Israel’s technological expertise does not exempt it from criticism over human rights

Letters to Editor
Letters to Editor

I took serious issue with a number of points in your article (Israeli boycott: Are councillors prepared to give up their iPads, October 4).

A typical response to those who dare to criticise Israel is to use smear tactics, labelling proponents of the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign hypocrites for continuing to use Israeli-designed technology.

Unfortunately for anti-Palestinian fanatics, such as the DUP’s Gary Middleton, this narrative of demanding boycotters to give up their iPads or Intel processing chips just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny - especially once we unpack and explore this matter in some detail.

The BDS campaign’s website makes clear that it [BDS] is “a strategy for effective solidarity and not a dogma or ideology.” In fact, there are clear guidelines provided by Palestinians on how international activists, politicians and policy makers can ensure the BDS movement is impactful in the right areas.

One of their most widely used and easily accessible resources is a section on ‘what to boycott’, which places emphasis on targeting boycotts at companies and investments that are “most deeply involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid.”

Demands being made that councillors who support BDS should ‘stop using their iPads’ or repeating the callous, ugly and ableist request for Prof. Stephen Hawking, who suffers from an acute and slowly progressing form of motor neurone disease, to rip out the intel chip which allows him to interact with the world and people around him, are nothing short of hysterical smears that rely on a puerile and repulsive notion that because Israel is a scientific and technological leader in the world today that it is automatically exempt from any criticism for its violations of international law and constant violent oppression of the Palestinian people.

As Israeli activist Yossi Gurvitz put it in a 2013 article; this is “redemption through technology” and designed to make us overlook human rights violations on the basis that “Israeli technology is somehow viewed as indispensable to modern life.” Gurvitz continues by highlighting that this is a conflation between the activities of individual Israelis or Israeli companies and Israel’s political pursuits.

He then cites an American blogger who noted that this minor psychosis is quite strange in many respects, not least because whenever someone criticises the United States government, it does not occur to the respondent to say “but we gave the world a whole range of Apple products!” - because in any typical argument this would be laughable. Taking actions such as a boycott campaign against a human rights violator doesn’t suddenly become invalid simply because said violator has citizens who have provided the world with technological, scientific or medicinal advances.

I was also surprised that the News Letter uncritically cited Shurat HaDin without mentioning the organisations ties to both the Israeli government and Israeli spy agency Mossad. Presenting this organisation as an “Israel law centre” is not strictly accurate and doesn’t inform readers of the fact it takes instructions directly from the Israeli government.

The boycott divestment and sanctions campaign is designed to be strategic and promote a sustained, long-term challenge to Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. BDS does NOT target individual Israeli citizens and it certainly doesn’t call for, or endorse, racism, hatred or discrimination of any kind.

There isn’t as great a “practical difficulty involved in carrying out an effective boycott of Israel” as Gary Middleton and other anti-Palestinian fanatics would have us believe. It’s a case of Derry and Strabane council coming together to decide an ethical trading policy, ensuring a clear strategy is in place to identify and boycott specific companies, all whilst applying a human rights standard on procurement and investment decisions as a starting point.

Supporters of human rights and justice everywhere should welcome to decision for Derry and Strabane council to back the Palestinian-led BDS campaign.

Gary Spedding, Londonderry, BT48