Letters: Boycott ban: Tories side with oppressors, again

The following letters appear in the 17th February edition of the Independent

Tuesday 16 February 2016 18:22 GMT
A Palestinian boy walks past graffiti painted on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the Aida refugee camp situated inside the West Bank town of Bethlehem, on February 12, 2016
A Palestinian boy walks past graffiti painted on Israel's controversial separation barrier in the Aida refugee camp situated inside the West Bank town of Bethlehem, on February 12, 2016

We find it incompatible with democratic freedom, and counterproductive, that the Government intends to block ethical investment and procurement decisions by public bodies lest they “poison and polarise debate and fuel antisemitism” (“Boycotting of Israeli goods to be criminal offence”, 15 February).

Opposition to the State of Israel, its continued occupation, crimes against the Palestinian people and violation of international law, has nothing whatever to do with antisemitism. What smacks of antisemitism is to think that all Jews outside Israel uncritically support Israel’s actions.

The truth is that growing numbers of Jews in this country and abroad see the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for what it is – a weapon of moral persuasion, deploying a tactic frequently used by powerless people in their opposition to racism, slavery and oppression.

History shows us that boycotts against slave-grown sugar in the West Indies, the movement of Irish tenant farmers against the eponymous Captain Boycott, Gandhi’s Indian boycott of British sales of salt, and the global movement which helped to end apartheid in South Africa were all non-violent weapons of those desirous of their freedom. In every case the Tories of the day opposed the boycott, siding with the oppressor against the oppressed.

If Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock goes ahead and announces the ban during a visit to Israel, claiming without a shred of evidence that “local foreign policies” are “undermining our national security”, he will demonstrate his government’s continuation of an ignoble tradition.

Jacqueline Rose

Independent Jewish Voices

Michael Kalmanovitz

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Julia Bard

Jewish Socialists’ Group


Since when has it been illegal for individuals or elected authorities in the UK to act in accordance with the international law and human rights their national government is committed to upholding?

As for Israel, it was a British government that made approval for a Jewish national home in Palestine conditional on no harm being done to the rights of other inhabitants. Britain signed the international conventions and UN resolutions that outlawed military occupation and settlement on Palestinian territory. And Britain is party to the EU association agreement with Israel that makes preferential trading terms conditional on respect for human rights.

If UK national government showed due diligence in implementing its own commitments on our behalf, there might be less need for individuals, elected authorities and NGOs to make good that failure in their own purchasing and investment decisions.

Greg Wilkinson


The Tories’ latest anti-democratic proposal merely confirms my belief that the Tories do not really believe in democracy.

They put up with it because it gives the impression that we are a free society, but as capitalism continues to flounder and the rich and powerful feel more and more threatened they will chip away at our freedoms to ensure they retain their position. And they call Jeremy Corbyn an extremist!

This is a hard-right government with an extremist agenda. When will the public realise the danger we are in? When the final bastion, the NHS, is taken out of democratic control and sold off to tax-avoiding multinationals?

Mike Jenkins

Bromley, Kent

Another health service training cut

When announcing his decision to impose the junior doctors’ contract Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, highlighted the role of physiotherapists in delivering seven-day services. It is therefore a source of dismay that just before Christmas Health Education England decided to cut the number of physiotherapy training places by more than 100, or 7 per cent.

Health Education England’s proposals are at complete odds with the NHS’s own policy and priorities, most notably the prevention agenda. Physiotherapists are experts in providing services that enable people to live independently and improve quality of life – thereby reducing pressure on the NHS and social care. So why cut the number being trained?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is asking Jeremy Hunt to recognise these concerns and urge Health Education England to think again as a matter of urgency.

Professor Karen Middleton

Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

London WC1

Medics are well paid in the UK and if pay is the only object they will have to travel to the US or Australia, but I doubt the package will include a cushy, roster-free, five-day week.

If “junior doctors” go to Germany they will find their pay packet is more than halved and economic (medical) migrants are expected to speak German. If they would rather live in the sunny climes of Spain, Italy and France they will find they are paid even less, and socialist Scandinavia is certainly not going to match NHS pay rates.

So Jeremy Hunt should leave a final message on the computers of all strike-happy junior medics determined to leave and it should be: “Goodbye.”

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Is there not a certain irony that highly qualified junior doctors are apparently leaving our shores in droves and without any difficulty for a better life in Australia, New Zealand and Canada to escape the political burdens being imposed on them (and who can blame them?) while desperate people escaping conflict in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Sudan are cooped up in the “Jungle” of Calais trying to gain access to our country, apparently seen to be welcoming, liberal and providing opportunity.

What is going on?

Dr Nick Maurice

Marlborough, Wiltshire

A generation on anti-depressants

It seems half of my sixth-form friends are on meds, self-harming or in therapy. Last night the BBC reported one in four of us suffer from mental health problems. Surely there is a fundamental problem with our society if these issues are so widespread? We should be trying to find the root cause. The Government manipulates the story, pumping £1bn into the system. Support is being offered once the problems have matured.

Every day I face the pressures of the education system, sucking the joy from academia through endless tests and the bureaucracy of Ucas. A single examination can destroy a lifetime of ambition. Once we reach university we see no change, with the student finance system and the diminishing worth of a degree.

Young people can’t cope with the pressure of school. We are disillusioned and confused. When will the Government realise it is demotivating young people and creating a generation on anti-depressants? Soon we’ll all be too zoned out to notice, but maybe that’s what they want?

Jane Prinsley

A-level student, Norwich

Ethical, but is really moral?

Guy Keleny asks if there is really any difference between “morally” and “ethically” (Errors and Omissions, 13 February). In ancient Greece there would have been none. The classic text was Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

But the question posed is about English words in the 21st century and it is clear that the two words have clear and distinct meanings. “Morally” implies an absolute standard of behaviour or conduct, possibly underpinned by religious beliefs, but “ethically” implies reference to an arbitrary set of rules drawn up by, say, a professional body such as the BMA or the Law Society, in other words, an agreed protocol for subscribing members but with no absolute validity. It is a shame that society seems no longer to believe in right and wrong but merely to consider what is acceptable or unacceptable.

Guy Keleny further asks: “Is there a Jesuit in the house?” Sorry, I’m not a Jesuit but I do have a degree in philosophy and am a Roman Catholic, if that helps at all.

Alan Knight

Helston, Cornwall

Estuary birds given the Elbe

You report on the plans of the city of Hamburg to deepen the Elbe river, dredging out and dumping millions of cubic feet of mud and rubble, thus destroying the feeding grounds of rare terns. Clearly a deliberate attempt to leave no tern unstoned.

Max Double

Amesbury, Wiltshire

The alternative to Twitter

Stephen Fry has quit Twitter, again. Surely it is now time for him to try writing a letter or two to the Editor, where he will find, by contrast, edited and reasoned debate.

Keith Flett

London N17

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