This is a guest post by Brian Goldfarb – a continuation from his previous post on the same subject from April, when Brian promised a follow-up post in which he will suggest what steps can be taken to fight BDS.
This article, like the previous Anne published on this site, 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, as before, 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 United Synagogue (and thus “Nu”), London, September 2015, as well as being cross-posted from this website. “Nu” is also 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!
You will note at the end of the article a reference to the (UK) National Union of Students and a BDS resolution their Executive Council passed. I am not aware of any developments since then, but you might search out the article by Denis MacEoin I linked to on this matter in the last article Anne was kind enough to post here.
The article as published begins here:
I wish I could promise that there was such a thing as “THE” guide to fighting BDS. Sadly, there is, of course, no such a thing. How can there be, when our opponents are so determined to find fault with Israel (and often with Jews as a whole) merely for existing.
This means that the best I can hope to offer is a description of what those of us who spend time in this area do, and to suggest sources and methods for carrying out this activity for those who might wish to join us. And we need all the help we can get, even if the situation, in reality, is not as dire as our opponents would wish.
As a preamble, it is important to note that most British people are almost certainly indifferent (not uncaring, but just not bothered) about Israel and Jews, let alone the Middle East as a whole. It is equally important to note that far-right anti-semites in Britain are few in number and their organised groups keep breaking apart. We need to remember this every time these people hit the headlines. Of more concern are the so-called “Progressives” that I discussed in the Part 1: sadly, they are more of a problem, because many of them are part of the “conventional”, centrist, political scene.
On paper, of greater concern still are those Muslims who are often self-defined as Islamists and Jihadists. However, we must keep in mind the following (from the 2011 Census): there are 2.78 million Muslims in the UK, some 4.4% of the population. It is safe to assume that, left to themselves, without encouragement from Islamist and Jihadist Imams and on-line efforts to radicalise them, the vast majority probably only wish to live their lives in peace and quiet, just like our grand- and great-grandparents from Eastern Europe did at the turn of the 20th Century.
Thus, my first suggestion would be that we need to be using what links we have to persuade politicians that they should be seeking to consult moderate Moslem organisations, starting with, say, the Quilliam Foundation and the Muslim Council of Britain (although the latter has fallen out of favour in high quarters, for some reason) and not be persuaded to consider that less moderate bodies (such as the Muslim Council of Britain, with its support for the Stop the War Coalition, and points left of them) are actually representative of that 4.4% of the population. It also means ensuring that our locally-elected politicians do not follow the easy path of deciding to boycott Israeli-made goods, because of pressure from the “left”.
We must also be prepared to use our votes (and let those seeking them know this) for or against the same politicians. How effective this will be remains to be seen and is always dependent on the rest of the electorate, especially those less concerned about the Middle East than us.
Probably the second and next most obvious action is to buy Israeli goods whenever and wherever we can (the so-called “buycott”). If nothing else, traders seeing Israeli goods disappearing from the shelves via the till can only be encouraged to re-stock. Most retailers are, inevitably, more concerned with the bottom line than with politics and most customers are interested more in the quality of the goods than where they come from.
These are the simplest and possibly least time-consuming of the actions I would propose. From now on, it takes longer to get results, if only because it takes greater effort to achieve results. For example, there is a US website called “Divest This” (http://divestthis.com) which chronicles the efforts of the BDS movement, almost completely unsuccessfully, to infiltrate US food co-operatives, among other organisations, and get them to ban Israeli products.
This resulted in the posting online of this handbook.
In reading it, you will see that defending organisations to which one belongs takes time and effort: we have to be at least as determined as our opponents.
So what else can we do to combat BDS, beyond these essentially personal steps? One, relatively easy step, is to keep an eye out for pro-Israel demonstrations, which are often publicised by Jewish organisations, such as our synagogues, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Chronicle, the United Synagogue, JIA, Stand for Israel UK, Stand With Us, We believe in Israel and so forth. You might just be surprised whose mailing lists you are on!
Thus, for example, during Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014, we went, along with literally thousands of others, to the so-called Town Meeting at the Jewish Free School in Kenton, the demo called by the Sussex Friends of Israel (Facebook page here) (a community-wide non-denominational organisation) in Brighton – where we had the pleasure of meeting as well as hearing Lt. Col. Richard Kemp – and the newly-formed Campaign Against Antisemitism (Facebook page here) meeting outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Numbers count: they get reported. Thus, if the claims are accurate, something close to 2% of the Jewish population of London attended the last-named demonstration.
