The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel is symptomatic of a wider campaign by the extreme Left to delegitimize the State of Israel. Although the extreme Left is a marginal political force in the UK, the boycott campaign gained significant purchase in the much larger moderate Left by blurring its ideological foundations. While the moderate Left is also hostile to Israel, it is possible to counter the boycott campaign successfully by framing Israel’s case in broadly liberal terms that appeal to the moderate Blairite Left and center-Right, while exposing the ideological gulf between moderates and the extreme Left.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the umbrella body for the British trade union movement, had always been opposed to any form of a boycott of Israel. Yet in 2009, the congress called for a boycott of goods and services originating in the Israeli West Bank settlements. Britain–more than any other country in the world–has promoted the Palestinian call for academic, trade union, media, medical, architectural, and cultural boycotts of Israel. The driving forces in Britain for the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel are the anti-Zionist activists on the far Left and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
This article discusses the anti-Israel campaign in the UK and its attempt to delegitimize and “demonize” Israel, pointing to radical Islamist trends in British society and political life as a central factor.
Several experts report and analyze attitudes within the United Kingdom’s civil society regarding the Middle East and Arab-Israeli conflict.