Tuesday, June 16, 2015

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon

"When you educate people to boycott only Israel, when you tell them that all Israelis are responsible for human-rights abuses, when you mobilise a global campaign to say that Israel is uniquely racist, and when this campaign becomes central to progressive politics globally, you are, whether you know it or not, incubating anti-Semitic ways of thinking. When ears are closed to concern about anti-Semitism on the basis that such concern is a marker of secret support for Israeli human rights abuses, then you know there is a problem."
So observed London academic and left-leaning Zionist Dr David Hirsh on his well-known website (http://www.engageonline.org.uk) in 2011, in an article entitled “No such thing as a victimless boycott”.
Australians Associate Professor Philip Mendes and Dr Nick Dyrenfurth, both of Monash University and both with a number of books to their credit, are cast in similar mould to Dr Hirsh. They are on the mainstream left of the political spectrum – Philip Mendes is, incidentally, the undisputed, much-published authority on the Jewish Left in Australia and has told its story warts and all, while Nick Dyrenfurth has written about the Australian Labor Party (ALP), for which he once worked as an adviser and speechwriter. Manifestly not uncritical of Israeli government policy, they are firmly committed to Israel’s right to exist within just and secure borders, and under no illusions regarding the sinister nature and aims of the BDS movement. Their new book, Boycotting Israel is Wrong: The progressive path to peace between Palestinians and Israelis (NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2015) is the first book written by political “progressives” that unequivocally condemns the excrescence that is the BDS weapon while at the same time offering a prescription for a solution to a seemingly intractable conflict.
Last Thursday, at its Melbourne launch introduced by Michael Borowick, assistant secretary to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), around 100 people including the indefatigably pro-Israel ALP federal MP Michael Danby and yours truly, heard ALP federal MP and Shadow Justice Minister David Feeney speak enthusiastically in favour of the book and its thesis. Pointing out that being anti-Israel is fast becoming the litmus test of being a loyal political leftist, and observing that the experience of partition was not unique to former mandate Palestine, he blamed the Palestinian leaders’ persistent rejection of solutions offered by Israel for the Palestinians’ plight, and queried why so many on the Green Left movement and in the left-wing factions of the ALP demonise the Middle East region’s sole democracy, Israel, when what should concern progressives is the oppression of and atrocities against women and minorities that characterises so much of the Middle East. Denouncing the antisemitism of the BDS movement, he also denounced the current trend for unilateral recognition of a hitherto non-existent Palestinian State: likening such recognition to a cul-de-sac that is no thoroughfare to peace. Such a peace, entailing a two-state solution, can only be achieved through negotiation and compromise (including the division of Jerusalem), Feeney argued, adding that while it is true that Palestinian nationalism is a comparatively late phenomenon, it should not be dismissed as invalid on those grounds, for not all modern states – Pakistan for instance – are rooted in an ages-long sense of nationhood. It is vital, he concluded, for the mainstream left, based on such considerations, to present the case for Israel and not allow support for Israel to be misrepresented exclusively as a feature of the political right.
Since Feeney’s speech essentially reflected the sentiments of the book, Philip Mendes decided to dispense with the speech he intended to give – which he had given at the Sydney launch the previous day – and spoke relatively briefly.
Why would anybody write a book about the BDS movement?Mendes had said earlier. “For me personally, it’s all been a bit of a political catharsis. For much of the 1980s and indeed 1990s, I was part of a tiny minority of a few dozen Australian Jews – barely a minyan – who favoured recognizing Palestinian national rights alongside the State of Israel via a two-state solution.
But even in those days, there were anti-Zionist fundamentalists on the far Left who demanded absolute justice for Palestinians even if this meant Israelis were denied any national rights….
By any reasonable judgement, the month of March 2002 had been a particularly horrific episode in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During that awful period, there were eight separate suicide attacks by Palestinian Islamic terrorists on Israeli civilians resulting in the deaths of no less than 63 people and many hundreds injured. The final straw was the attack on the Passover Seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel which killed 30 people and injured 140. This attack provoked the Israeli invasion of the leading West Bank cities known as Operation Defensive Shield in an attempt to destroy the terror networks, and stop the carnage.
Yet it was precisely at this point that the international campaign for a boycott of Israel commenced. Two UK academics Steven and Hilary Rose proposed a boycott of all Israeli academics and academic institutions. Their initiative was copied in May 2002 by two Australian academics John Docker and Ghassan Hage. Their boycott petition, which was signed by 90 Australian academics, was based on the binary opposites of good and bad nations stereotyping the Israelis as evil oppressors, and the Palestinians as defenceless and innocent victims.
Even putting aside the question of whether this petition may have been interpreted as supporting the Palestinian perpetrators of suicide bombings rather than the Israeli victims, the philosophical intent was obvious. The Australian BDS movement did not endorse the national and human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and did not seek to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation via a two-state solution. Rather, its concern was the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
As we note in our book ... the BDS movement’s extremist agenda has not changed since 2002. The major local manifestations include:

