Zionism is not a dirty word. Let us reclaim the narrative

Anti-Zionism is antisemitism, plain and simple

Anyone who swims in the murky waters of the internet and the lower reaches of social media will have come across anti-Israel “activists” – antisemites by any other name – who take great delight in calling anyone who defends Israel a “Zionist”, as if that were a dirty word.  They also cannot fathom that not only rightists are Zionists. To them, only extreme right-wing crazies could be Zionists.  They also use the word “hasbara” as if it is some dastardly Jewish, oops, I mean Zionist plot to fool the world, instead of its simple meaning of “explanation”; its common usage meaning “public diplomacy” representing Israel to the world.

It is therefore both enlightening and morale-boosting to come across  the following articles which explain what being a Zionist means; what Israelis thinks of those who hate Israel and who wilfully impute the worst possible motives to anything Israel does, even when it sends aid to disaster zones; and the lastly demonstrates the utter stupidity of the anti-Israel activists.

Firstly, a little late for Independence Day but forever relevant, here is Yair Lapid, whom no one could accuse of being a rightist, telling the world “I am a Zionist“. I’m only going to quote a couple of excerpts but read it all:

I am a Zionist.

I believe in our right for this land. The people who were persecuted for no reason throughout history have a right to a state of their own plus a free F-16 from the manufacturer. Every display of anti-Semitism from London to Mumbai hurts me, yet deep inside I’m thinking that Jews who choose to live abroad fail to understand something very basic about this world. The State of Israel was not established so that the anti-Semites will disappear, but rather, so we can tell them to get lost.

I am a Zionist.

I was fired at in Lebanon, a Katyusha rockets missed me by a few feet in Kiryat Shmona, missiles landed near my home during the first Gulf War, I was in Sderot when the Color Red anti-rocket alert system was activated, terrorists blew themselves up not too far from my parents’ house, and my children stayed in a bomb shelter before they even knew how to pronounce their own name, clinging to a grandmother who arrived here from Poland to escape death. Yet nonetheless, I always felt fortunate to be living here, and I don’t really feel good anywhere else.

I am a Zionist.

I sometimes look around me and become filled with pride, because I live better than a billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, the entire African continent, more than 250 million Indonesians, and also better than the Thais, the Filipinos, the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the entire Muslim world, with the exception of the Sultan of Brunei. I live in a country under siege that has no natural resources, yet nonetheless the traffic lights always work and we have high-speed connection to the Internet.

I am a Zionist.

I do not only hold on to the rights of our forefathers, but also to the duty of the sons. The people who established this state lived and worked under much worse conditions than I have to face, yet nonetheless they did not make do with mere survival. They also attempted to establish a better, wiser, more humane, and more moral state here. They were willing to die for this cause, and I try to live for its sake.

The one point that Lapid does not make, or not clearly enough, is that Zionism is the political expression of the Jewish desire to return to its natural homeland. It was not born in ghettos or mellahs or in persecution, but it is ingrained within our religious essence. However this does not detract from the beauty of Lapid’s words.

Next we have Haviv Rettig Gur, a leading journalist with the Times of Israel and previously with the Jerusalem Post, who confronts the antisemitic goons who cannot abide the fact that Israel is capable of doing anything good. Some of them have been accusing Israel of going to Nepal to harvest organs, to distract from its “war crimes” or to rescue only Israelis, and other libels.  In a short, refreshing blog post, Gur tells them: “Israel doesn’t care what you think”:

Here’s the thing: Israel is an entire country, with all the complicated impulses and competing agendas of any human society. It is perfectly capable of being involved in two completely different things at once, of being angelic in one arena and terrible in another, just like every other country. The IDF doesn’t go to Nepal to avoid the Palestinian issue. It goes because Israelis have honed emergency medicine into an art form, and because the IDF has never quite shed its founding culture of adventurousness, and, above all, because there are people out there who desperately need help.

Those who see in every good news from Israel “hasbara” (propaganda) are missing the single most important fact you can know about Israel — that it isn’t a political campaign begging for your vote. It is a nation. With two million schoolchildren, dozens of cities, its own cinema scene and a language spoken nowhere else in the world. It doesn’t go away if it loses some imaginary popularity contest. And as with any human society, it offers an endless stream of failures and successes that will let you “prove” any narrative you want.

So go ahead and hate Israel. Or love it. It doesn’t really matter. The reality of Israel isn’t affected by whatever story might be playing out in your imagination.

Like so many of my fellow Israelis, I’m desperately proud of our countrymen who are saving lives today in Nepal. And also like them, I don’t give a damn what the global chattering classes think about it.

What I like about Rettig Gur’s piece is that it puts all the anti-Israel hate into perspective. Really, what difference does it make in practical terms that people hate us or impute such evil motives to us? Let them hate us! Let them be eaten up by their own hate. We will carry on doing what is right, and correcting whatever is wrong in our own society without any help from the outside.

And lastly, here (in the Australian Financial Review) is a very funny but perspicacious look at the anti-Israel industry, as seen by Rowan Dean an Australian journalist visiting the region: Don’t worry Israel, our MPs are mates with the Palestinians too:

Monday: Arrived at Lod Airport, after circling around to avoid being blasted out of the sky by IS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and a bunch of other peace-loving friends of the Palestinian People’s Struggle to Wipe The Perfidious Jew Off The Face Off The Earth Praise Be To Allah. Grabbed some duty-frees and headed into downtown Tel Aviv. Looks just like Surfers Paradise meets Surry Hills. Cool hipsters and hot chicks everywhere. Grabbed a quick beer and a burger, bought some fab new apps and software and …

Oops! Time to go to Palestine. Drove into downtown Ramallah. Looks like Mogadishu meets the Mudgee tip. Litter everywhere. Armed guards and machine gun-wielding Mafiosi types wandering around everywhere, too. Try to grab a quick beer, but, er …

 Oops! Gotta get back to Israel. Meet some scientists who invented the smartphone industry, or all the cool stuff like Viber and Waze. Plus they invented all this bionic stuff that helps paraplegics and things that stop crib deaths and things that cure …

Yikes! Gotta get back to Palestine. Meet a bunch of dudes who invented the grievance industry. They explain how Israel has been oppressing them for decades. I ask them in what way exactly and they explain, “by existing”.

Next. Head up to the Palestinian bit that sits on top of the Temple Mount, only you’re not allowed to call it that up here, you have to call it the al-Aqsa Mosque. Lucky I’m not Jewish, coz Jews aren’t allowed in. (Er, isn’t that racist?)

OK, OK, I’m coming! Back on the bus and a quick trip to Sderot, this little town in the desert. Crazy architecture! Every house has a huge concrete bomb shelter in the front garden, every bus-stop doubles as a bomb shelter, even the kiddies playground doubles as a bomb shelter. Cool! I ask people how come they stay here when they’re only ever 15 seconds from being annihilated and they say that it’s their home and they love it. Fair enough.

Off to Gaza! Wow. Crazy architecture. Every hospital doubles as a rocket-launching pad, every kiddies playground doubles as a missile silo! Far out! I ask people how come they stay here and they explain that Hamas will shoot them if they try to leave. Fair point.

Quick smart! Back to Israel. Go to the funky Knesset Parliament building. Time to discuss politics! Oh boy! None of them agree on anything! They all argue like crazy about the best way to achieve peace (that’s democracy, I guess) and how to make the two-state solution work. Everyone agrees a Palestinian state is fine, as long as they stop trying to kill Jews. Fair point.

Back to Ramallah. Weirdly, in the middle of all the rubbish and filth there are these incredibly opulent buildings that look like massive McMansions on steroids! Turns out they all belong to the Palestinian Authority dudes and were built with all that United Nations billions! How cool is that! We go to this marble-clad ballroom in this building that looks like a Gold Coast hotel. Time to discuss politics! Oh boy. The dude explains that the only way there can be peace is if there are two states: one called Palestine, which has no Jews in it, and the other called Whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it, as long as there are “only a handful” of Jews in it. Huh? Sounds, um, a tad unreasonable.

I found myself nodding in agreement, laughing out loud and groaning with recognition at the crazy picture that Dean paints of our country and our neighbours.

And that is the reality of life in Israel and being a Zionist – if you don’t laugh, you cry. Or sometimes you do both at the same time.

Posted in Antisemitism, Lawfare and Delegitimization, Media and journalism, Mideast news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good News Friday

Another difficult week has passed by, so thank goodness it’s Friday and time for another Good News Friday post.

Opening Israel’s field hospital in Nepal

We’ll start with Israel’s fantastic disaster relief efforts in Nepal.  Israel sent one of the largest aid delegations in the world to Nepal, second only to India’s – and they are a much bigger country and right next door, as opposed to tiny Israel many thousands of miles away.

Over 250 doctors and rescue personnel were part of an IDF delegation that landed Tuesday in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, in the wake of Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake that devastated large swaths of the mountainous country, killing at least 5,000 and leaving some 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands seeking shelter and food.

IDF volunteers setting up the Israeli field hospital in Nepal

The Israeli group set up a field hospital with 60 beds that began operations on Wednesday in coordination with the local army hospital.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Nepalese Army’s chief of staff visited the field hospital to attend its opening ceremony.

CNN graphic showing Israel’s aid mission to Nepal one of the largest in the world

Israel’s aid convoy to the quake-stricken nation is the largest ever sent by the IDF overseas. Israel has deployed field hospitals to Haiti, the Philippines and Japan in recent years following natural disasters.

According to figures reported by CNN, Israel’s total official aid delegation, not counting several private aid groups, numbers 260 people, more than all the other aid efforts examined by CNN combined. The next-largest delegation, from the United Kingdom, numbers 68 people, followed by China’s 62, the US’s 54 and South Korea’s 40. Taiwan sent 20 personnel, Italy 15 and France 11.

Despite Israel’s monetary aid not matching up to the rest of the world, we can be justly very proud of our country, especially its efforts to rescue its own citizens:

Some 2,000 Israelis were in Nepal when the quake struck Saturday. The vast majority have been rescued, with the remaining number estimated in the dozens and just one Israeli unaccounted for. Four planes were sent to airlift Israelis out, along with helicopters and jeeps rented for the effort, while a combination of IDF, insurance company-sponsored rescue teams and various volunteer groups helped reach nearly all the Israelis stranded in remote parts of the mountainous country.

Unfortunately, the one missing Israeli, Or Asraf, has still not been located. Please pray for the welfare and safety of Or ben Irit.

The local people of Nepal are extremely grateful to Israel for its rescue efforts. Watch this heart-warming video of a Hebrew-speaking Nepalese thanking the Israeli volunteers for saving his mother:

“Israel is a country like my father, it takes care of me and loves me, the people are all good,” he said in fluent Hebrew.

Recalling the massive earthquake last Saturday, he said, “I thought we’re all dead…” After hearing an Israeli team was being sent to help, he said, “I felt ‘Israel is helping us, we’ll be okay then,’ that’s how I feel…I came here today very happy, and my mother’s leg is okay,” the man added. “I can say to all of the IDF, all of the people here who came to help, thank you very much.”

Coming out of the terrible disaster that has struck the region, these words bring a lift to one’s heart. May Hashem help the people of Nepal and surrounding countries to recover and rebuild speedily.

Here are some pictures of the IDF rescue team’s efforts:

You can follow the Israeli aid and rescue efforts on Twitter.

From one extreme to the other, we now move from helping in natural disasters to combating deliberate man-made ones, i.e. anti-terrorism developments. A new invention by Israeli university students could be the solution to the Hamas and Hezbollah terror tunnels which almost brought disaster upon us last summer, and which Hezbollah are eagerly copying. Watch this video of the anti-tunnels robot:


Kol hakavod to Gabi Yaniv and Maayan Harel for their ingenuity, inventiveness and inspiration. Let’s hope the IDF make good use of this ingenious device.

Since we’re on the subject of technology, here is something completely different: an Israeli app that will help farmers around the world:

Pickapp was developed by Yuval Reich of Moshav Paran, located in the desert between the Dead and Red Seas.

A connoisseur of productivity, Reich was impressed by the dramatic impact of individual milk measuring on dairy farms’ production. He also noticed that farmers in Paran who spent the day in the field monitoring their workers got a lot more out of them. “What can be measured can be managed” became Yuval’s motto and he began thinking about how to combat fluctuations of productivity during the pepper-picking season. As the money time of every fresh food producer, efficiency is crucial.

Two other Paran farmers – Yoram Gommershtadt and Ori Ganot – joined forces with Yuval to develop a means of monitoring workers in agriculture. …

The three farmers then turned to Ilan Aisic – a software expert with a background in creating complex info systems. His well-established company, Pointer, cooperated with the farmers to create a high-tech software system able to achieve diversity of functions and show specific data in real time.

Pickapp today combines location platforms with agro-technics to build a revolutionary map telling the farmer everything he needs to know about worker productivity in the field.

What an ingenious idea! Watch this video to see how it works:

Staying with the agritech business, in the upcoming Expo Milano, Israel will be showcasing its agriculture at its Expo pavilion with a “living green-wall“:

Israel will be building a large pavilion at the upcoming world expo, Expo Milano, to be held in Italy in May 2015, to showcase forward-thinking Israeli agriculture technology. The local Israeli company GreenWall, which specializes in vertical gardening, will be constructing a 1,000-square-meter living wall on which corn, rice and wheat are growing.
The wall is being incubated and hatched in Israel and will be shipped to Milan in time for the expo, says company CEO Guy Barness.
Made from living plants, study construction materials and high-tech sensors, the wall will frame the Israeli pavilion of agro-tech innovation. These are Israeli companies that have been helping Israel deal with its own limitations of arable land, water and fuel. But also these are companies that have expanded outside of Israel’s horizons to feed Africa and the developed world.

Living green wall

While the GreenWall vertical garden seems to be a low-tech creation, it comes with thoughtful technologies – solutions that consider how to control water and the local environment of plants with roots that need to seemingly defy gravity. 
Working with local partners like Netafim​ and Galcon (www.galconc.com), “we’ve developed a lot of technology for our GreenWall from unique fertilizers to unique pots, drippers, design and how to control the water,” says Barness.
Green walls buffer buildings from noise and from extreme heat or cold — about 10 degrees Celcius in either direction. In addition, they suck up local pollution, cleaning the air and acting as a carbon sink for greenhouse gas.
Barness believes that one day soon green walls and vertical gardens in cities will have an important role in supplementing the world’s food production. If produce can be grown in cities on real estate that is not currently used, people will be able to eat more locally, freshly and with fewer food transportation miles, says Barness.
And it’s also sustainable agriculture.
“We develop edible walls that you can replace as you eat them,” Barness points out.


Once again Israel is way ahead of the world in its agritech as much as its hi-tech. Kol hakavod to Guy Barness and his team on their developments.

And with all this uplifting and interesting news I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in International relations, Israel news, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Boycotting the boycotters: anti-BDS legislation wins the day

Double standards

Following on from the previous post by Brian about the origins of BDS, it is important to keep things in proportion. Despite the outrageous nature of the motives of BDS (it basically boils down to antisemitism), and notwithstanding their self-promotion and very loud publicity (amplified by a sympathetic media)  they have had very little success on the ground. Even the related and more “acceptable in polite society” anti-settlements boycott is having difficulty getting off the ground.

We’ll start with the bad news first. Israel is outraged as EU seeks labelling of settlement goods:

“The call is essentially a de facto call to boycott Israel,” said Lapid.

“There is no difference between products made beyond the Green Line and products made inside the Green Line.

“This is an irresponsible initiative with the potential to be disastrous for the Israeli economy. It is a stain on the EU, and the State of Israel needs to fight it in order to prevent this dangerous process,” he said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sarcastically suggested the EU use the yellow star to label settlement goods. However, as an interesting aside, “Germany wasn’t among the signatories.”

What BDS really means

But help is at hand for Israel – from the US! Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection explains how the boycotters will be boycotted:

We have highlighted before proposed federal legislation updating boycott protection for Israel in new trade legislation, including the massive European Union free trade agreement under negotiation. BDS supporters howled that the trade legislation could mean the death of BDS in Europe.

That effort just got a huge boost, as this AIPAC press release reflects:

AIPAC praises the Senate Finance Committee for unanimously including an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill yesterday. AIPAC applauds the amendment’s authors, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and expresses appreciation to Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR), who backed this key initiative.

The amendment addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Utilizing well-established congressional tools, the provision directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce. The amendment also urges the U.S. Trade Representative to seek to eliminate politically-motivated economic attacks on Israel by America’s free trade partners.

The Times of Israel provides more context:

The amendment will come to a floor vote when the Senate votes on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the underlying bill. The administration is pushing hard for the TPA, which is expected to come to a vote as early as next week and has bipartisan support.

The amendment only applies to the TTIP negotiations with Europe, and not the companion Trans-Pacific Partnership talks — a response, sponsors say, to a tide of BDS-related initiatives in the European countries with which the US hopes to negotiate a historic agreement.

In further good news from America, Tennessee has become the first legislature to condemn BDS:

The resolution, which is expected to be signed next week by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, declares that the BDS movement is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” adding that BDS activities in Tennessee “undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel.”

Furthermore, the resolution states that the BDS movement and its agenda are “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all the peoples in the Middle East.”

Tennessee State Senator Dolores Gresham, who co-sponsored the resolution along with State Representative Sheila Butt, said the state’s legislature “chooses to preserve its values by publicly condemning this blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bigotry, and send a clear message that Tennessee condemns such views.”

Joanne Bregman, a local Jewish activist and attorney who advocated for the resolution’s passage, told JNS.org that the Tennessee General Assembly’s action could serve as a template for other U.S. states to recognize the growing threats of the BDS movement and anti-Semitism. She added that the Christian-initiated bill should be a “wake-up call” for the Jewish community to be the ones “who need to fill the public information void” on BDS and anti-Semitism.

In yet more US anti-boycott legislation (h/t Elder of Ziyon), a US court chucks out the case against charities supporting settlements:

 The US Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s dismissal of an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians that sought damages for alleged “terrorist attacks” by Jews in the West Bank.

The complaint was filed against five US-based charities that financially support settlement activity: Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. The plaintiffs alleged that financial support of these charities violated antiterrorism laws.

“American federal judges recognize the difference between the financing of murder and violence… and legitimate bona fide financial support of the daily needs of peaceful Israeli settlements over the Green Line,” attorney Nathan Lewin, who represented the charities in the trial and appellate courts, said in a news release sent Friday.

I take my hat off in gratitude and respect for all the American legislators, Christian activists, judges and friends of Israel who contributed to these important judgements, which are no less moral victories than legal triumphs.

BDS: no dissent allowed

A victory was achieved in Israel too in combatting both the general anti-Israel BDS and the more specific anti-settlements boycott attempts. This win was not to be taken for granted given Israel’s judiciary’s leftist slant. Nevertheless, Israel’s High Court upheld most of the “Boycott Law” which would enable lawsuits against Israeli boycotters (yes, there are such disloyal people in Israel unfortunately):

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday upheld two core parts and struck down one core part of the Anti-Boycott Law, and in a close 5-4 ruling upheld lawsuits against boycotters of “1967 Israel.”

The rulings that preserved core parts of the law came in a 9-0 vote on the authority of the finance minister to impose fines or withhold funding from Israeli NGOs calling for boycotts of businesses in all or parts of Israel, and a 8-1 ruling on the ability to file lawsuits against those NGOs.

One justice declared all lawsuits against boycotts unconstitutional.

American-born Justice Neal Hendel called free speech the “lifeblood” of democracy and reviewed American law, noting that it has no provision for lawsuits against boycotters.

At the same time, the court voted 9-0 to strike down as unconstitutional a core part of the law that would have allowed punitive damages in such lawsuits.

Finally, in a 5-4 vote, the majority of justices said that the above lawsuits could go forward even if they were against groups that called only for boycotts of post-1967 Israel, meaning of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, whereas the minority said that such boycotts should be protected free speech.

The minority explained that since there is a vibrant debate about whether Israelis should remain in Judea and Samaria, a boycott targeted only at that area and not at the rest of the country is legitimate speech and not trying to undermine Israel’s existence.

 I do not understand the minority’s explanations. A boycott is much more than “free speech”. They are not boycotting words but actual goods, i.e. they wish to ruin the economy of Jewish Israeli towns situated in Judea and Samaria. Some of them suggest academic boycotts too, e.g. of Ariel University, or cultural boycotts of events held in these communities. This goes far beyond the bounds of “free speech”.

Peter Beinart, who wrote the hotly debated book The Crisis of Zionism, is an associate professor at the City University of New York, a Haaretz columnist and a leading Jewish voice calling for targeted boycotts of the West Bank, said it would not impact hardcore BDS activists “because it’s a one-state movement and rejects” the two-state solution.

Still, Steinberg said there could be impact on the NIF and the groups it funds. He also said the ruling, which treats boycotters of the West Bank similarly to boycotters of all of Israel, could reflect the justices’ recognition of a growing movement in some European countries such as Scandinavia where particular corporate-social responsibility, pension funds and corporate investors have been more influenced by BDS ideas to boycott Israeli banks that do business over the Green Line.

Regarding this threat, Steinberg said the justices have declared that such a distinction is “not black and white” with so much blurring of business between “post 1948 Israel” and “post 1967 Israel.”

The Algemeiner speculates that lawsuits may arrive in wake of courts BDS ruling:

With the new legal ruling, BDS critics predict litigation to recover damages from the NIF and its grantees engaged in the BDS movement. After the ruling, Ronn Torossian, an entrepreneur who has written about the NIF, confirmed: “Immediately following the legal decision, a high profile uber-wealthy donor advised me of his intent to fund anyone who sought to sue the New Israel Fund for aiding and abetting boycotts of Israel. The NIF boycotts hurt both Israel and Palestinian Arabs and is simply racist at its core. It’s anti-Democratic and wrong.”

Richard Allen of JCC Watch, stated, “I certainly hope a lawsuit happens. New Israel Fund and its donors have been financing the BDS against Israel and it has been very effective. Now, they have even carved out a space for Jewish organizations to find this acceptable. But it is assisted suicide.”

Several other legal experts were skeptical that any suits initiated in Israel would ultimately prevail.

Of course we are not out of the woods, and anti-Israel boycotts, in their various disguises as political anti-Zionism, anti-settlements activity or free speech, will continue until the boycotters realise that their cause in not supported. Sadly that day is still far in the distance. Nevertheless we can take comfort that important steps towards that happy day have been taken in recent weeks.

Posted in Boycotts and BDS, International relations, Israel news, Lawfare and Delegitimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guest Post: A beginner’s guide to BDS

This is both a guest post by Brian Goldfarb and cross-posted from Northwood Synagogue’s “Nu” Magazine. Here is his introduction (in blue) followed by the article:

This article was written because friends who edit the magazine of Northwood Synagogue, north-west London, asked me to write it. I assume that most of those who come to this website are familiar with what follows. However, if you find anything in it of use, please feel free to use it. I would just ask that you note where whatever you use comes from: my name as author, the title and that it was first published in ”Nu”, the magazine of Northwood Synagogue, London, April 2015, as well as being cross-posted from this website. “Nu” is Yiddish can be variously translated as “and…?”, “so…?” or even “and that means…what?”. You will have to imagine the shrug of the shoulders that accompanies this word!

Part two, “How to fight BDS” will be published in the autumn of 2015 in “Nu” and, if she is willing to accept it, here on “Anne’s Opinions”. [Anne adds – of course I’m willing!]


BDS - Big, Dumb, Stupid

BDS – Big, Dumb, Stupid

The last time there was a serious effort at a boycott of one nation it was against apartheid South Africa and that was back in the 1960s to 1991, when Mandela was released from detention and it was, at least from where I stood, only the reactionaries that opposed it. Now there is a new serious effort to boycott one nation that started in about 2002 or 2003, and of course, that’s Israel. This time, from where I stand, it’s the reactionaries who wish to boycott, and more than just boycott, that one nation, and the genuine progressives and liberals who oppose it.

This effort started, I’m sad to say, in what was then my trade union, now known as the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU). Resolutions at the Executive Committee level and at Annual Conference began to be passed, calling for the boycotting of Israeli (and only Israeli) Universities. Slowly, over time, other bodies joined in, especially other trade unions, such as Unison. While I was aware of this, it only came home to me when a fellow academic at De Montfort University and also a member of the union’s Executive Committee told me that I should have seen the resolution before it was amended. I commented that watering down a hateful resolution that remained, nevertheless, hateful, did not make matters better. Indeed, I suggested that I now understood what African-Americans meant when they claimed that a liberal was one who would hang you from a low branch. To my surprise, I never heard from him again.

That date of 2002 or 2003 is important: by no coincidence, 2003 is when Gulf War 2, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, happened, and the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) emerged. While, arguably, they had a case (even Nick Cohen in his masterful “What’s Left?”, asserted that the war was being pursued for the wrong reasons – Saddam Hussein was no backer of terrorists, but a fascist dictator who murdered huge numbers of his fellow Iraqis, and deserved to be toppled), StWC rapidly became supporters of terrorists. On the famous 2003 march through London, chants of “we are all Hamas/Hezbollah now” rang around the streets 1

By some strange quirk of far-left politics and ideology, those who had been oppressed and victims (the Israelis and, by extension, Jews in general) now became the oppressors and even colonial imperialists, while those who would destroy them became the oppressed. It’s amazing what successfully defending yourselves from annihilation can do for your international profile. Especially if you’re the Jewish State. What’s even stranger is just who the Left’s allies become: in this case, Islamists and Jihadists who don’t just want Jews gone from the Middle East (and some of whom want Jews gone from the world) but also want to impose their way of life on the whole planet. Which is something the supposed lefties haven’t thought through.2

However, Israel is far too strong militarily to wish away. If nothing else, the US military (and probably the UK military, if not the UK Foreign Office) know exactly where their front line lies, and it runs along the River Jordan, facing east.

How to boycott Israel

How to boycott Israel

So, boycotting Israeli universities isn’t enough (and anyway probably breaks any number of UK anti-discrimination laws; and wouldn’t hard-nosed University administrators just love to break troublesome unions). The fight has to go further. Thus, supermarket chains must be persuaded that they should drop Israeli products through pickets, mass invasions and worse – although, so far, Waitrose, for example, still stocks Yarden Humous and Israeli dates, and capitalist profit still trumps the noisy minority’s ideology.

This means the BDS movement believes that ever more needs to be done. As well as individuals loudly refusing to buy Israeli products and, equally noisily, trying to stop others buying them, the focus has switched to campaigning in ethical organisations (such as churches) to persuade them to divest themselves of shareholdings in companies which operate in Israel, such as Caterpillar Tractors (which sells bulldozers, etc, to Israel, but doesn’t actually have a physical presence there). Indeed, the Presbyterian Churches of the USA (PCUSA) was recently persuaded to sell off their Caterpillar Tractor shares. However, these will be probably snapped up with glee by the market. If a company is big enough and the shareholding small enough, the market won’t even notice that someone is “divesting”.3

This brings us to the last element, sanctions. Sanctions, almost by definition, has to mean, or at least imply, government action. Sanctions, to be effective, have to impact on a national level. At the time of writing (a third of the way through August and during one of the many truces in Operation Protective Edge – our Israeli friends tell us that this is a ridiculous name), it appears that the UK government is considering reviewing  – with a view to cancelling, presumably – certain UK arms deals with Israel, if the fighting resumes. What is worrying is that this appears to support the anti-Zionist view that, whoever started the current wave of violence, Israel is to blame, which plays into the hands of such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

How to boycott Israel properly

How to boycott Israel properly

Hopefully, the above will serve as an introduction to the murky world of BDS. Still, this whole area can’t be left without a word on the peculiar mind-set of the advocates of BDS. Those of us who subscribe to The Times of Israel (an on-line daily from Israel) can’t fail to see the link to that paper’s on-line companion Start-Up Israel. The latter details many of the marvels of Israel’s incredibly productive start-up sector in so many areas of current technology. Further, adding in Israel21c to our inboxes would show as even more marvellous Israeli technological developments.

