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!]
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.
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.
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.]
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”.