  • The Max Brenner chocolate shop protests led by angry far Left extremists from the Socialist Alternative group who urge the restoration of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea which means the elimination of the State of Israel;
  • The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney whose Director Jake Lynch ironically boycotted the visiting Israeli peace academic Dan Avnon. Lynch has publicly argued that Jewish financial pressure was responsible for the ALP switching leaders from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in June 2010.
  • The NSW Branch of the Australian Greens which voted in December 2010 “to boycott Israeli goods, trading and military arrangements, and sporting, cultural and academic events as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory, the siege of Gaza and imprisonment of 1.5 million people and Israel’s institution of a system of apartheid”, later resulting in the embarrassing Marrickville Council BDS saga during the 2011 state election.
  • The Victorian Trades Hall Council which hosted a BDS Conference in October 2010 with the American BDS activist Anna Baltzer, who favours the abolition of the State of Israel, as the key-note speaker.
  • The Sydney University Staff for a BDS who construct Israelis as monolithically evil oppressors whilst its powerful supporters around the world allegedly bully and threaten any who challenge its hegemony.
The common theme here is that the BDS movement is not concerned with ending the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, or challenging specific Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Rather the sole aim is to paint Israel as an allegedly racist and colonialist state which has no right to exist, and to transform Israel into an international pariah similar to South Africa under the former apartheid regime.
In doing so, the movement also demonises any pro-Israel Jews elsewhere, whatever their varied views on conflict, as the political enemy, and openly use the language of bigotry and xenophobia to hit their target. This has been particularly apparent during the recent and continuing debate over Jake Lynch’s role in the aggressive disruption of Colonel Richard Kemp’s talk at Sydney University. Lynch’s supporters have constructed the debate as an apocalyptic battle between allegedly brave supporters of justice for the Palestinians versus powerful Jewish pro-Israel lobby groups.
For example, Professor Stuart Rees, Lynch’s predecessor at CPACS and founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation, has accused pro-Israel groups of engaging in intimidation, verbal battering, venom, hate mail and death threats. He refers to the alleged “financial and political power” of these groups, and yet oddly denies any link between anti-Semitism and the extremist BDS movement. He should also note that Palestinian BDS activists have actually been physically breaking up Israeli-Palestinian peace conferences in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
Nick Riemer and David Brophy from the Sydney University Staff for a BDS group raise the furphy of a powerful pro-Israel lobby allegedly threatening the jobs of University Staff involved in pro-Palestine activism, but provide no names or evidence as to which groups or individuals are involved in what they call a “witchhunt”. Their argument suggests a bizarre misrepresentation of the combative interest group politics associated with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hardliners from both sides (what we have identified as the Greater Palestine and Greater Israel groups) tend to use shrill and aggressive bullying tactics in promoting their beliefs, and seeking to discredit those with whom they disagree. Everything that we have heard from a wide range of academic colleagues at the University of Sydney would suggest that the Sydney Staff for BDS group are active sinners as much as being sinned against in this regard.
And finally back to Jake Lynch who laughably claims that he is neither antisemitic nor even anti-Israel despite supporting the global BDS agenda for the elimination of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population.

But Lynch is confident that he can call on five self-denying Australian Jews to support his argument, all of whom happen to also be supporters of the extremist BDS movement. 

So he prioritizes the views of this tiny minority against the will and rights of the great majority of the other 120,000 Australian Jews who detest his views. Obviously when they taught the most basic community development principle at Sydney University – start where the community is – Lynch was absent from class.

To conclude, the BDS movement has clearly become a major source of intolerance in Australian society as has also been the case in the UK and USA.’

Needless to say, not all of Elder’s readers will agree with the authors’ solution to the conflict, as outlined in the book’s final chapter. But they will surely applaud the main tenets of this highly cogent work, with its helpful appendices, its copious notes, and its long and impressive bibliography.

Not the least appealing aspect of the book is the fact that, as seen in their long rant against it on the ABC’s “The Drum” website, two of the mainstays of the Australian BDS movement, Riemer and Brophy – both mentioned in Mendes’s address quoted above – are raging about it in an article (http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/05/08/4232595.htm) entitled “Right to Boycott”. Enjoy!

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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