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Sanctions are Urged Against Israel (Not Its Universities)

Basile criticizes Western inaction on Israel, opposes politicizing cultural ties, and urges sanctions and public demand for democratic accountability.

Elena Basile criticizes the global and European political response to conflicts involving Israel and Ukraine, highlighting the discrepancy between democratic principles and the actions of political and military alliances such as NATO, which she accuses of ignoring public opinion and constitutional mandates against war. Basile condemns the West’s failure to sanction Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and its expansion of conflict into neighboring regions, arguing against the politicization of cultural and educational exchanges as a form of protest. Instead, she advocates for direct political and economic sanctions against Israeli government actions, calling for a more principled stand from European governments, including Italy’s, to uphold democratic values and international law, and for the public to demand accountability from their leaders.

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by Elena Basile

The situation seems to worsen without bounds. Amid the apathy of moderate and progressive politicians, with the complicity of mainstream newspaper columnists and think tank directors (echoing CIA press releases rather than conducting research), and a civil society numbed by propaganda-laden talk shows, we are gradually forsaking liberal democracy. The chasm between the decisions of the elites, the principles of our Constitution, and the interests of European peoples is glaringly obvious. The ideals of prosperity and peace that guided the construction of the EU have been forsaken.

NATO demands that its allies send arms and funding to Ukraine, a non-member state at war with Russia, flouting the democratic European constitutions which mandate the renunciation of war as a means to resolve international disputes. Minister Tajani preemptively expresses support for Stoltenberg’s proposal, making aid to Kiev mandatory. The role of parliaments seems negligible. Despite polls showing a majority of Italians and Europeans are against the war and would prefer funding to be channeled into Healthcare, Public Education, and other public goods, governments forsake the democratic principle of representing voter will and commit themselves to sending arms and funds to Kiev, where a regime that has abolished opposition and elections and applies martial law now reigns.

In Gaza, the massacre of innocents forced into hunger and famine by the Israeli government continues, accused before the International Court of Justice of plausible genocide. Despite benevolent rhetoric and verbal indignation, the West does not isolate Israel, nor adopts any sanctions against its flagrant violations of international norms. The UN Security Council’s resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages, made possible by the US’s abstention, has been ignored. Washington even stated, counter to UN law, that it is not binding. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv expands the conflict by striking Lebanon, Syria, and the Iranian consulate in Damascus. As the West defends and legitimizes Israel’s actions against international law, we paradoxically rely on autocracies and stigmatized dictatorial regimes to halt the escalation. Contrary to the governments of Spain, Ireland, Belgium, France, and even Germany, the Meloni government is more hesitant to condemn Israel’s illegal and immoral actions, guilty of apartheid in the West Bank as well as war crimes in Gaza.

I have always opposed politicizing cultural and people-to-people cooperation. I was appalled when European democracies discriminated against Russian artists, universities, athletes. For consistency, I do not believe it falls to students and universities to boycott Israel. Let’s not sever ties between European and Israeli students and professors. Instead, let’s fight for economic sanctions and political condemnation of Netanyahu, for the immediate political-symbolic recognition of Palestine, for the immediate suspension of military and economic aid to Israel. The Meloni government and Eni must cancel the gas exploitation contract in waters belonging to Gaza. We denounce Western complicity with Israeli war crimes, against which, to this day, only a tiresome rhetoric has been raised.

If my stance is against suspending scientific and cultural collaborations with peoples ruled by bloodthirsty regimes, it does not mean I fail to understand student outrage or lack admiration for rectors and professors who, risking predictable lynching by the self-righteous, have chosen to stand with the victims against the massacres in Gaza, given the political inaction of European governments.

The hope is that facing the nuclear risk of wars, the clear barbarity in Gaza, the warmongering rhetoric of neoliberal Western leaders subservient to international finance, and the gradual and terrifying abandonment of liberal democracy, confirmed by the propagandistic lies of a significant portion of the political-media space, that 60 percent of citizens who do not vote will make their voices heard and re-engage with the res publica, rewarding opposition parties and movements, driving from Parliament the warmongering majority of Ursula von der Leyen.

Il Fatto Quotidiano, April 7, 2024

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