Leading article: Beware the unintended consequences

Share

The prestigious collection of architects and planners brought together to lead a boycott of Israel is justified in pointing out that construction has been vital to Israel's annexation of Palestinian land. Without the efforts of Israeli architects and construction workers, the settlements in the occupied territories would never have been possible. Nor could the illegal West Bank barrier have been built without them.

Whether this makes the Israeli construction industry "complicit in economic and social oppression" of the Palestinians is open to debate. But if, as has been suggested, the Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine advocate an active boycott of Israeli architects and that country's construction industry, they will be going too far. The idea that an economic boycott will further the cause of peace and justice in the region is misguided. It is reminiscent of the ill-fated academic boycott of Israel, which sputtered out last year when the Association of University Teachers voted against it. This new group, which enjoys the support of luminaries such as Lord Rogers, should draw some lessons from this.

By all means let this group of architects criticise the Israeli government's policies, but let them also beware the law of unintended consequences. The academic boycott offended left-wing Israeli academics just as much as right-wing ones. It was later suggested that the boycott should apply only to right-wing universities such as Haifa and Bar-Ilan. But even this became problematic when it turned out that one fifth of Haifa's students are Arab Israelis. Ultimately, the boycott collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. An architectural boycott would suffer the same fate. An effort to halt the construction of the separation barrier, however well intentioned, would simply end up making life inconvenient for blameless Israeli citizens.

Such measures would also send out an unhelpful message. Boycotts are damaging to a nation's pride. There are circumstances in which this can be justified, as in apartheid-era South Africa. But it is counter-productive to apply such techniques to Israel at a time when political events are moving so quickly. Ariel Sharon is no longer on the political stage, and elections are looming. The Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections has made many Israelis nervous. Boycotts and sabre-rattling will only make the election of a hard-line administration in Israel more likely.

Attitudes are being re-evaluated in Israeli society. The withdrawal from Gaza has led to the questioning of old assumptions about security. The rest of the world would be well advised to wait to see where all this leads before piling in with ill-considered gestures.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick