Israeli attack on Turkish boat in 2010 led writer Iain Banks to support boycott

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John Kerry is today trying to stitch up relations between Israel and Turkey ripped by the Israeli commando raid on the flotilla vessel the Mavi Marmara in 2010. This stitching-up will surely not include Israel lifting the blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla sought to violate. Here Scottish writer Iain Banks relates in the Guardian that that attack– so reasonable to Israel, so horrifying to the world– motivated him to support cultural boycott. And while he says it is a crude punishment, and a form of collective punishment, the very problem it seeks to address, it makes sense to him:

Since the 2010 attack on the Turkish-led convoy to Gaza in international waters, I’ve instructed my agent not to sell the rights to my novels to Israeli publishers. I don’t buy Israeli-sourced products or food, and my partner and I try to support Palestinian-sourced products wherever possible.

It doesn’t feel like much, and I’m not completely happy doing even this; it can sometimes feel like taking part in collective punishment (although BDS is, by definition, aimed directly at the state and not the people), and that’s one of the most damning charges that can be levelled at Israel itself: that it engages in the collective punishment of the Palestinian people within Israel, and the occupied territories, that is, the West Bank and – especially – the vast prison camp that is Gaza. The problem is that constructive engagement and reasoned argument demonstrably have not worked, and the relatively crude weapon of boycott is pretty much all that’s left…

As someone who has always respected and admired the achievements of the Jewish people… and has felt sympathy for the suffering they experienced, especially in the years leading up to and then during the second world war and the Holocaust, I’ll always feel uncomfortable taking part in any action that – even if only thanks to the efforts of the Israeli propaganda machine – may be claimed by some to target them, despite the fact that the state of Israel and the Jewish people are not synonymous. Israel and its apologists can’t have it both ways, though: if they’re going to make the rather hysterical claim that any and every criticism of Israeli domestic or foreign policy amounts to antisemitism, they have to accept that this claimed, if specious, indivisibility provides an opportunity for what they claim to be the censure of one to function as the condemnation of the other.

The particular tragedy of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is that nobody seems to have learned anything. Israel itself was brought into being partly as a belated and guilty attempt by the world community to help compensate for its complicity in, or at least its inability to prevent, the catastrophic crime of the Holocaust. Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human. For the Israeli state and the collective of often unlikely bedfellows who support it so unquestioningly throughout the world to pursue and support the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people – forced so brutally off their land in 1948 and still under attack today – to be so blind to the idea that injustice is injustice, regardless not just on whom it is visited, but by whom as well, is one of the defining iniquities of our age, and powerfully implies a shamingly low upper limit on the extent of our species’ moral intelligence…

We may see ourselves as many tribes, but we are one species, and in failing to speak out against injustices inflicted on some of our number and doing what we can to combat those without piling further wrongs on earlier ones, we are effectively collectively punishing ourselves.

Thanks to Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, who relates that though Banks may not be a familiar name in the U.S., “he was once popular enough that he was placed fifth in a 1999 BBC online poll for the greatest writer of the past millennium — behind Shakespeare, Orwell, Austen, and Dickens, and above Cervantes… I have liked him mainly for his politics.He tore up his passport and sent it to Blair when Britain went to war against Iraq. He’s championed many good causes. He’s just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”

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