Posted By: February 19, 2014

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, February 18, 2014
TO The surprise of no one,  Unionists have blocked an attempt to call a room in Stormont after Nelson Mandela. It was entirely predictable and that’s probably why Sinn Fein proposed renaming the room in the first place – to show unionists conforming to type, remaining as ever on the wrong side of history.

There are Unionists who unashamedly identify with deeply unattractive ethnic groups around the world. They developed an affinity with Afrikaners and, helped by the British in the 1980s, managed to procure weapons from them. Such unionists see themselves as a diminishing beleaguered minority confined to a laager in the north-east corner of Ireland surrounded by slavering republicans. They identify with Turks in the illegal enclave in the north of Cyprus, a group of people first deliberately favoured by the British to counter the Greek majority on the island and later reinforced by the Turkish invasion. Unionist solidarity even led some to buy holiday homes in northern Cyprus. Of course nowadays the people Unionists most visibly identify with are Israelis as you can see from their foreign flag of choice flying from lampposts across loyalist districts.

Again like the Afrikaners and the Turkish Cypriots, the Israelis are international pariahs but unionists feel they are that themselves. Instead of slavering republicans, Unionists see Israelis surrounded by hordes of Arabs ready to drive them into the sea. Like some Unionists, it never occurs to the Israeli government to regard the Arabs as neighbours and treat them as equals. That’s another problem Unionists have – they share the same illusions of ethnic superiority with Afrikaners and Israelis. Perhaps it’s a way of justifying to themselves the guilt that they stole the natives’ land? They both hate and fear the people they live beside.

However, unlike the Israeli government Unionists have no power. The Israeli government can legally treat their neighbours like dirt. They can kill Palestinians with impunity, intern them, demolish their houses, steal their water, prevent them being educated, make them drive on different roads and build walls around them.

Because the Israeli government indulges regularly and systematically in all those practices and much worse, a campaign of boycott and disinvestment that has been gathering strength for years has finally taken off. Like the Afrikaners, Israel has powerful friends, principally the US which pours billions of dollars annually into Israel and supplies the latest high-tech weaponry all the better to kill Palestinians. What people discovered 50 years ago was that, regardless of powerful friends, the key to isolating South Africa was a sport boycott. Now Academics for Palestine have discovered Israel’s Achilles’ heel, an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions, cutting them off from intercourse with institutions in civilised societies among which Israel preposterously counts itself. Two members of the British Committee for the University of Palestine are speaking at Queen’s today. One of them, Professor haim Bresheeth, an Israeli academic says: “The conflict in Palestine has now reached its ‘South African moment’ – the point at which Israeli apartheid has been recognised as such by the international community.”

A major breakthrough was the vote by the American Studies Association to join the academic boycott. The vote was carried in December by the largest ever participation in the ASA’s history. It so alarmed even the dreadful Netanyahu that he called a meeting of ministers to discuss the academic boycott’s implications. Businesses like PGGM, the Netherlands biggest pension fund, have begun to disinvest. A hundred Israeli businessmen at Davos urged Netanyahu to make a deal with the Palestinians. John Kerry warned, “for Israel there’s an increasing delegitimisation campaign building up. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 per cent, cannot be maintained”.

The academic boycott hurts Israel’s pride and sense of itself by preventing the state from masquerading as a normal modern society in science, technology and the arts in the same way that isolating white South Africa from normal participation in sports where it excelled exposed its rotten society.

As the boycott grows in Europe and now the US, John Kerry’s warning will come true and Israel’s academic institutions will be revealed as part of the separatist state. Netanyahu probably thinks of little else but Unionist support.