Thursday, February 24, 2011

Umberto Eco: Boycotting Israel is a Form of Racism

Speaking at a press conference during the Jerusalem International Book Fair yesterday, Umberto Eco lashed out against those advocating for a cultural boycott of Israel and stated that, "Censuring artists because of actions committed by their governments was akin to racism."

"I consider it absolutely crazy and fundamentally racist to identify a scholar, a private citizen, with the politics of his government."


Strangely, Eco said that unlike the fierce objections by British intellectual's to Ian McEwan's acceptance of the Jerusalem Prize, he himself wasn't pressured into staying away from the book fair.

That's a far cry from what happened last year year when Amos Oz won the Turin International Book Fair's Reader's Prize, despite ugly calls from some Italian intellectuals for and academic and cultural boycott of Israel. At that time Eco said, "I would understand,if the physics department at the University of Rome or at Oxford decided not to cooperate with their colleagues in the same departments at universities in Tehran or Pyongyang if it turned out that the latter were involved in developing a nuclear bomb. But I would still find it difficult to understand why these universities should also sever ties with the departments of Korean art history or classical Persian literature."

Italy's participation in boycotting Israel is somewhat spotty. However, last year BDS succeeded in convincing two of country's supermarket chains, the Coop and Nordiconad to take Israeli products off their shelves because, "... they could not differentiate whether they came from West Bank settlements or inside the Green Line."

In 2009, in a move reminiscent of Mussolini's fascist laws, "...the FLAICA-CUB union called in a statement for a boycott of businesses linked to the Roman Jewish Community. It suggested shoppers should focus the protest on clothing stores, many of which are traditionally owned by members of the capital's small Jewish community."

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