Aid vs. boycott

The project focuses on foreign aid (and its role in the MENA region) and has not been so much interested in other forms of ‘international communication’ such as, for example, sanctions or boycotts, even if they could be understood as ‘negative aid’. Watching Ari Lesser’s Boycott Israel, but if you do, boycott all those other evil countries too, one can count almost 40 countries blamed for committing human rights violations (to mention a few: North Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo DRC and some other countries from SSA, numerous Latin-American countries, former CCCP (post-soviet) countries and Middle Eastern states). Three of the listed countries belong to the ‘West’ (Germany, US, Japan), two of them are mentioned due to their crimes committed in the first part of the 20th century (Germany and Turkey) and Japan is being held responsible for ‘slaughtering innocent’ whales. The Palestinian Authority (PNA) is not mentioned, probably for some sort of political correctness, even if it has also been liable for human rights abuses regardless to the question ‘who’ represents the PNA. Bypassing the obvious question (on the rationality of boycotts being a sort of ‘excommunication’ to use a Christian, religious term), it is worthwhile to compare this arbitrary list of countries with another one prepared by the World Bank.

If counties are ranked on the basis of net ODA received between 2009-2013, (1) Afghanistan (6,7 billion USD/year, average), (2) Congo DRC (5,5 billion USD/year), (3) Vietnam (3,5 billion USD) can be found on the top of the list. It continues with (5) Pakistan (3,5 billion USD), (6) India (3,22 billion USD) and (7) Turkey (3,19 billion USD). Ten of the top 25 ODA recipients (measured by net ODA and receiving at least 1 billion USD annually) are ‘qualified’ participants of the Lesser-video. There are quite many countries violating democratic and human rights (for example, Nigeria and Bangladesh) that are not mentioned by Lesser but being among the top 25. It must also be acknowledged that there are ‘differences’ in terms of the parameters of violence. Certain states, to be more precise, certain governments do not protect women and their rights, others tolerate executions for blasphemy or widely arresting or detaining persons (in most cases their own citizens) arbitrary. Lesser and those liking his performance blames the international community for applying double standards vis-à-vis Israel. He is concerned with the unproportional international attention devoted to the Palestinian rights. Or he may worry for those not getting enough international attention. 

In more general terms one might also ask about the ‘collective blindness’ of the international community which (countries, governments and public alike) not only ignores state sovereignty, responsibility and ‘national’ self-determination by providing institutionalized (mainly humanitarian, but also development) aid for those that should be cared by their own leadership, but also plays into the hands of the very same leaders committing various crimes against their own people (at least according to Western and/or universal standards). If the Western argument evolves about the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle related to humanitarian intervention, one may think about further ‘rights’ and ‘duties’ related to the abstract ‘social contracts’ existing (at least hypothetically) between a foreign (developed) country and a citizen of another (developing) one. It is much easier to ‘protect’ by providing aid than to provide conditions for a meaningful life for the rest of the world (too). And it is more likely that societies are divided due to their members’ uneven access to aid than kept together – provided that ‘community’ among the people ever existed within the (nation)state boundaries.

Ari  Lesser (2013): Boycott Israel. (accessed: 9-12-2013)

SPME (2013): Boycott Israel: Interview With Ari Lesser. (accessed: 9-12-2013)

World Bank (2013): Net Official Development Assistance Received. Online database


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