As the membership of the American Studies Association goes to vote on the proposal to boycott Israeli universities, I still think it’s a bad idea and I have posted several comments already as to why. But to put the shoe on the other foot, it’s hard to know what anyone should have expected. Here they are for now, the true face of contemporary Israel, democratically elected.
Please consider these are not awkwardly caught pictures of people caught in haphazard shots at random moments. These are posed, official portrait photographs. Each minister stands before the flag of Israel which he represents, politically and morally. Precisely because it is a government of an internationally recognized political entity and not the head of a stateless people, the government of Israel, aggressive, cynical, calculating, posturing, has only itself to blame for the anathema it invites upon itself and its people.
And yet this all being said, the case might in fact suggest why academic boycotts are such a bad idea. Viewed from a critical distance, what makes the present moment so interesting is that designations like democracy and racism in Israel are turning on a dime, mutating very quickly in very fluid and unstable local and regional environments. Even now, the proposed academic boycott remains riddled with problems if only because Zionism is not (necessarily) racism and because Israel is not (yet) an apartheid state. Whistling in the wind.