Reading these (and that great book “Start Up Nation”) leaves one marvelling at Israeli ingenuity and creativity. Equally importantly, it leaves one wondering why the BDS mob can’t get it right. If they really mean what they say, why are they still using their mobile phones, desk-top computers and many everyday, proprietary drugs which contain Israeli know-how and patented breakthroughs. If one were cynical, one might presume that, really, everyone else must boycott, etc, Israel, but they are blowed if they are going to inconvenience themselves!

If they really, as they should, put their money when their mouths were, they might well qualify for a collective Darwin Award. This is given to those who remove themselves from the gene pool of humanity through stupendously stupid acts!

[Brian Goldfarb (a long-standing friend of the Northwood Community) has spent his working life in higher education as a lecturer in sociology retiring as Principal Lecturer from De Montfort University, Leicester, in 2004. Since then he has devoted a considerable portion of his time in fighting the BDS movement against Israel.

In Part 2 Brian will suggest what steps can be taken to fight BDS.]

1. The march was in 2009 as far as I recall, and a 2nd one in 2014

Edited to add: Brian corrects me in the comments:
Ros, who was then a practising lawyer, noted that during that march there were such chants, and there were people there clearly breaking the law with their chants (certain of which were antisemitic and thus actionable under UK law), but no arrests were made, even of those already under restraint orders. We were there: tho’ not yet moved back to London, we were in town to visit an exhibition and we made our way around the fringes of the march to meet our younger daughter (studying in London at the time).

As Jewish Zionists, it was quite scary. The main point is that even then, these idiots were blaming Israel for the UN agreed action against the funders and supporter of terror, who were seen as wonderful, even noble, savages.
2.This is no quirk of fate. It was and is a deliberate act by Hamas. See this article on how BDS is actually fuelled and directed by Hamas and its allies.
3. Ironically, the PA had no compunctions in buying Caterpillar bulldozers

Anne adds: Brian, thank you very much for this interesting and very necessary backgrounder to the sorry beginnings of the BDS movement. It seems to have been around forever so it’s a bit startling to realize it is only since 2003 that it got going, and probably only hit its stride between 2006 and 2009, i.e. when Israel had the temerity to defend itself against Hezbollah and Hamas respectively. Even worse, Israel had the chutzpah to defend its citizens and prevent them from being killed by those two terror organizations!

It is saddening and sickening to realize that people would rather give up their liberal values and lie to themselves purely in order to “get the Jews”.

Posted in Academia, Boycotts and BDS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Disaster in Nepal; Israeli aid on the way

As you all must have heard by now, a massive earthquake, 7.9 on the Richter scale, occurred in the Kathmandu and Everest region of Nepal on Saturday morning. Thousands are reported dead, many more are injured, countless others are missing, and the death and injury tolls are expected to rise.

KATHMANDU, Nepal — The death toll from the magnitude-7.9 earthquake that shook Nepal’s capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday has climbed to 876, Nepalese police said Saturday afternoon. The toll rose to over 1,000 later in the day.

The quake collapsed houses, centuries-old temples and cut open roads in the worst tremor in the Himalayan nation in over 80 years.

The 60-metre-high (100-foot) Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal, before and after the earthquake

Hundreds have been injured, including at least one Israeli traveler. Nepal is a very popular travel destination for Israelis.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Israel would send a plane to evacuate citizens once the airport reopens for operations, and extended an offer to Nepalese officials to send aid.

Liberman also spoke with the ambassador to Nepal, Yaron Meir, and told him he gave instructions to send reinforcements to the embassy in Kathmandu, according to a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

The building of the Israeli embassy in Kathmandu sustained some damage and embassy staff were operating a situation room from the yard, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that staff were out on foot looking for injured Israelis since roads are blocked.

The devastation is just terrible:

A number of avalanches swept Mount Everest as a result of the quake and initial reports said at least 8 climbers were killed.

Several buildings collapsed in the center of the capital, the ancient Old Kathmandu, including centuries-old temples and towers, said resident Prachanda Sual.

The US Geological Survey revised the magnitude from 7.5 to 7.9 and said the quake hit at 11:56 a.m. local time (0611 GMT) at Lamjung a shallow depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles).

Witnesses and media reports said Saturday’s quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi. AP reporters in Indian cities of Lucknow in the north and Patna in the east also reported strong tremors.

Today, an aftershock as big as an average earthquake, magnitude 6.5, hit the region causing even more damage, with the death toll rising to well over 2,000:

The cawing of crows mixed with terrified screams as the aftershock pummeled the capital city early Sunday afternoon. At magnitude 6.7, it was strong enough to feel like an another earthquake, and came as planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers from neighboring countries began arriving in this poor Himalayan nation.

Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake reached from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 17 people died there and 61 were injured.

Rescuers use a makeshift stretcher to carry an injured person after an avalanche triggered by an earthquake flattened parts of Everest Base Camp

The earthquake centered outside Kathmandu, the capital, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in over 80 years. It destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods of Kathmandu, and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan. By Sunday afternoon, authorities said at least 2,152 people had died, all but 60 of them in Nepal. At least 721 of them died in Kathmandu alone, and the number of injured nationwide was upward of 5,000.

