Quite right, Empress Trudy look at the name first. That way it saves you the bother of reading what the person actually writes.
    Now, there lies the path of enlightenment.

  4. vildechaye Says:

    N. Friedman: I think you are reading too much negativity into the letter. The letter admits Israel has a freely elected government. It does not imply that Israelis are wrong to fervently believe what they believe, I think you are inferring that. Considering the source and its audience, it can only be considered a good thing. True, the letter does not address the term “apartheid,” but, quoting from the final episode of Mary Tyler Moore, “when an elephant flies, you don’t smack it because it comes down to earth” (or words to that effect). Take a chill pill.

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