The next stages are even more time-consuming, because they involve us sitting at our computers or leafing through hard-copy papers, reading and deciding what to do with what we read. What I am not recommending (and never would) is reading the opposition and responding to them in their papers or on their websites: reading them, maybe, but taking that information elsewhere. This is because the opposition is far more numerous and it can be dispiriting having what seems like everyone else against us. It can also be dispiriting reading some of the sites on “our” side, such as UK Media Watch, (previously known as Comment is Free Watch, monitoring The Guardian’s online presence with regard to Israel/Palestine) given the material that people like Adam Levick (founder and chief editor of the site) have to wade through. I have nothing but unstinting admiration for them, but, personally, I can face visiting only occasionally. The same goes for BBC Watch.
There are, additionally, numerous sites which are supportive of Israel and which provide much information about what is happening in and around the region, not just in Israel/Palestine, but including Turkey, what’s happening to the Kurds (the latter allies of Israel), in Syria, and so forth. Some of these (which come regularly to my inbox and may already be in yours) are Algemeiner, The Tablet, The Gatestone Institute, Middle East Forum and Honest Reporting (all American), The Times of Israel and its offshoot Start-Up Daily (on hi-tech in Israel) and Israel21c (on Israeli technology and other breakthroughs and advances in social and cultural fields) – all Israeli. I read these for the purpose of getting information and insight into the Middle East and Israel. These, of course, are far from the only sources: there is also The Jerusalem Post, The Commentator and The Henry Jackson Society (the first of these, clearly, is Israeli, the latter two British). Furthermore, by following links within articles that interest you, you will find yet further online sources that you might want to keep in your documents or inbox.
So, this is the relatively easy part: we badger our politicians (and they want our votes, so they would be stupid not to respond, whatever that response is). And now having an MP whom we suspect is not sympathetic to our position, we have decided that we have to keep nudging away at her to try and keep her honest, from our point of view; we buy Israeli goods as and when it is possible; and we read all sorts of hard copy and online newspapers. So what comes next?
That comes in Part 3 ………
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.
We are most fortunate that Brian is writing for NU? since there are few who have their finger on the pulse as he does. We took advantage of this by asking Brian for his comments on the recent pro-BDS Vote at the National Union of Students. These are his reflections :
“On 2nd June (while I was writing the above Article) the Executive Council of the National Union of Students passed a pro-BDS Resolution. StandWithUs UK reported it as follows:
“The motion was brought by the SOAS representative. An amendment to the motion was accepted to include the boycotting of companies such as Veolia and Eden Springs, and to affiliate NUS with the BDS movement. There are also moves to call the student body to co-ordinate a national day of action as part of Palestine Solidarity Day on November 29. The vote was carried with 19 for, 14 against and 3 abstentions.
Jewish students collected over 2000 signatures from 10 campuses in advance of the vote in protest against it.”
This is hardly an overwhelming vote of confidence in BDS, but it is nevertheless a defeat for good sense. I wrote to the Director of StandWithUs as follows:
“[The University & College Union], when it passes BDS Resolutions at Annual Conference, has continually been informed by its lawyers that to actually implement any such resolution would be a breach of UK anti-discrimination law. Has anyone sought to inform the NUS of this legal position? That is, should NUS actually seek to act in a discriminatory manner, it could, as a corporate body, be taken to court.
For example, should the NUS or any of its affiliates seek to actively act against Veolia attempting to work on a college campus, Veolia might well take it to court.
If the NUS has any sense, it will treat this resolution as a mere token. Like passing a resolution demanding that everyone be good, or be against sin.
As for the affiliation to the BDS movement, can those who oppose this demand their money back?”
The Director wrote back telling me that “UK Lawyers for Israel are already busy with this.” She also pointed out that the StandWithUs Campus Director had issued a statement condemning this move by the NUS Executive.
When the University & College Union first passed boycott resolutions, those against this managed to organise a membership-wide referendum, which rejected the boycott root and branch. Perhaps there is something in the NUS Constitution which would allow dissenters to follow the same course?
Hopefully, by the time my Article appears in NU! this matter will have been brought to a successful conclusion with a victory for good sense. I will report back in the next Edition.
Anne adds: Brian, thank you once again for an excellent analysis and insight into the practical aspects of fighting BDS. Kol hakavod to you on taking such an active part in the fight against the malicious BDS movement.
As has become obvious for a while, and as I hope you will see in my next post, BDS has gone over the edge into full-blown insane Jew-hatred. This is not to say that they weren’t Jew haters before. They were. It’s just that now it has become too obvious for even the most liberal of observers to ignore.
Let’s hope that they have taken that one step too far which will be their undoing.