Category Archives: boycott

Israeli Philharmonic vs. Dismally Shrillmoronic – no contest

Jessica Goldfinch writes of the disruption of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra proms performance last week:

Considering IPO has links with these folks, it is clear who is for co-operation and peaceful activities:

This is what beauty looks and sounds like. It’s not a music-wash, it’s peace
in action. What a melding of the sounds – east, west, shared arabic roots!
We should be investing our energies into these types of activities.

Whilst SPSC and PSC and their GPEW supporters engage in protests, violent
words and ignoring evidence, they miss all of this beauty and the rest of
real folk on the ground are getting on with the business of ‘Real Progress’.

The boycott campaign bears fruit in Israel’s new boycott prohibition law

On July 11th the Israeli Knesset passed the Law to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott (English translation) holding individuals liable for damages if they promote boycott, and prohibiting state support for any organisation of body calling for boycotts of Israel.

Crucially the bill includes not only Israel but also “one of its institutions or an area under its control”. That is, the prohibition comprehends boycotts of settlements and the organs of occupation of Palestinian land. It is this which makes this new law an attack on the Israeli left and on solidarity with occupied Palestinians. We can see from this breakdown of how Members of the Knesset voted that the bill split the Knesset. All the Likud, Yisrael Betainu and Shas MKs who turned up voted for the bill along with the governing coalition’s religious nationalists and Ichud Leumi. None of the Labor MKs in coalition voted, and the opposition voted against.

And Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu? Along with some other prominent politicians, he didn’t show up. Israelis do not have good leaders.

The general assumption seems to be that the Israeli street support the law and don’t want their tax shekels to fund any kind of boycott, even one to weaken the settler economy. I’m not so sure – I speculate this perceived support might be a case of demagoguery by politicians who were all too easily able to jab their fingers at the boycott campaign and say “This boycott isn’t about ending the occupation – it’s about ending Israel and ending you“. After all, this is still widely true and we’d expect anybody to move to a closed mindset when threatened.

It needs pointing out that this new law is the most palpable fruit of the boycott to date. Boycotters should regret the part they have played in this damaging new law and immediately rethink their strategies against occupation to align themselves with the needs of anti-occupation views within Israel.

Reactions – in the US and in Britain a surprising array of commentators, from (of course) boycotters like Anat Matar of ‘Who Profits?’ all the way over to boycotters’ hate figures NGO Monitor and Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, are united in objecting to the law. It becomes yet clearer that the lonely Zionist Federation doesn’t speak for many Zionists.

Engage is no different, and has been defending the right to boycott settlement produce for a long time.

In Israel, Alex Stein mulls over the options for the Israeli left, which include the Supreme Court and civil disobedience, and does not find satisfactory answers. Israelis who call for boycott do so in veiled terms – except Peace Now, who have opted to immediately break the new law with a new campaign, Prosecute me! I boycott the settlements!, placing its government-issued not-for-profit status and consequent tax exemption in jeopardy. See also Peace Now debunking boycott law myths.

Appropriately enough for Knesset speaker, Reuven Rivlin (who didn’t vote) sounds the alarm for free expression and notes with appropriate national self-interest that the law “threatens to harm Israel’s standing in the international arena, and to play into the hands of all those who criticize and mock the quality of the democracy in the Jewish state”. Indeed European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has released a statement of concern.

So, all these groups are against outlawing a boycott of Israeli settlements. Where is the international solidarity movement for them? I think it should be clear by now that boycotting Israel is for ethical cheapskates –  but when the chips are down we’d better be ready to put our hands in our pockets and shout very loudly on behalf of the anti-occupation groups who campaign to divest from the settlements and lose their funding and tax exemptions as a consequence.

Peter Tatchell responds to an accusation of “stirring up antisemitic rhetoric”

Peter has released a statement [pdf format] opposing the organization of a LGBTI conference in Israel.

The statement is long and convoluted and should be read in full. It includes some valid points and others which need to be discussed, but this is beyond the point of this post.

The conclusion, title, and only action point of the statement is simple and clear: “No LGBTI conference in Israel”, i.e. Peter effectively calls for the boycott of events organized by Israeli civil society HR organizations.

The JC reports that Jack Gilbert, the former president of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, said: “These statements are deeply flawed and are bound to stir up antisemitic rhetoric.” See the full quote in the JC article where Jack Gilbert argues this opinion.

Peter Tatchell response should also be read in full in the same article. What is remarkable about this response is that it totally ignores the actual points made by Jack Gilbert. Instead, Peter praises his record of opposing antisemitism (which is not questioned) and notes that he has criticised other governments of the region in the same statement (which is true but irrelevant in this specific instance).

