Noam Chomsky is not a household name in the United Kingdom. He is an expert in abstruse linguistic theory and has produced well-regarded academic works in cognitive science and artificial intelligence.
Among international left-wing activists he is admired as a trenchant critic of the foreign policies of the United States and Israel.
In July, he published a surprising essay in The Nation magazine in which he took issue with the tactics of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. He believes comparisons between Israel and the apartheid state of South Africa are misleading and self-defeating.
He wrote: “Failed initiatives harm the victims doubly—by shifting attention from their plight to irrelevant issues (anti-Semitism at Harvard, academic freedom, etc.), and by wasting current opportunities to do something meaningful.”
It is doubtful that Professor Chomsky has heard of Councillor Ben Duncan who represents the Queen’s Park area in Brighton, but his words are a perfect description of Cll Duncan’s call for the city council to join the international boycott of Israeli firms.
Council officials moved quickly to thwart any debate of his motion but Cllr Duncan has vowed to fight back. It is difficult to see this as anything other than gesture politics.
According to a reply to my Freedom of |Information request, which I received this week, Brighton and Hove City Council keeps no record of where the firms it does business with are headquartered.
The leader of the Green Party administration at the council, Cllr Jason Kitcat, said:”Ownership is fluid, complex and can change. Our ethical and sustainable procurement policies do put stringent requirements on bidders though.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “As far as I’m aware, the vast majority of our council contracts are with British firms. The question of whether any of them ‘have links and affiliations with companies in Israel’ does not arise during a tender process or as part of our financial checks. Therefore we have no information on this.”
A list of the city’s contracts and contractors can be seen here