Conference mulls means of pressuring Israel

Nashwa el-Hofi
Basant Zain-eddine

“In Israel there are a number of protest movements and peace groups that reject the racism of the state in its treatment of Palestinians. But are we ready to work with these groups as Arabs and form a lobby to pressure the Israeli government?”

This was the question posed by Ahmed Fouad Anwar, who teaches courses on Zionism at the University of Alexandria, at a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. A number of other Egyptian academics also attended the conference, entitled, “Israeli Discrimination and Groups that Oppose it.”

Conference participants discussed the extent to which peace groups could work to isolate Israel due to its “racist policies towards Palestinians,” which participants said extended to Arabs of Israeli nationality, in addition to the Israeli state’s discriminatory policies towards certain groups of Israeli Jews. One speaker at the conference cited the results of a recent study in which 53 percent of Israeli High School students said that Arabs holding Israeli citizenship should be banned from entering Jewish schools.

“Israeli peace groups know everything about Egypt and the Arab world, but many of us in the Arab world know nothing about them and do nothing to try to harness them for the good of the Palestinian cause,” said Anwar.

American University in Cairo (AUC) Professor of Journalism Hafiz el-Marazi, for his part, stated that politics could only be influenced through pressure. He said that living in the United States had taught him that the voices of peace activists were never heeded until soldiers begin coming home in body bags, going on to cite the examples of US wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

AUC Political Science Professor Manar el-Shorbagy spoke about the international movement to boycott Israel, which aims to impose sanctions on Israel and the governments and companies that support it. She said that the movement had been successful because it had allowed participants to choose their own particular level of participation in the movement.

According to el-Shorbagy, Israel is troubled by the level of international support that the boycott movement has received.

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