Op-Ed: The Why’s and Wherefores of Israel Boycotters: Part I
Steve ApfelThe writer is director of the School of Management Accounting, in Johannesburg and is the author of, 'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics.' SBPRA 2012, and a contributor to a new book: "War by other means: Israel and its detractors." Israel Affairs, 2012
On their maligned target, Israel, the boycotters ruffle scarcely a hair. If anything, the harder boycotters go at the baby juggernaut the more furiously – infuriatingly – the heart pumps and muscles move and milestone metrics go by – economic, scientific, social, cultural. Will it slow down the beast now that a really big irritant, the EU, has settled on the juggernaut’s rump?
The boycotters’ predicament is as old as the Bible. Hard as the Israel-hating Moabite, Balaam, plotted and laboured to curse Israel he ended by blessing the nation profusely.
This divine umbrella, it would seem, does not extend to the Diaspora where boycotters are making life uncomfortably hostile. And worse may be to come. Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the study of anti-Semitism, is one of several who ring alarm bells. Wistrich claims that anti-Semitism has become an irreversible trend that must eventually make conditions for European Jewry unbearable.
South Africa, near the end of a golden age for Jews, became the first democracy to make Israel boycotting a domestic policy when the government baited its hook with Jews in order to catch Muslim votes. World-wide the yellow star is making a comeback.
Hitler’s henchmen would have found a modern feature quite delicious – the enthusiastic involvement of Jews. The world over, Jews are boycotting the Jews, and being paid for doing that. European and American funders practically fling cash at Jewish boycott bodies, so that tiny Israel ends up with more human rights protectors per square mile than anywhere on earth.
Their value is obvious. For one thing, Israeli boycotters especially protect phony human rights celebrities like Alice Walker or churchmen Desmond Tutu and Stephen Sizer from claims of anti-Semitism. For another, such people can rely on Jewish cohorts for credibility and so channel their hatreds without let or hindrance. Jewish boycotters then act as a buffer, giving blatant brown-shirt mobs an easy ride.
Jewish or not, a serious or tragic, boycotter is apt to be a bore. Each time he enters crying “stop oppressing Palestinians!” or “end the occupation!” or whatever his formula might be, our hearts sink. But when his formula is analyzed and connected up with the whole boycott outfit, boredom gives way to interest. The formula ceases to be the person and becomes an obsession in the person. Then we gain something by putting him under the microscope, until all his different aspects are exposed and we can hold the quintessential boycotter, wriggling, at the end of forceps.
It would be well for goals and methods to go under the lens first. The point of departure is a mission of surpassing clarity, and cunning perfidy. The boycott campaign, in the words of BDS promo, is:
"A global movement which works in peaceful ways to create economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement;” which are -
1. The end of:
b. Colonisation of Arab land;
c. Israel’s security wall
2. Full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel
3. Respect for the 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees.
Until these goals are met, declares boycott leadership, the campaign will conduct “various forms of non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it complies with the precepts of international law".
It could hardly be better put than by this level-headed, even laudable, mission. What is there not to like? The fox traps laid for the unwary beneath the civil surface – they’re not to like. Each and every word, in each and every goal, sits atop layers of Kabbalistic meaning; the decoding device for which is left to the very end:.. “until Israel complies with the precepts of international law”.
With that decoder the process of unravelling begins; quickly too, because there is no international law – not for a single BDS goal.
By no international law does Israel occupy Palestinian, or Arab land.
By no international law is the security wall a violation
By no international law have Palestinian refugees a 'right of return'
By no international law… Goal 2 requires none; Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel have long had full equality.
This will offend of course. Political servants, UN lounge-abouts and boycotting firebrands will breathe flames: Israel not an occupier of Palestinian territory! It is not; that situation simply does not exist. But let them burn their cohorts. Let the EU get scorched. Let UN councils or Israel-cursing, one-eyed juries take the heat. Only throw the light of international law on them and with bad grace and all they’d fall apart.
The ‘West Bank’ is not a legal piece of real estate; no law sets territory aside for a future Palestine. Only Israel is compliant; the Palestinians do not have a legal leg to stand on.
From a fire-safe distance check the mettle of the BDS crowd. Put them to the test. See if they can support the legality of a single one of their demands. And after they have had their chance, with good grace but sadly we may mimic their moaning. ‘Oh no, there is no international law for boycotters’ demands.’
All of which begs the question of motive. Over motives what shall a person do but shake the head. There is a boycotter. Here is even a Jew who deceitfully removes the lawful land rights of his own people so that he may slot enemy pretenders in their place. Why? What imperative could there be for boycotters to deceive? Not all of them do, remember. Like the honest few, they could lobby for the Palestinians without resort to phony demands. If some very prominent boycotters do that why can’t all?
Norman Finkelstein, though an Israel demonizer of note, is one who retains a semblance of integrity.
“The BDS movement ….is a hypocritical, dishonest cult led by dishonest gurus who want to selectively enforce the law and tries to cleverly pose as human rights activists, whereas their real goal is the destruction of Israel.”
Another is Noam Chomsky. Probably the greatest boycott figure of all, Chomsky dislikes intensely the methods of campaigners like Friedman:
“The current BDS movement's hypocrisy rises to heaven. It is run by "one man NGOs who falsely claim to represent the Palestinian people.” Chomsky declares that targeting Israel alone can be attacked as anti-Semitism and "unfortunately this is with justice". Also, Chomsky points out, the Palestinian people themselves don't support boycotting Israel.
Even Omar Barghouti, founder and a leader of BDS, has moments of honesty.
Barghouti admits that the true aim is “euthanasia” for Israel, and that it will be done by lethal demographic injection. “All Palestinian refugees and their descendants will return.” Then, hey presto! The world’s lone Jewish state turns into yet another Muslim state.
Why cannot rank and file boycotters be honest as well? Would life be threatened? Even those rare Arab thinkers who write without fear or favour are not scared of the truth. In the daily Al-Siyassa, Saudi columnist, Yousef Nasser Al-Sweidan, calls upon the Arab states to give up efforts to arrange the transfer of refugees to the Jewish State. Such a transfer of population, he writes, would violate Israeli sovereignty and lead to anarchy in the Palestinian Authority. Rather, Al-Sweidan says, the Arab states hosting the refugees have the obligation to absorb them; and he holds up Israel as the model for immigrant absorption. Adamantly he declares that "The right of return is nonsense and deceit.”
The rank and file boycott campaigner is deceitful and conniving on many levels. The demands he sets for the Jewish state of Israel:
-Mask a potentially genocidal outcome.
-Pretend that the territories belong to Palestinians and ‘other Arabs’.
-Seek to replace a stable, free, economic dynamo of a country with yet another failed or riotous Muslim state.
When the boycotter talks of justice and equality he’d know full well that he means the opposite: injustice and inequality, for the Jews.
The boycotter is no human rights campaigner. If he were:
1) What is he doing in the BDS camp with a mission to obliterate Israel?
2) Why would he want Jews to share the plight of Christians, daily persecuted and killed in Muslim countries?
Ask those questions. And should the boycotter call it all a lie, or tut tut, remind him to address the questions. And while he’s thinking, ask him why he has never protested when Palestinians bombed, shot and knifed Jews to death.