Writers and intellectuals have a moral obligation to criticise violations of human rights and freedom wherever they occur. The Israeli military occupation of Palestine should be no exception.
By Priyamvada Gopal
We have become accustomed to theatrical displays of intolerance: death threats against writers, bonfires of novels, plays shut down, vandals defacing paintings. The danger, however, is that this obscures the more insidious forms that the suppression of dissent can take.
Announcing that the proposed boycott of links with Israeli universities would be illegal, the University and College Union asserted that debates related to the topic under its auspices would also be "unlawful". On the basis of last week's legal opinion (the details of which remain shrouded in mystery), the union's leadership has summarily cancelled public debates to have been attended by "legitimate representatives of organisations from both Israel and Palestine". Scheduled for a national tour this autumn, the carefully balanced debates had been described by the union leadership itself as a "sensible basis" on which to approach the divisive issue. As such, they were supported by many of us who, while condemning the abuse of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli state, questioned the ethical and strategic merits of a boycott. Now all engagement on the issue is off the table.