The Boycott Campaigns critics

Okay, so a bunch of academics wrote an open letter in response to the call for a boycott. It’s pretty incredible.

“It is simply incorrect for Loewenstein to state that Palestinians “overwhelmingly” support the BDS strategy. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, for example, has been careful not to adopt a position on BDS because of its potential adverse consequences for Palestinian workers.”

Firstly, they’re obviously unaware of how many organisations in the occupied territories support a boycott. More strikingly, this is fabrication. For example, from February 2007

Today, 11th of February 2007, we, the Palestinian labour federations, vocational and
professional trade unions, and the grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, have
convened a press conference to announce a call for solidarity with our workers and the
Palestinian people endorsed by the General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian
General Federation of Trade Unions
, the Coalition of Independent Democratic Trade Unions
and other professional unions.
This call addresses the Arab and International Trade Unions and, in particular, the
International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions, the Arab League, the Arab Labour
Organization, the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Union
Confederation, the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, the Palestinian people and the
international community.
We call upon all the above to:
• Boycott and divest from Israel
• Work towards sanctions upon Israel
Until Israel stops its crimes against our people and implements international law
safeguarding human rights for all.

Yes, they’re very ambiguous aren’t they? So ambiguous that you can see them in the regularly updated list of trade union boycotters here. They were also careful not to support the boycott… in December 2008.

And here you can see the call put out in 2005, with over 100 NGOs signing up for BDS.

Right? So, the signatories are Associate Professor Suzanne Rutland, OAM, University of Sydney, Associate Professor Mark Baker, Monash University, Melbourne, Doctor Yoke Berry, University of Wollongong, Professor Allan Borowski, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Professor Andrew Markus, Monash University, Melbourne, Doctor Julie Kalman, The University of New South Wales. Plainly, none of them thought of finding out which Palestinian organisations support the boycott, and they’ve all added their names to what is pure fabrication (and it’s hard to try to understand the process by which 6 of them could endorse something which is untrue.)

Consider next their proposal for peace:

If people want peace with justice for BOTH the Palestinians and Israelis, then positive measures based on an understanding of the narratives of both peoples are needed. These include co-operative ventures of the kind that currently exist between the Israeli and Palestinian Trade Union movements, an end to all racist incitement against Jews in Palestinian schools and media, stopping new settlements encroaching into the West Bank and the removal of the illegal hilltop settlements by the Israeli government, progressive removal of checkpoints (which is already happening), improving the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and a return to negotiations.

Okay, so they don’t call for an end to the occupation. They don’t even call for the dismantling of settlements: just the “illegal hilltop settlements”. Presumably, the ones that are already there can stay. Israel should stop colonising Palestinian land: the land colonised isn’t up for discussion. Note also the old and tired Israeli propaganda about racist incitement against Jews. The distinguished academics show little evidence of knowing anything about opposing views at all. They call for the “progressive removal of checkpoints”. Are they serious? They even say this is already happening. Plainly, they regard the measures of Netanyahu in the West Bank as satisfactory. It is amazing that what amounts to Likudnik apologetics expects to persuade anyone who is not already a fanatical Zionist. Perhaps they’ll next endorse ZFA and ECAJs’ claims about only 14 or 18 checkpoints in the West Bank. No, there are hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank. Every single one of them is an infringement of the human rights of the Palestinians, they should all be removed. But note how they think of them as inconveniences, to be negotiated. For these signatories, the Palestinians do not have rights that are being violated: it is simply a conflict where Israel can do what it likes, but might generously make concessions, like not confiscating Palestinian land, or allowing them “freedom of movement”. Why don’t we reverse this? Why don’t we see if it’s fair to deny Jews freedom of movement? Or should we just take for granted that Jews are human beings with basic rights?

They go on to greater lengths of moral seriousness:

The moral authority of movements like BDS is undermined by their very one-sidedness. They highlight the suffering of civilians on only one side of the conflict, to the exclusion of the suffering of civilians on the other side. This has been the approach of Lynch’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, which invariably promotes the ferociously anti-Israel views of people like Loewenstein and John Docker. Both of these commentators make no bones about their desire for Israel to cease to exist but have been conspicuously silent about the likely fate of the Jewish majority now living there if that were to happen.

In this rendition, the Israeli Jews are perhaps the real victims, or suffer at least as much as the Palestinians. Presumably, the millions of Jews in refugee camps, the millions under occupation, under blockade and so on should also be mentioned when one deplores the Israeli occupation, the expulsions of 1948 and so on. This is all a joke, but note the double standard: what would happen to the Jews if they were to live as a tolerated minority in a state with a Palestinian majority. This is just obviously unacceptable to these academics. Yet they cannot understand that someone might reason likewise in opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state: they’re obviously furious about Loewenstein and Dockers’ “desire for Israel to cease to exist”. This just reflects how they breathe: Jews have rights that Palestinians do not. Jews have an inherent right to rule over millions of Palestinians (not only in Green Line Israel, but in the occupied territories, because note that they do NOT call for an end to the occupation), but Palestinians do not, and anyone who suggests this doesn’t care about the rights of … Jews.