But outside of the oldest neighborhoods, many in Kathmandu were surprised by how few modern structures — the city is largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings — collapsed in the quake. While aid workers cautioned that many buildings could have sustained serious structural damage, it was also clear that the death toll would have been far higher had more buildings caved in.

There was an additional complication of a humanitarian angle specific to Israel: surrogate mothers and their Israeli babies:

There were also a number of very lightly wounded Israelis in Nepal, the Foreign Ministry said, and 25 newborns, born to surrogate mothers, were receiving medical treatment.

Many of the Israeli parents and their children were brought to the courtyard of the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu, Channel 2 reported. Hundreds more Israeli travelers found shelter at the Chabad House in Kathmandu.

Representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry have been holding intensive meetings over the past 24 hours on what to do about the surrogate mothers in Nepal. Four Israeli couples have already submitted official requests to Interior Minister Gilad Erdan to allow the surrogate mothers to fly to Israel to give birth. Erdan agreed, but was told that the decision was not in his purview. Justice Ministry officials are delaying the reply due to the legal questions that the issue raises, including the question of human trafficking.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that the surrogate mothers are Indian, but Indian law does not allow them to give birth in India. Despite this, the possibility of flying the surrogate mothers to India for the births is being looked into.

The procedures of surrogacy and confirmation of paternity in Israel are complicated. A baby born to a Nepalese surrogate mother is a Nepalese citizen. To allow the baby to be flown to Israel, he or she must undergo a DNA test confirming that his or her father is Israeli. Only then does the Israeli embassy issue the infant a passport.

Due to the extraordinary circumstances, the Interior Ministry has lifted these bureaucratic hurdles for the time being, allowing the fathers to return to Israel with their babies. The Foreign Ministry is making efforts to coordinate with the Nepalese in hopes of resolving the matter as soon as possible.

Israelis can be proud of our country’s huge humanitarian aid airlift to Nepal:

The full IDF aid mission will consist of 240 personnel as well as field hospital crew (h/t Shelley):

According to initial estimates by the Home Front Command following the devastating earthquake in Nepal, some 240 soldiers and officers will take part in the search and rescue team that will take off from Israel to Kathmandu on Sunday.

The delegation will include medical experts and aid workers and will set up a field hospital in the ravaged capital. The primary focus of the team will be to locate and assist the many Israelis stranded by the quake who have yet to make contact with their families.

The Israelis will depart in two planes and stay in Nepal for at least two weeks. The site where the delegation will deploy has yet to be announced and will be decided on Sunday after consultation with an IDF team which took off to Katmandu from Nevatim Airbase on Saturday at midnight.

The first-responder crew includes seven medical, logistics, and rescue officers from Home Front Command and will join up with the local authorities when it lands in Nepal to determine what priorities the Israeli delegation should set in their aid efforts.

Due to the failure of local infrastructure in Nepal, the IDF delegation will include advanced communication equipment which relies on satellites instead of local phone lines.

The delegation to Nepal is expected to be the largest to be deployed in recent years, with a more comprehensive staff than those sent to the Philippines and Japan.

President Reuven Rivlin said on Saturday night, “Our hearts and thoughts are with the nation of Nepal who are dealing with a terrible disaster, and with our loved ones who are in danger and distress.”

Rivlin added that “Israel will extend its hand with a will to aid in search and rescue of the many injured.”

Chabad meanwhile has come to the rescue as it always manages to do in times of emergency and has become a crisis hub in Nepal:

Hundreds of Israeli backpackers and tourists took refuge at the Chabad center in Kathmandu, Nepal, after a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the capital city shortly before noon on Saturday. Some were given emergency medical treatment there as emissaries and volunteers worked frantically to help locate the missing, and to provide food and shelter to the stranded.

Chabad in Kathmandu turned into a makeshift earthquake refugee shelter

… The quake’s damage reached Mount Everest and beyond, setting off landslides that killed at least 18 mountain-climbers, and trapped hikers and backpackers at the start of the climbing season. There are currently no known Israeli deaths from the catastrophe, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Chabad emissaries there, though as many as 200 remain unaccounted for as the death toll continues to climb. Fatalities have also been reported in China and India.

Chani Lifshitz, who co-directs Chabad of Nepal with her husband, Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz, said in a video posted to their Facebook page that a few hundred people had taken refuge at the center, which was slightly damaged by the quake. She tried to reassure loved ones in Israel and abroad.

Thousands of Israeli backpackers and foreign tourists – many of them in their 20s – pass through Nepal and the Chabad House each year.

“We’re trying to calm everyone,” she said, noting that they were experiencing aftershocks even as she was recording the video.

Here is Chabad of Nepal’s Facebook page where you can stay updated and where Israeli tourists are posting updates on their safety and location.

Equally importantly, Chabad in Nepal have a donations page (Hebrew) or at this English language page where you can make a much needed tax-deductible donation to assist in their rescue efforts.

Our hearts go out to the good and gentle people of Nepal. May Hashem send them succour and rescue from Heaven, assisted by aid missions such as IsrAid and other missions from the rest of the world.

Besides the Chabad donations page, you can donate to the IsrAid mission here:

IsrAid Emergency Relief for Nepal Earthquake Rescue.

Posted in International relations, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Starting the week with a bang

In fact the “bang” started already at the end of the week just past with a rather large bang at the end of Independence Day, as a rocket launched from Gaza exploded in the area around Sderot. Thankfully there were no injuries. Let us hope that this was the terrorists’ “contribution” to our Independence Day festivities and not a signal for a new round of fighting. The IDF hit back with tank fire at terrorist infrastructure.

