London mayor angers Palestinians
Boris Johnson will not be making a scheduled visit to the Sharek Youth Forum in the West Bank today after making controversial comments about an Israel trade boycott.
The invite to the Palestinian youth organisation was withdrawn at the last minute after he mocked “corduroy-jacketed, snaggletoothed, lefty academics” who were in favour of a trade embargo with Israel.
A total of 343 British academics signed a letter which was printed in the Guardian newspaper pledging to boycott Israeli academia in response to its “illegal occupation” of Palestinian land and it’s treatment of Palestinian people.
Johnson said: “I cannot think of anything more foolish than to say you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, is the only place that has, in my view, a pluralist open society.
“Why boycott Israel? And by the way I think there is some misunderstanding over here about it. The supporters of this so-called boycott are really a bunch of, you know, corduroy-jacketed academics.
“They are by and large lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are highly unlikely to be influential on Britain. This is a very, very small minority in our country who are calling for this.”
Sharek Youth Forum, which was started in the 90s by the UN with the aim to help young Palestinians develop their communities, withdrew the invitation after the mayor’s “inaccurate, misinformed, and disrespectful statement”.
A spokesperson said: “It is our conclusion, supported by the Palestinian youth that we represent, that he consciously denies the reality of the occupation that continues to oppress them and all Palestinians.
“As Palestinians and supporters of BDS [sanctions], we cannot in good conscience host Johnson, a person who denounces the international BDS movement and prioritises the feelings of wearers of ‘corduroy jackets’ over an entire nation under occupation.
“In Johnson’s own words, the ‘only democracy in the region… a pluralist, open society’ is one that oppresses citizens, confiscates land, demolishes homes, detains children, and violates international humanitarian and human rights law on a daily basis. We, at Sharek Youth Forum, refuse to give a platform to someone who fails to acknowledge our very existence as Palestinians.”