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

on 19 Comments

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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19 Responses

  1. justicewillprevail
    April 7, 2013, 10:12 am

    Iain Banks is a good and decent man, who writes eloquently and presents an unarguable case for justice for Palestine. I expect the bots will attack him shortly with all sorts of unsourced allegations, smears, false history, fallacies and patronising lectures. But it won’t make the slightest difference to the truth of his argument.

  2. Citizen
    April 7, 2013, 10:13 am

    As I mentioned yesterday on MW, the Scot novelist is dying of cancer; he estimates he will be dead in a year, yet he cared enough to declare to the world why he favored cultural boycott of Israel, and has put his money where his mouth is. If memory serves, he did the same about boycott of apartheid S Africa back in the day. His literary work is read throughout the world. He has instructed his literary agent to make no contract with any Israeli publisher for publication of his works in Israel.

  3. Mndwss
    April 7, 2013, 10:14 am

    “The solution to the dispossession and persecution of one people can never be to dispossess and persecute another.” – Iain Banks

  4. pabelmont
    April 7, 2013, 10:18 am

    He makes very good points. I’d add, were it myself speaking, that antisemitism should not be regarded as all opposition to (or even hatred of) some or all Jews, but only opposition or hatred which was without reasonable basis in fact. Anti-Zionism, of course is not hatred (or anything else) of all Jews, but only directed agaisnt Israeli Jews, and is not in the least without reasonable basis.

    (The repeated attempts by various Jewish establishments to prevent discussion among Jews and also among anyone else of the reasonable basis for BDS against Israel show that ethical-deafness is widespread among Jews and that cooperation-to-redress-grievances-against-Israel with these suppressive instances of Jewish establishment, which actively promote ethical deafness, are unreasonable and should be given up.)

    As to collective punishment, I don’t know what the writer thinks warfare is, or what he thinks the sanctions and blockades of Iraq were and of Cuba and Iran are; he may have publicly deplored them all. But Israel (unlike Iraq under Saddam Hussein) is a democracy and I can think of no way to get the attention of the apparently ethically-deaf people of Israel than sanctions, boycotts, even blockades or cessation of some or all trade. Formally (as also with the USA), Israel is a democracy, and (in theory at least) the people can re-direct the government. Hence the call for sanctions is a reasonable way, short of war, to call Israel to heel.

  5. Justpassingby
    April 7, 2013, 10:49 am

    Naw, Daddy Kerry urged by little son Israel to persuade Turkey that Israel wants to be friends again, because Israel feel so lonely and sad these days, they are so missunderstood, they didnt mean to execute these turks, guns just way off somehow..

    Israel are so eager to make us of Turkey to overthrow Syria and bomb Iran its digusting.
    Turkey of course acting no better selling itself out to Israel that they always condemn openly. Erdogan just said that zionism is a crime against humanity, if thats correct Erdogan why then do you seek stronger ties with Israel? If Turkey really wanted to pressure Israel they wouldnt accept any any ties until Israel, atleast lift the blockade.

  6. yourstruly
    April 7, 2013, 12:22 pm

    well said, iain banks

    not to worry about the pain caused by bds, because when compared to israel’s siege of gaza, which merits a 10 on the severity scale of collective punishment, bds barely scores.

    and although the cultural boycott may seem relatively insignificant, i doubt south africans will agree, being that the international rugby association’s boycott of that nation’s rugby team was instrumental in bringing down its apartheid government.

    seems south africans could endure the enmity of the world, but mess with their beloved game of rugby, that’s beyond the pale.

  7. amigo
    April 7, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Reality check.

    There are two types of people in Israel.Jews and non Jews.
    There are two types of Jews.Those who oppose Occupation and land theft and those who support them.

    Those who support such actions are in the majority , so if they feel collectively punished by BDS, good.
    Those who oppose Israel,s policies most likely will thank the BDS movement for saving them from the Collective end of Israel.

  8. miriam6
    April 7, 2013, 2:24 pm

    The story of the sporting boycott of South Africa is not as simple as you think.

    Here is an article reviewing “Invictus” a film by Clint Eastwood which was about South Africa’s triumph at the rugby World Cup, the review also digs behind the myths about the “success” of the cultural boycott of South Africa in supposedly bringing down apartheid.
    Plus an article by Charles Longford detailing what really caused the collapse of Apartheid.

  9. miriam6
    April 7, 2013, 2:43 pm

    Sorry, just realised the second link in my first comment on this thread is possibly coming up blank. The article and review of “Invictus” is by Sharmini Brookes, a South African born freelance writer.
    See– “You need more than rugby to bury Apartheid” –by Sharmini Brookes, plus a piece on the boycott of apartheid South Africa by Tim Black

  10. OlegR
    April 7, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Such a pity, that the man has cancer.
    I do so enjoy reading his Culture novels.

    Interesting his views on the BDS i would have expected that a man that invented the Contact and SC would be more in touch with the various shades of gray in our pitiful excuse for a world.

    I wish him good health or at the very least a good clean death if the former is impossible.

