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 – Bigoted, 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”.

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18 Responses to Guest Post: A beginner’s guide to BDS

  1. fred says:

    BDS is a radical group of the the dogs of war Islam All SA Muslim webs praise them Muslims are only 2% of SA pop but very vocal in general they have no local support Blade states he is a communist the only red he knows is a jonney walker red label whiskey

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Fred, thank you for your comment and welcome to my blog.

      I agree with your contention that BDS is linked to Islam, at least to radical Islam. As I linked at the end of my post, Hamas are one of the main directors of BDS.

      When you say Blade can I assume you are referring to the South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande? (I googled… )

      It’s interesting how you say that the Muslims are only 2% of the population, with little local support but are very vocal. That seems to be the pattern all over the world outside of the Middle East. Except of course in France where the Muslim population is much higher, and maybe in a couple of other countries.

      The radical Muslims make up in decibels what they lack in popular support, backed by a willing media.

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Anne, the march I meant is the one mentioned early on in this wikipedia article ( Yes, I know it’s wikipedia, but it mentions the 2003 March in London as allegedly the biggest ever in that city. At the time, even the police weren’t arguing against something like 2 million people.

    As Abe Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time…” (but “only some of the people all of the time”, which is why they rarely get such large turn outs since).

    • anneinpt says:

      Ah, I remember that march vaguely. But they weren’t – yet – calling “we are all Hamas/Hezbollah now”. That came later. That was the distinction I wanted to make with my footnote.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Disagreement time (or are we both suffering from senior moments!?): 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. Language used advisedly.

        • Brian Goldfarb says:

          It really is late for me (even with 2 hours taken off the time of posting): I intended to post the following link from Honest Reporting:, on the claim that Hamas and Israel are talking, so if true, what does that do to the credibility of the BDS mob? Dent it severely, I hope!

          • anneinpt says:

            I had seen that headline too and thought I was hallucinating since I’m suffering from bronchitis. I don’t really like the idea on the one hand, but I suppose that realpolitik has its part to play. And if the situation can calm down in Gaza, who knows? maybe the Mashiach can come too (if he could only find a parking space!).

            But as you say, just the thought of BDS minds exploding gives me happy thoughts. 🙂

        • anneinpt says:

          Oh wow, Brian, I had no idea it started already back then. My apologies. The Wiki article doesn’t mention those calls, but then again, it’s Wiki… I’ll edit my footnote accordingly.

          One would like to think it was quite scary for any decent human being, not just for Jewish Zionists.

          ’nuff said.

          • Brian Goldfarb says:

            Anne, the mere coming of the Mashiach would open up all the parking spaces needed…for ever!

            “A consummation devoutly to be wished!”

  3. Reality says:

    Thank you for all this information.I hadn’t realised where & how BDS started.
    What I can’t get my head around is,the world is seeing ISIS chopping off heads,Hezbollah/hamas/al quaeda chanting death to America (democracy) & Israel, they see areas where Sharia law exists within London,France & who knows where else, there are hundreds of wars, coups and who knows what going on ALL in the name of jihad & Muslim religion.Yet BDS is going stronger. Why?
    The answer is plain old anti semitism.There cannot be any other way of comprehending things otherwise.The fault that BDS is successful often lies with various European &US leaders. It’s like a blood libel without killings.

    • anneinpt says:

      I think we can narrow down the fault for BDS’s success (and it’s not such a huge success. There is very little that is actually boycotted despite their noise and publicity) to the uber-liberal radical chic position taken by the “chatterati” – the media, academia, and now, yes, the leftist politicians like Obama and certain of Europe’s leaders, especially Scandinavia.

      It’s interesting to note though that the electorate are swinging back to the center if not the right all over Europe. I wonder how that will affect BDS.

  4. Pingback: Boycotting the boycotters: anti-BDS legislation wins the day | Anne's Opinions

  5. Brian Goldfarb says:

    In all this, it’s also interesting to note that back in 2003-4 (when the push for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was building momentum) the “progressives” were blaming Israel for the coming invasion of Iraq. The supposed “Israel lobby” yet again. At the time, Israeli intelligence was yelling in George W. Bush’s inattentive ear that Iraq wasn’t the problem (Saddam was a nasty fascist who murdered huge numbers of of his own people, but he wasn’t funding terrorists to any great extent, if at all), but Iran was: they were already starting the process of getting their own nuclear weapons.

    This particular point shows that the anti-Zionists (and, boy, does it hurt being polite!) have never been bothered by truth or rationality.

    • Philip says:

      I think we can safely attribute this one to a ‘senior moment’: Operation Enduring Freedom (ie, the Afghanistan invasion) began in October 2001, not 2003-4.

      I suppose we can also attribute to such momentary seniority the assertion that Israel’s front line is in the same location as the Palestinian West Bank border with Jordan?

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        How typical of Philip the Troll to pick on picayune elements in an attempt to undermine the general point.

        Of course Philip doesn’t examine or comment on BDS (that might expose him to having to actually deal with real, substantive issues). Instead, he is mock funny (as in peculiar, you understand, not ha-ha) and tries to imply that my and others sanity is at issue. Anybody intent on making a serious point would merely have noted the actual dates rather than make an issue of them. Oddly, his supposed “correction” (actually an attempt to dilute the anti-Zionist nature of BDS without actually saying so – nice try, Philip, but no cigar) merely exposes his lack of seriousness on this whole area.

        His second paragraph actually exposes a more serious problem with Philip’s sense of realpolitik. By questioning my grasp on reality (as he sees it as an anti-Zionist), he manages to gloss the fact (and it is a fact, Philip, so get used to it) that Israel and Jordan have a peace treaty and they also have, as reported extensively in various media outlets, a keen sense of their joint interests in keeping Jordan free from Islamist, Jihadist and (where this is separate) ISIS influence or control. Thus Jordan knows that Israel has its back, along the Jordan, and so can focus its military forces on its borders elsewhere.

        Too complex for Philip, of course: he might have to think to comprehend these issues, instead of just reacting.

        Philip, you were a failure on the engage website, what makes you think you will do any better here?

        As I’ve already said, you’re just a troll, so go away and stop bothering people with real, serious issues we’d like to discuss, without the likes of you pretending to be clever instead of just being silly, even stupid.

  6. Pingback: Guest Post: A Beginner’s Guide to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). Part 2: How to fight it | Anne's Opinions

  7. Pingback: Guest Post: A Beginner’s Guide to Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), Part 3: Fighting BDS | Anne's Opinions

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