Israel should not be the only target of boycotts
Letter to the Editor
To paraphrase a certain rather famous seventh religious leader, “I shall not be convinced of that which you are convinced, nor will you be convinced me of that which I am convinced. Unto you your convictions, and unto me my convictions.” I am certain that Syjil Ashraf passionately believes in every word she writes, and I am under no illusions as to my power to sway others’ deeply held beliefs.
What I can do, however, is inquire as to why exactly she believes Israel in particular should be singled out for an academic boycott by the American Studies Association. If, as she says, academic boycotts are directed at institutions, not individuals, then surely we should not feel any compunction in calling for countries such as, say, Pakistan, to be singled out for boycotts.
Recently, a series of mass graves for victims of the central government were discovered in the western province of Balochistan. Some activists estimate the total at 169 bodies so far. Where is Ashraf’s call for an academic boycott of Pakistan? Incidentally, a Christian woman is currently on death row there for committing blasphemy — a humanitarian concern if there ever was one. What about, say, a boycott of Malaysia, where the local Chinese population, as well as other ethnic minorities, face tremendous discrimination under the Bumiputera system, where they are forced to pay heavy taxes but receive little government assistance, in contrast to ethnic Malaysians. Certainly, this modern day system of segregation is a worthy cause for condemnation. Where are the calls for academic sanctions on Malaysia? What about that infamous monarch of human rights violations, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
Say what you want about Israel, but the one thing everyone agrees on is that it allows religious freedom in theory, even if you wish to debate whether that is true in practice. Not so in Saudi Arabia. Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari, an atheist, has been deported from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, where he faces the death penalty for insulting a religious figure. I eagerly await the announcement of Students for Justice in Palestine to call for the boycott of these despicable violators of basic human dignity. I will be glad to lend my voice to their cause when they do so.
Ben Kusnetz is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in political science.