Whom does this "boycott of Israel" help?

Submitted by martin on 14 October, 2009 - 7:30 Author: Colin Foster

Egyptian writer Hala Mustafa faces threats of expulsion from the country's official Press Syndicate and removal from her job because she met the Israeli ambassador to Egypt as part of her journalistic work.

Ms Mustafa told the Financial Times: "I don't believe the boycott of Israel is useful to the Palestinians," she said. "Also I don't think it is the right of unions and professional associations to impose it, because it is against the rights of the individual guaranteed by the constitution. Whoever wants to boycott Israel can do it themselves as a personal decision."

Egypt is the only major Arab state, other than Jordan, to have diplomatic relations with Israel. But many professional associations have bans on exchanges with Israelis. Film festivals and book fairs block the participation of works from the Jewish state.

A playwright, Ali Salem, has already been expelled from the actors' union and the writers' union because of visits to Israel. The courts reinstated him, but he resigned. His plays do not get produced.

"I am a peace activist," Mr Salem told the Financial Times. "The role of intellectuals is to contribute to building peace. They are the only intermediaries. If there were more relations between intellectuals on both sides it would build confidence and prepare the ground psychologically."

What do the "boycott Israel" campaigners in Britain think about this? Is the persecution of Hala Mustafa helping the Palestinians in any way? Are Egypt's official institutions - most of them one degree or another government-controlled - right, or Hala Mustafa? If there were any number of Jews left in Egypt - in fact there aren't - what would the implications of the boycott and its spillover persecution of non-boycotters be for them?

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