Israeli fighter jet

At some point between Wednesday and Friday the IAF struck twice in Syria against weapons stores and convoys intended for Hezbollah:

Syrian and Lebanese media are reporting at least two IAF raids that struck targets in Western Syria, but there is still confusion regarding when they took place and what targets were hit.

According to Channel 2‘s website, “unofficial media” in Syria and Lebanon said there were two attacks – the second one on Friday, against Hezbollah trucks that carried surface-to-surface missiles. Photographs that were published showed the remains of the bombed targets.

Another Hezbollah convoy was struck Wednesday at al-Qalamoun and at least one person was killed in that attack, according to Al Arabiya.

Al-Qalamoun is located near the region bordering Lebanon.

According to Lebanese television station LBC, the targets were centers and mobile forces from Brigades 65, 155 and 192 of the Syrian Army, which possess heavy missiles that were meant for Hezbollah, the Shiite Lebanese militia that is a proxy of Iran..

The IAF raid at al-Qalamoun hit a missile depot in the strategic western Syrian region, Al Arabiya News’ sister channel Al Hadath reported Thursday.

Sources also told Al Hadath that two other IAF strikes on Wednesday had targeted a convoy carrying arms belonging to, or meant for, Hezbollah.

The sources reported several explosions at Al-Qutayfah, Yabroud and Qarah, on the outskirts of Damascus.

In less encouraging news, there has been a spate of terror incidents over the weekend:

In a very strange story, an Israeli man was found bound and stabbed in the trunk of his car in the A-Tur neighbourhood of Jerusalem after the car was stopped by a suspicious and alert policeman. Two Arab suspects were arrested. The police are still investigating whether this was criminal or terrorist-related.

Two terrorists were killed over Shabbat in two separate attacks, one in  Hevron and one outside Jerusalem:

A Border Policeman in Hebron was stabbed multiple times in the head, neck and chest on Saturday by a Palestinian Authority terrorist.

The terrorist was shot and killed by a second soldier.

The Border Policeman is in moderate but stable condition.

On Friday night, an Arab tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.

That terrorist was killed. The soldier was not injured.

The soldier who shot the terrorist in Hevron recounts:

A Border Policeman recounted the incident: “In the course of routine activity at the Tzalbanit Checkpoint, next to the Cave of Patriarchs, a Palestinian suddenly showed up and began stabbing one of the warriors in my team. In a split second we understood that this was a terror attack and I understood that we need to take action quickly.

“I fired in order to neutralize the terrorist even as he was leaning over my comrade and stabbing him. The event takes only a few seconds, there is no time to think too much, you have to think precisely and act immediately, that is how they train the warriors at the Border Police. I and the other warriors in the battalion pray for the speedy recovery of our comrade.”

Kol hakavod to the soldier on his quick thinking and speedy reaction which saved his comrade’s life.

Earlier this evening (Saturday night) an empty bus travelling on the main route, road no. 443, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was set on fire by a firebomb thrown at it. Thank G-d no one was injured since the bus was empty:

The regular Israeli bus from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem was attacked Saturday night with a bottle bomb near the Dor Alon gas station halfway between Modi’in and Jerusalem. No one was hurt but the bus went up in flames.

Also tonight (Saturday night) another car-ramming attack took place in Jerusalem which injured three policemen:

In what appears to be the third terror attack against Jews in about 24 hours, an Arab driver plowed down three people Saturday evening on the Kohanim Route in eastern Jerusalem.

MDA medics gave the three initial care and were evacuating them to Shaarei Tzedek hospital. One of the three, reportedly a Border Policewoman, is moderately injured, with wounds to the pelvis and extremities. The two others are lightly injured.

The Jerusalem Police Spokeswoman described the attack thus:

“A Skoda car drove from the direction of the Mount of Olives cemetery to the Mukased Hospital. At the Salman al-Farsi junction it drove onto the pavement and hit three policemen. Shots were fired at the car, that kept on driving down Salman al-Farsi. The area was combed and the car that struck the policemen was located. The search continues for the terrorist.”

Even more outrageously, the emergency responders themselves came under attack as they rushed to the scene:

Emergency responders were forced to flee the scene after rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at them.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s car was also reportedly pelted by stones as he drove to the scene.

The situation in Jerusalem is becoming, if not quite unbearable, at least unnerving and outrageous in equal proportions as the general population feels abandoned. This heartfelt plea on Facebook expresses the feelings well:


Education Ministry, Justice, Foreign Affairs and Defence. Everyone is waffling away and the people of Israel continue to be stabbed, run over and injured by firebombs and stones.

No one is waking up and everyone carries on with their blabbing and nonsense. The public is completely fed up.

It is impossible to live in a capital city under attack by car-ramming attacks, stoning the light railway, firebombs and stones on buses, towards Jewish homes in variosu neighbourhoods and a permanent threat to Jewish lives in the Old City.

It is not possible to continue with dozens of terror attacks daily on the roads in Judea, Samaria and the Binyamin region. We cannot continue with attacks on Road 443 and the permanent endangerment of our soldiers on their regular duties in the (Arab) villages.

The people of Israel have had it up to here with this business.

Government of Israel – we demand security! We demand a painful response! We demand the entry of the security forces into the villages to bring a harsh response. We are not interested in what the world has to say! We are solely interested in the security of our children and families!


Indeed, it is about time that the government and the Jerusalem city council vigorously applied the Israeli sovereignty of which they are so proud, and enforce the law and security for the benefit of all Jerusalem’s residents, whether Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

Posted in Defence and Military, Israel news, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
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