    • Donald
      April 8, 2013, 4:19 pm

      I just started reading his “Culture” novels last year– I’ve read most of them now. I love them–as horrible as Banks’s illness is, I have to admit that I’m also really upset that “The Hydrogen Sonata” might be the last in the series.

      I think the Culture would probably avoid intervening in the I/P conflict, but they would definitely disapprove of Israel’s behavior. Their attempts at intervening in the Chelgrian world didn’t work out too well, so they’d be a bit gunshy regarding Israel. The people who planned the Iraq War would have done well to have read it. (The Culture also wouldn’t have been too nice with the al Qaeda types either, but I don’t know that Banks himself necessarily approves of everything his Minds do. Probably not, since they don’t always agree with each other.)

      • OlegR
        April 9, 2013, 9:15 am

        I discovered him this year only as well, pity indeed.
        I am in the middle of Matter right now.

        I/P is probably peanuts given the scale of things they are used to deal with.They might deal with earth as a whole and that means they would have bigger fishes to fry.
        Obviously they would disapprove , they would disapprove of 99%
        of Earth cultures as superstitious and barbarous.

        Minds, still can’t figure out how or why the basic premise of Culture works ie Minds are moral and beneficial to their inferiors (in general ).
        Borza Gobuchul didn’t either…

    • lysias
      April 8, 2013, 5:11 pm

      Banks recently announced on his website that his cancer of the gallbladder is so far advanced that he is unlikely to live beyond a year.

      Often, the realization that death is imminent leads a person to concentrate on what is really important.

      • Bumblebye
        April 8, 2013, 7:25 pm

        The caption under the picture in the Grauni article:

        “Since the 2010 attack on the Turkish-led ­convoy to Gaza (pictured) in international waters, Iain Banks has ­instructed his agent not to sell the rights to his novels to ­Israeli publishers”

        At the bottom of the article:

        “Extracted from Our People by Iain Banks, from Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, edited by Rich Wiles, published by Pluto Press.”

        The sour comment is not warranted. Banks only discovered his condition very recently – within the last couple of months. The article was written long before, for the book.

  11. DICKERSON3870
    April 7, 2013, 5:11 pm

    RE: “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.” ~ Iain Banks

    MY COMMENT: In other words, Iain Banks is not what Robert Naiman refers to as a “two state faker”! ! !

    SEE: “Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech with Gaza’s Ark”, By Robert Naiman,, 3/25/13

    [EXCERPT] . . . Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state; and Congress – which defers to AIPAC – doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words – not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that – but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me. . .
    . . . So, …the question boils down to this: Can we engage the multitude in civil society initiatives to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine . . . ?
    A compelling effort to do this is a project called Gaza’s Ark.
    Gaza’s Ark is a logical next step to follow the Gaza freedom flotillas, and some of the folks who helped organize previous flotillas are helping to put it in place. Unlike the flotillas, Gaza’s Ark isn’t going to sail into Gaza. It’s going to sail out from Gaza, carrying Palestinian exports. . .
    . . . Gaza’s Ark is starting a campaign to support Gaza’s economy by encouraging people to buy Gaza’s exports: “trade not aid,” as they say. It’s a “procott.” Don’t support the blockade? Put your money where your mouth is.
    I claim that by supporting Gaza’s Ark, you can support a civil society initiative to oppose the occupation without giving up any evenings. Put your money where your mouth is. Buy Palestinian goods from Gaza. If the Israeli government tries to stop you, then they’re interfering with your commerce.
    I claim that by supporting Gaza’s Ark, you can support a civil society initiative to oppose the occupation without giving up any evenings. You can sign up [I.E. SIGN THE PETITION] here. –


  12. MK_Ultra
    April 7, 2013, 6:54 pm

    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, right here, should be taken for what it is: an effort to bribe, buy or blackmail the Turks into kissing Zionist ass. Nothing more, nothing else. It’s exactly the same thing they did to Egypt in order to get them to play nice with their belligerent terrorist neighbor. The US is Einstein’s definition of insanity.

  13. seafoid
    April 8, 2013, 12:59 am

    “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.”

    The 20th century was full of useless ideologies. Zionism is just another one.
    Israeli Jews will need allies and solid diplomatic and popular backup when capitalism collapses. The notion that the eternal future of a majority of the world’s Jews is to live apart behind a wall torturing Palestinians while backed up by a few nukes and a guarantee from Uncle Sam is beyond insane.

    The attention Israel needs to pay
    the kind of weight you couldn’t lift
    even if your cheap ideology
    Depended on it.

  14. Citizen
    April 8, 2013, 3:21 am

    Banks has had empathy galore and it shows in his article. Compare Obama’s total lack of empathy for the Palestinian narrative when he visited them on his trip to Israel last:

    Recall, Obama asked the young Israeli students to walk a mile in the shoes of the Palestinian people, while he didn’t take his own advice. Why? Because his handlers are Jewish–not a single Arab, let alone a Palestinian consultant? Because of the campaign finance and party donations orchestrated by AIPAC? No Palestinian Penny Pritzker early in his political career in Chicago?

  15. Citizen
    April 8, 2013, 3:34 am

    Why Israel’s apology to Turkey means very little:

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