They go on

For over 60 years international law has called for the existence of two states for two peoples. Israeli and Palestinian polling over a sustained period consistently indicates that this is also what a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want. The denial of self-determination and sovereignty to either people has no international legitimacy at all.

Yes, but they don’t realise that this exactly applies to Israel, which colluded with Jordan to occupy the West Bank, then conquered the West Bank (and Gaza) in 1967, and since then has maintained the occupation.

One more thing I’d like to add: I’ve been arguing against a blanket boycott on my blogs for a while. I think I may have quietly convinced Larry Stillman of the AJDS of the merits of a targeted boycott of the occupied territories, on the model of Gush Shalom. To me, this form of boycott is a much easier sell, it makes more obvious sense, and it makes it harder for apologists of Israeli apartheid to change the subject.

6 Responses to “The Boycott Campaigns critics”
  1. ariel says:

    Why were the Jews able to build an entire infrastructure and lay the foundations for a modern state while under British occupation, yet the Palestinians can’t seem to do the same under Israeli “occupation”?

    Why were Palestinians the most literate and with the highest health and living standards of all Arabs societies whilst living under direct Israeli rule from 1967 to 1993?

    Why does Hamas have money for weapons, but not for food and medical supplies for Gazans?

    The so-called West Bank is the heart of the Jewish homeland. One is called a Jew because he comes from Judea.

    To quote an 8 year old Israeli girl whose Jerusalem house was riddled by bullets from Palestinian snipers a few years ago:
    “The Palestinians have a right to a homeland, but they do not have a right to my homeland”

  2. JimmyBean says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

  3. michaelbrull says:

    I’m curious Ariel. If the West Bank is in the heart of the Jewish homeland, then when you have the quote about the Palestinian right to a homeland… where do you think that homeland is/should be?

  4. ariel says:

    Michael, I only quoted what the young girl said in response to her house being riddled by bullets. The statement’s conclusion is open to interpretation…

    To clarify, I did not say that the West Bank is “in” the heart of the Jewish homeland; I said it “IS” the heart of the Jewish homeland.

    And you have not answered any of my questions…

  5. michaelbrull says:

    That’s true. I assumed because they’re not relevant or serious, you didn’t expect an answer. For example, Palestine was under a British mandate, which is not the same as military occupation. The mandate favoured Zionism, supported Jewish institutions, and facilitated the mass immigration that made the creation of a Jewish state possible, besides the crushing of repeated Arab revolts.

    If the West Bank *is* the heart of the Jewish homeland: where is the Palestinian homeland? Do they not have a homeland? Do you think Israel should grant Palestinians in the West Bank full civil and political rights? Or should they be expelled?

  6. ariel says:

    Interesting take on history.

    As I recall, the British initially favoured Zionism, but did a 180deg turn after Arab pogroms in Hebron (1929, 1936) when, instead of punishing the instigators, they evacutated the Jews who had lived there for centuries “for their own protection”. This spiralled downwards towards tacit rejection of Zionism and an embracing of Arab nationalism and with it a moratorium on Jewish immigration which would have saved millions of Jews from the gas chambers. So this “mass immigration” of which you speak seems to have disappeared by WW2. Most Jewish immigration and purchasing of land happened prior to WW1 under Ottoman rule when the Turks considered the province which they called “Palestine” to be a backwater with a convenient port.

    To answer your question, ideally I would like to see all people living peacefully in the State of Israel which encompasses the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. All would be citizens, all would have equal rights and all would answer to Parliamentary law, as we do in Australia. (Israel’s current electoral system of proportional representation would be replaced by a Westminster sytstem like ours, with seats representing regions, not raw vote counts).

    Those who feel they can’t stand under the “blue and white” or sing Hatikvah or be loyal to the laws of the state can emigrate, be they Jew, Arab, Druse or Circassian.

    All would be free to practice their religions without forcing their beliefs on others who don’t share them. All would acknowledge Jewish rights to the land, just as you and I acknowledge Indigenous rights to Australia (we have a long way to go in this regard over here).

    However, as this won’t happen due to Arab intransigence (the Druse and Circassians seem to be happy with their lot), the best solution is to give Arabs autonomy in the regions in which they live today, seeing as they are only interested in biting the hand that feeds them. These should be as contiguous as possible to allow freedom of movement without compromising the geographical integrity of Israel. (These are details to work out later, but you get the idea).

    So please tell me again, why Hamas has money to manufacture and purchase weapons, but not enough for medical supplies and food?

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