Peter argues that organizing a LGBTI conference in Israel could stirr up homophobia, yet does not see why people are concerned that boycotting events organised by Israeli civil society organizations in Israel may stirr up antisemitism.

Update 1 (correction): Islamophobia has been replaced by homophobia in the last sentence; see comment by Alasdair below.

Update 2: The third and last sentences have been slightly modified to address concerns express by Alasdair that I was not fair to Peter (see my comment at 2011/06/27 at 8:02 pm)

Cynthia and Jello

Green irrelevance Cynthia McKinney has been cuddling the Libyan regime recently, managed to shoehorn a little anti-Israel morsel into a bizarre ramble which neglected to challenge Ghaddafi administration on, well, anything at all.

It is of course in the punk DNA to resist mindless pressure from self-interested lobby groups. US Green Jello Biafra did a bit of research and decided (sorry for linking to a weird anti-Zionist Jewish nationalist site) to play a gig in Israel in defiance of the anti-Israel cultural mafia, which has ratcheted up the acrimony to a degree which has bowed others like reeds in the wind. Consequently he is currently being denounced by a well-resourced network of anti-Israel activists.

In the face of all this Jello Biafra arrived at the possibility that boycotting Israelis doesn’t after all have any bearing whatsoever on Hamas’ maximalism, Islamic Jihad’s terror campaign, or the reach of Iranian weaponry, and can only fuel the Israeli defencist right, its narrative of embattlement, and that ‘goddamn wall’.

If it’s true that the boycott is gaining ground among the Israeli left (and I am not sure that it is – we get a few handfuls of ostentatious Israeli boycotters writing in English because they’ve lost/abandoned their constituency in Israel and feel they owe themselves a bit of recognition without being nearly fussy enough about where it’s from) that is probably because the left is shrinking and allowing itself to be dragged to one pole. So Jello is right to resist the hectoring, right to play Israel, right to scrutinise on behalf of Israeli society’s most disadvantaged (uh, not segregated). He seems like somebody who’ll know what to do to avoid being ‘claimed’ by any Israeli official who supports discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and other than that you get the impression he’ll use his judgement. If the anti-Israel lobby doesn’t nobble him first.

To end let’s hear from three people who probably know better than most boycotters:

Falastin, objectified, essentialised and generally let down by a British left which typically doesn’t have a clue about Palestinians, and doesn’t care to:

“There were demonstrations every day outside the Israeli embassy and we would all go together.

I would be wishing it never happened, and that we wouldn’t need to protest because the Palestinians shouldn’t be having missiles thrown at their schools and Mosques. But my lefty friends were busy making Lowey’s tune the soundtrack to the suffering of the Palestinians. For them, the deaths of innocent women, men and children was just a memory that they could romanticise just like they did everything else.”

Ofri Ilani on an Israel far left shredding itself:

“I will allow myself to say that if the Left was a little less exclusive and spent less time on all kinds of self-purification, it could have been considerably larger. Many, many people identify with the need for peace and social justice, but simply can’t be bothered to deal with all that fear of denunciation crap, and rightly so.”

Alex Stein on more confused thinking.

For some of this, HT Bob.


Not forgetting:

Further addendum:

As predicted here come the heavies of the anti-Israel lobby with their petitions and pious bias. I’m sorry to say, in line with the attacks, my response has reached new depths of repetitiveness.

  1. What happened in 1948 wasn’t ethnic cleansing. The evidence is there in any well-regarded history book (try Morris’ 1948) and in the current population of Palestinian citizens in Israel (roughly one quarter).
  2. Israel under the current government has lost some of the ground it gained towards equality. But it has never been an apartheid state, and if Palestinian leaders stop hedging and accepted a two state solution rather than cagily holding out for the whole of the land (“From the river to the sea…”) that would help Israel tackle its religious maximalist minority in the settlements.
  3. Unlike apartheid South Africa, there is virtually no support in Israel for the boycott. You don’t boycott an entire country because of pressure from an international lobby which demonstrates zero interest in understanding the situation!
  4. Blood money? Rubbish. (Do you ever wonder who funds the anti-Israel lobby?)
  5. Over the course of the boycott campaign, the situation has only worsened. And before boycotters leap to blame Israel, there are other parties in this conflict. If you want to make Israeli voters feel even more defensive, then go ahead and boycott and shout your foolishness from the rooftops. I doubt Jello Biafra will cave in and join you though.

Sarah AB – empathise with both sides

On Harry’s Place, Sarah AB writes in response to ‘Israel advocacy should stop’ by Anthony Cooper who argues:

“Because if the lies and boycotts serve to pressure Israel into facing reality and pushing for peace then opposing those lies and boycotts can only do harm.”

