The Community Security Trust has, by and large, earned a reputation as a sensible and apolitical guardian of the safety of British Jews. Now the charity’s communications director has branched out into public appeals to counter the BDS movement because it is making Israel the new South Africa. There goes CST’s reputation.
This week the long-running argument about the morality, efficacy and limits of boycotting Israeli products as a means of pressing for change from the outside hit the headlines. London’s Tricycle theatre did not want to accept the Israeli state-funding for the Jewish Film Festival which it hosts. Although the theatre offered to make up the funding itself, the JFF rejected the offer on grounds of principle.
Martin Shaw, a renowned expert on war and genocide in the modern era, has written before about the Israel-Palestine conflict, expressing reservations about boycotting Israel. In the light of current developments he reviews his position.
The most highly rated company in the UK, the John Lewis partnership which has 45 shops in the UK, has decided to stop selling SodaStream products . Ecostream, the shop set up by SodaStream in Brighton, and similarly affected by regular boycott demonstrations, has been closed. The campaign has successfully highlighted the issue of production in illegal settlements.
Noam Chomsky’s energy in this article is primarily directed against US foreign policy and its role in supporting Israel’s anti-Palestinian rule. His critique of BDS is that the movement cannot impose the S (sanctions) – and that its aim of promoting the right of return for refugees is ‘a guarantee of failure’. He doesn’t say what he thinks should happen to the thousands crammed in camps – but floats the notion of a ‘no-state’ solution.
If you look through the media serving the biggest city in Pacific NW in the land of free speech you will find no mention of its public event on BDS – except for dire warnings from the Jewish establishment. So here you can read an account which includes how Palestinians recovered from disastrous embraces (like the Irish) of the Nazis and then violence to its current strategy of peaceful popular pressure for BDS.
In an historic vote in the USA, where support for BDS is much weaker than in Europe, the Presbyterian general assembly voted by a narrow margin to divest from three companies whose products provide the machinery for the occupation. A persuasive factor was the recent refusal by Netanyahu to engage seriously in peace talks.
Next week, the General Assembly of Presbyterians in the US will again discuss a motion to divest from 3 companies embedded in the occupation. This has unleashed a variety of attacks on them from predictable sources (NGO Monitor, JNS), one, less predictably, from a human rights lawyer who can’t seem to grasp the argument in her anxiety to protect Israel from being ‘subverted’.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights have used existing laws and agencies to trigger an investigation into the role of G4S in policing Palestinians. Many European bodies have ruled that Israeli rule breaches human rights laws. It needs outside bodies to compel them to act on their good intentions.
Gimme Shelter is a song Palestinians might applaud; it’s unlikely many will be booking for the the Stones’ Tel Aviv gig (‘Money, that’s what I want’). Icons of the radical ’60s, the band swung the young with loud, rhythmic contempt for the suppression of desire. Now they are old and rich (like many of their fans) their machine for making money and adulation crushes all scruples.
Liberal Zionists, wherever they live, oppose all forms of Palestinian resistance including BDS and all means of forcing change on Israel. If they are relying on politicians in Israel or the US they are whistling in the wind – and everyone knows it. So why not do what Larry Derfner finally did – put aside defensiveness and support Palestinian resistance?
If Jews have one, overwhelming command which is to defend Israel at all costs, then they have abandoned their historic participation in progressive movements. But younger Jews are starting, eg, campaigns on climate change. This report on a conflict over investing in fossil fuels represents the divide.
The Magnes Zionist blog is written by Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber, an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the US. Coinciding with the collapse the peace talks he asks the unaskable question: “What if the Global BDS Movement Were to Achieve Its Goals?” He is not fazed by his answer – even from a Zionist point of view – finding its aims to be both much more moderate and more moral than the status quo within 1967 Israel…
From the amount of energy and money the Israeli government and its supporters put into fighting the BDS movement one might conclude, despite Norman Finkelstein’s disparagement, that boycott is the most powerful tool in the campaign to make the Israeli state accept international law. Here, the Olympic Food Co-op wins its right to boycott Israeli goods in an appeal court, Washington.
The American Studies Association vote to boycott Israeli institutions has had extraordinary repercussions in American politics. The most recent state assembly to present a counter-law penalising any American institution which permits boycott is Maryland. Despite heavy pressure to label BDS as racist and ‘delegitimising’ the state delegates would only support a more anodyne motion.
Two pieces by Mike Marqusee explaining to a friend why there are campaigns in the USA, Europe and even Israel to impose boycotts and sanctions against Israel. To begin with, the Palestinians themselves have asked for it (unlike other oppressed people) and Israel is picked out for special favours by the USA and EU. Israelis feel betrayed because they are ‘people like us’ but our empathy is not with them.
This is a sombre and depressing account of what hopes Palestinians now have for achieving independence. As many have done recently, Norman Finkelstein marks the inertia of Palestinians themselves- the only ones who can shift the status quo. But they are isolated. Obama/Kerry have intervened because of ‘vainglory’ and BDS supporters are living in a fantasy world about their power.
It is a testament to the growth of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign (BDS) that – if we leave aside the claim that it is by nature antisemitic – the arguments about the aims of the campaign have become more precise. Here we post a critique by Ran Greenstein and speeches by 2 JfJfP signatories for and against academic boycott. Jonathan Rosenhead checks off the objections, Bob Fine introduces nationalism into the mix.
The ‘let’s pretend’ of the headline is the prevailing tone of the American debate on Israel/Palestine. The violence of dispossession is ignored, the significance of BDS – to resist is to exist – is grotesquely twisted into an antisemitic, delegitimisation campaign. The only arguments heard are those centred on Jewish, or American, interests. Noura Erekat analyses how it’s done.
“The PA can say anything it wants and no one will listen because it’s not providing an alternative” says a young Palestinian waiting in the dark for the bus to Sodastream. If the issue at the heart of this is the quest for personal dignity then earning a good wage in a decently-run factory in part sets off the humiliation imposed by the checkpoints and harassment. The same checkpoints and barriers make developing the West Bank economy impossible.