But in all these years boycotts and lies haven’t claimed a single victory for Palestinians. They’re ends in themselves. Perhaps that is one reason they correlate with the rise of the defencist and racist right in Israel. And lying confuses the children.

The boycott of Israel is a campaign of elimination

Somebody who means well but supports the boycott remonstrated with me not so long ago, in all sincerity, that just about everybody wants to see a two state solution in Israel and Palestine. This is why I take slight issue with Alex Stein’s assertion on his False Dichotomies post that supporters of boycott are lying. I dare most are sincere enough – more importantly, if they say they want a two state solution and they boycott Israel, they are labouring under an illusion, misguided by the anti-Israel architects of the boycott. Whether or not they realise it (and the wording of the resolutions is a powerful clue – Israel to get rid of its border controls and also allow 8 million Palestinians to become citizens – imagine trying that one in your own back yard!) the boycott campaign can only be a campaign to eliminate Israel, this is its architects’ and organisers’ cherished aim, and they will not stop while Israel is on the map. This and the fact that it seems if anything to strengthen Israel’s defencist, pro-occupation contingent, is why boycott is such a comically hypocritical response to the conflict in the Middle East.

From the piece.

“Barghouti continues: “Specifically, what is often objected to is the demand for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. One can only wonder, if equality ends Israel’s “existence,” what does that say about Israel?” I have no objection whatsoever to full material equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and I know that Israel will not look very different from how it does now when this goal is achieved. For Barghouti to suggest that this is the key objection Israel’s supporters have to the BDS movement is highly disingenuous, but he manages to supersede it in the next paragraph: “The “delegitimization” scare tactic…has not impressed many in the West, in fact, particularly since its most far-reaching claim against BDS is that the movement aims to “supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle” – hardly the most evil or disquieting accusation for anyone even vaguely interested in democracy, a just peace, and equal rights.” What Barghouti really means by this is that BDS seeks ‘one person, one vote’ for Israeli citizens, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and those UNRWA defines as Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Or, as another supporter of BDS puts it, “The right of return is an inviolable and sacrosanct principle which necessarily spells out the end of the Jewish state.” It is a shame that Barghouti does not share this honesty.”

Peace activists may or may not boycott settlements but they don’t boycott Israel. To put it another way, people who boycott Israel are not peace activists but Palestinian nationalists, or simple Israel annihilationists, all of whom have a deficiency of concern for Jews, and who hold Israel’s Jews to standards they are comparatively relaxed about in other states. Very hypocritical.

Update: Contentious Centrist.

Palestinian Federation of Trade Unions opposes boycotting Israeli counterpart

This piece by Eric Lee is from the TULIP website (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine)

Britain’s giant public sector union UNISON has just issued its long-awaited report on its delegation’s visit to Israel and Palestine.

The visit had been scheduled to take place a year ago, finally happened at the end of 2010, and the report has become available only now.

It is a long and detailed report reflecting the organization’s views of the conflict, but the really interesting bit — the surprising bit — was what happened when the UNISON team asked Palestinian trade unionists and Israeli leftists whether the union should sever its ties with the Histadrut.

The union had been instructed by its governing bodies to look into this very question.

It was, in some ways, the central question, the one that really mattered above all.

And the advice the union got from everyone it talked to was: don’t sever your ties with the Histadrut.

What the report says is so extraordinary that it needs to be quoted at length — and this passage should be shown to any union anywhere in the world that is thinking about cutting off ties with Israel’s trade unions.

Here is what they say:

All the organisations we met during the delegation including the PGFTU, the new Israeli trade unions and Israeli NGOs are or have been critical of the Histadrut in the past for various reasons.

However, they all stressed that the Histadrut was a legitimate trade union and with over 700,000 members was clearly the dominant trade union in terms of members and collective bargaining coverage. Even the new Israeli unions accepted that the Histadrut had been responsible for Israel’s strong labour and employment protection legislation. They also recognised that the Histadrut remained influential, although less so than in the past, with the Israeli government.

Neither did any of them call on UNISON to sever its relations with the Histadrut, in fact the opposite. The PGFTU in particular said that UNISON should maintain links with the Histadrut so that we could specifically put pressure on them to take a more vocal public stance against the occupation and the settlements.

Kav laOved, Koach laOvdim and WAC/Ma’an all felt that international trade union influence on the Histadrut was essential in moving it towards more progressive policies in relation to migrant workers and discrimination against Palestinian Israeli workers.

There is much in the report that we wouldn’t agree with – including criticism of things we and others have written and said – but the bottom line is that when Palestinian trade unionists are asked, they turn out to be supporters of engagement with the Histadrut and urge unions everywhere to keep up their ties with the Israeli union federation.

This piece by Eric Lee is from the TULIP website (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine)