Whilst it’s not clear if SodaStream’s decision to close their plant in the West Bank town of Mishor Adumim was undertaken due to pressure from BDS activists, the reaction by the BDS Movement to the company’s decision to move production of the fizzy drink makers to a new location in the Israeli Negev – placing the employment of 500 Palestinians in jeopardy – speaks volumes about the political extremism of the movement.
The Rolling Stones, arguably the best rock ‘n roll band in history, performed in Tel Aviv last night in front of a raucous crowd of over 50,000, serving as yet another example of the decade-plus-long record of failure by the campaign - supported recently by Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood – to boycott millions of Jews.
Here are a few clips from last night’s performance:
The following essay was written by Roslyn Pine and first published at the Jewish News
The President and Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews recently commented on how the Diaspora should deal with the threat of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) following the refusal of the Methodists to reject it, and how to influence the Israelis and PA “to make the difficult concessions necessary for a lasting peace”.
Their Panglossian sentiment that peace will come when we engage in “bridge building” between Palestinians and Israelis doesn’t address the problem any more than would treating a very sick patient with paracetamol.
Enormous efforts towards reconciliation and peace have been expended by Israel and world Jewry for decades, only to be rewarded by hatred and a denial of the national, religious and historic rights of the Jewish people to its nation-state in its ancient homeland.
Numerous acts of outreach by Israelis towards Palestinians and disaster relief abroad are viewed with cold indifference by those promoting BDS of ‘apartheid’ Israel, because their ultimate goal is the demise of the Jewish state. Who acknowledges, for example, the ongoing dangerous Israeli rescue of Syrians caught up in the civil war, or the generosity of many Jewish charities for this cause?
So what to do?
We need a structured educational programme to negate the grotesque caricature that has spawned BDS, namely, that Israel is a colonial enterprise committed to the usurping of an indigenous, powerless third-world people.
We must teach that the wellspring of Israel’s sovereignty and legitimacy in international law derives from the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 (recognising the Balfour Declaration), as does that of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, following the WWI settlement. It was supplemented by the Mandate for Palestine of July 1922, and the Franco British Boundary Convention of December 1920, all binding to the present day.
We should emphasise that Israel behind the Green Line sits on just 8,000 square miles, 17 percent originally allotted to it, while the 21 countries of the Arab League occupy more than five million square miles, almost double that of the United States.
The mantra of “illegal settlements” must be exposed as a dishonest device to prevent Jews from living in land designated for Jewish sovereignty, defying Article Six of the Mandate for Palestine, the provisions of which are still binding.
As the eminent American jurist Eugene Rostow ruled in 1967: “The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine, west of the Jordan River, was made unassailable” by the Mandate, and “has never been nullified”. Other international jurists, like Stephen Schwebel, came to the same conclusion on the ground that the West Bank had itself been illegally occupied previously.
Such an educational programme must reach universities, the press and government bodies and demands a concise, memorable and convincing message. Additionally, the use of existing legislation in the UK and elsewhere regarding boycotts should be increasingly deployed by experienced lawyers to counter them.
Future negotiations must be dependent on the deletion from The Palestine Charter of articles calling for the destruction of Israel, characterising its creation an illegal act and denying any Jewish connection to Palestine. It was promised in the past, but never delivered.
There should be intense lobbying of the EU whose largesse, courtesy of our taxes, helps fund the PA, that such humanitarian aid be conditional on the cessation of the incessant stream of hate-filled PA propaganda against Israelis and Jews in its media and schools, poisoning the minds of every generation. It should come as no surprise that reliable surveys among Palestinians demonstrate that a majority supports the two-state solution only as a conduit towards a unitary state of Palestine replacing Israel.
Ben Gurion’s legacy of standing firm in 1949 against intolerable threats from President Truman to “give up land for peace” including “occupied West Jerusalem and the Negev” should serve as a reminder to our leaders that, in rejecting this formula, he delivered peace for many years.
Following the War of Independence when the Jews prevailed against six invading Arab armies, the resultant armistice line (the Green Line) represented an area 40 percent greater than that allocated to the Jews under the illegitimate 1947 UN Partition Plan. Ben Gurion enacted legislation to incorporate the liberated land into Israel, which today everyone accepts as Israel proper.
As US Ambassador to Israel, James McDonald recorded, Ben Gurion’s determined stance ushered in a strong strategic relationship between the two future allies (“My Mission in Israel 1948-1951”). The rest is history.
- Vassar Nazi cartoon reflects campus dehumanization of Israel (legalinsurrection.com)
- Majority of Labour Euro candidates back anti-Israel measures (thejc.com)
- NUS rejects Israel boycott bid (thejc.com)
Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett
As many as eight anti-Israel activists were arrested yesterday outside Israeli-owned Ecostream in Brighton, on England’s south coast. Ecostream belongs to Sodastream, which has a factory on the West Bank. Although Sodastream employs many Palestinians the anti-Israel lobby prefers to see the factory shut down, thus imperiling the livelihoods of Sodastream’s Israeli and Palestinian workforce.
Every Saturday anti-Israel activists flock to Ecostream to call for its boycott. They are always met by the stoical counter-protesting of Sussex Friends of Israel. Yesterday, however, the anti-Israel activists were swelled by the presence of Palestine Solidarity Campaign affiliated trade unionists from the NHS, NUT, GMB, NUJ and the University of Brighton.
But tempers rose and not before long the number of anti-Israel activists was depleted as protester after protester was led away to the back of a police van. A heartbreaking sight, indeed.
Then the police issued a “section 14″ meaning both sides were kept apart and liable to arrest should anyone step outside their own zone. The remaining anti-Israel activists were restricted to the other side of the busy road opposite Ecostream and could, therefore, hardly be heard or seen for the remainder of the protest. Ecostream’s supporters stayed close to the shop.
Ecostream itself is a magical store. You can buy products that allow you to make your own carbonated drinks and you can refill your own bottles there with anything from honey, to olive oil to washing up liquid. Basically, cut down on your use of bottles and help the environment. Refilling is also vastly cheaper when there is no bottle to pay for.
Those of us who journeyed from London and other parts of England were very warmly received by Sussex Friends of Israel. Thanks to Harvey for driving a car load of us from London. It was good to see friends and meet new people and I also bought some lovely Palestinian olive oil from Ecostream.
Meanwhile, here are photos and footage of the action and photos from inside the Ecostream shop itself.
The first clip shows two of the alleged arrests and the second shows two trade unionists explaining how the presence of so many different trade unions protesting against Israel should make those supporting Israel “question themselves”. Well, that’s certainly an unbeatable argument if ever there was one:
- CiF Watch prompts correction to false Guardian claim about SodaStream (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian caves to anti-Israel bigots, revises SodaStream article to please Ben White (cifwatch.com)
- BBC News recycles second-hand SodaStream slur, fails to explain BDS (bbcwatch.org)
- Guardian Interviewer is Incredulous at Scarlett Johansson’s Refusal to Cave to BDS Bullies (algemeiner.com)
- BBC lends its shoulder to Amnesty’s cart of politically motivated defamation – part one (bbcwatch.org)
A few hours before the Israeli government was set to approve a new deal with the Palestinians to extend peace talks till 2015 – which involved the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners, hundreds of additional prisoners and a partial curb in construction beyond the green line – the Palestinians signed letters seeking acceptance to 15 UN treaties and conventions, reneging on their agreement of July 2013 to refrain from making unilateral moves.
The last-minute breakdown throws the possibility that talks will proceed past the April 29 deadline into serious doubt, and was followed by additional Palestinian demands. These include Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, the release of 1,200 more prisoners (including Marwan Barghouti), a complete cessation of settlement construction, the imposition of PA sovereignty over Area C, a halt to Israeli anti-terror operations in PA-controlled territories, and a lifting the arms blockade on Gaza.
Anyone who’s been closely following negotiations would understand that Palestinians were counting down the days until the April 29 deadline when they would be free to execute what Jerusalem Post correspondent Herb Kenion refers to as their Plan B – waging diplomatic warfare against Israel to isolate it, delegitimize it, and eventually force it through international pressure to give in to their maximalist demands.
Such a plan of political warfare is largely inspired by what’s known as the Durban Strategy, a declaration adopted in the 2001 NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban conference. The Durban campaign – itself the political successor to the Arab boycott launched in 1945, three years before Israeli statehood – featured numerous expressions of antisemitism, focused on labeling Israel an ‘apartheid state’ guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘genocide’, and ‘war crimes’”, and adopted a resolution calling for the “complete and total isolation of Israel…the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, [and] the full cessation of all links between all states and Israel.”
What’s known today as the modern BDS movement – which singles out the Jewish state, alone among the family of nations, for a coordinated campaign of boycotts, sanctions, divestment and social exclusion – was essentially born on that day.
Though the Guardian’s coverage of the region has consistently legitimized, amplified and provided succor the BDS movement, an op-ed published at ‘Comment is Fee’ (A boycott can jolt Israelis from their somnolence on Palestine, April 4) explicitly endorsing BDS was noteworthy in that it wasn’t written by an anti-Zionist activist, but rather by one of their ‘serious journalists’ – their outgoing Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood.
To those of us familiar with Sherwood’s brand of activist journalism, it is not at all surprising that she has expressed her support for BDS, nor that – despite glaring evidence attesting to Palestinian refusal to budge on vital topics such as the long-term final agreement issues of refugees, mutual recognition, or even the demand that a final peace agreement include an end to all Palestinian claims against Israel – would be ignored.
What largely stands out in her polemical attack is the contempt she seems to possess for average Israelis. While she has eloquently expressed her affection for Palestinians, Israeli Jews – even after all this time in the country – clearly seem to stand beyond the limits of her imaginative sympathy.
The op-ed – illustrated with photo of privileged Israelis “soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach”, oblivious to “the daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians” – begins by citing a few recent BDS victories before contending that BDS, in protest of its “47-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza”, is gathering steam. Sherwood repeats a quote by Israel’s prime minister which attacked Europe and its “dark history” and demanded that “the boycotters must be exposed for what they are… classical antisemites in modern garb”, to which the Guardian journalist responds:
“This is a serious charge, and one that causes deep discomfort to many who want to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government over its policies towards the Palestinians, but who also vigorously oppose antisemitism in any form. Opposing the occupation does not equate to antisemitism or a rejection of Jews’ right to, and need for, a homeland. The repeated accusation of antisemitism does not make it true, however frequently it is leveled by those who defend Israel unconditionally.”
Of course, Sherwood – who has never, in nearly four years of covering the region, addressed the issue of the extreme (and quite real) expressions of Judeophobia within Palestinian society – fails to explain why precisely the “accusations of antisemitism” against boycott advocates who often defend Palestinians unconditionally, are unfair. And, though she draws a distinction between BDS advocates who merely support boycotting ‘settlement’ goods and those who call for a complete boycott of the state, she doesn’t acknowledge that those who support the latter approach largely reject the right of the state to exist within any borders.
Finally, Sherwood writes about the increasing frustration felt “by Israel’s intransigence…and the failure of the international community to back up critical words with meaningful actions”, before concluding that “only when Israeli citizens and institutions feel the consequences of their government’s policies will they force change from within”. She argues that Israelis are “shielded from the [daily grind] of occupation”, before reaching the conclusion that “economic pain, isolation and global opprobrium” will surely force Israelis “to take notice”.
First, like so many journalists covering the conflict, Sherwood seems to take as a given the benign nature of Palestinian intentions despite so much evidence to the contrary, and doesn’t acknowledge that Israelis overwhelmingly support two-states for two peoples while refusing to ignore the failure of previous ‘land for peace’ guarantees and, therefore, remaining skeptical that the creation of a Palestinian state will actually bring peace.
More pertinent to the theme in Sherwood’s op-ed, Israelis – and most Jews around the world – indeed view current calls to exclude Israeli Jews from the international community in the context of the dark history of such measures. Such Jews naturally question the motivation of sophisticated (putatively progressive) Europeans who see the unimaginable violence and brutality meted out to Arabs by other Arabs in the Middle East – which includes the systemic violation of the rights of women, gays and political dissidents, and (in some cases) industrial-scale killing and torture – and yet believe that the only country whose citizens deserve to be boycotted just so happens to be the only one with a Jewish majority.
The duplicity of pro-Palestinian activists is represented not merely by the manner in which they gain support from the liberal-left despite the decidedly illiberal nature of the Palestinian national movement, nor the way they promote an understanding of the dispute which conflates cause (the more than 70 year Arab war against the Jewish state) with effect (the territorial dispute which only came about as the result of that war). No; their supreme deceit relates to how they manage to convince so many within the opinion elite that – unlike every other time in history – this time those campaigning for the exclusion of Jewish professionals, academics and artists are morally justified; that this time a small community of Jews can truly represent an organic obstacle to peace and progress; that this time it truly is malevolent Jewish behavior that brings about measures singling out Jews for opprobrium and sanction.
However, though many Zionists are secular, most thankfully are imbued with a rich and edifying tradition which explains that ‘What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun’. Try as they may, no degree of sophistry employed by boycott proponents can possibly convince us to accept the supremacy of the au courant morality over the ethics of our fathers, to not see this latest political attack through the lens of Jewish history, nor to avoid reaching the conclusion that – as in every generation – resistance to their assault will be fierce and, in time, succeed.
‘This too shall pass’.
We recently posted about a Guardian report on a resolution by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which called on Union of International Architects (UIA) to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects “until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords”.
We noted that this appalling decision represents a prime example of the racist double standards at the heart of the BDS movement, as RIBA singles out Israeli architects among the 74 members of the UIA – a list which includes Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria, among others.
It appears that the resolution was based in part on the anti-Israel activism of RIBA’s past President Angela Brady, and a dishonest and highly propagandistic presentation by an extreme Jewish critic of Israel named Abe Hayeem. Hayeem is a RIBA member, chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.
(You can hear Hayeem in this audio, from an anti-Israel demo in London in 2003, accuse the “neo-fascist” government of Israel of engaging in a policy of “transfer”, “ethnic cleansing”, “state terrorism” and “apartheid” against Palestinians, and calling for a complete trade embargo against the state.)
However, there’s been some push back against RIBA’s resolution by Stephen Games, a RIBA member who published an op-ed at The Jewish Chronicle condemning the organization’s bigotry and hypocrisy, and calling for the removal of their Royal Charter if the resolution is not reversed.
Mr. Games has published the following open letter to the president of RIBA.
I am not a member of any interest group within the RIBA but was nonetheless disappointed to learn of Council’s decision to call for the Israeli architects’ body to be suspended from the International Union of Architects. I had no previous knowledge that this was coming up for a vote, I have not seen it reported in the RIBA, and I have not had any documentation about it, otherwise I would have protested earlier.
I object to the vote for five reasons:
1.0 The vote was biased
1.1 Council’s decision is wrong and misconceived. I completely accept that the principle of Israel’s building on land won by Israel when resisting efforts by combined Arab forces to destroy it in 1967 is contentious, politically motivated and merits questioning. It is designed to provide housing for Israelis and to redefine future borders. It will however either cease when an agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority or will continue legitimately, either within a newly drawn Israel or a newly drawn Palestinian state.
1.2 The fact that no such agreement has yet been reached reflects the fact that terms have not yet been drawn up that satisfy both sides. Council’s decision implicitly means that the RIBA blames Israel alone for the fact that an agreement has not yet been reached.
1.3 For the RIBA to blame one side for censure is inappropriate. The RIBA is not a political body, it has no special insight into the dispute, nor is there anything in its constitution that should lead it to be partisan. The RIBA’s proper role is to preserve neutrality. To do otherwise is to act outside its mandate as a royal body.
2.0 The vote was intrusive and mischievous
2.1 The decision suggests that the argument about Israeli building needs to be specially highlighted. It does not. There is already vocal opposition within Israel itself to “settlement building”. Significant numbers of IAUA members are themselves opposed to such building and do not need or wish to be removed from international platforms such as the International Union. They themselves see this as unhelpful and unfriendly action by foreign busy-bodies, designed not to ameliorate conditions but to demonise one side and one side alone in the dispute.
2.2 Votes such as this do not resolve problems. They drive the opposed parties further apart.
3.0 The vote was unfair
3.1 In voting for the Israeli Association of United Architects to be suspended, Council is taking action that it has taken against no other country. The meaning of this is that the RIBA finds Israel uniquely reprehensible in the world, or more reprehensible than any other country, in terms of human rights abuse. This flies in the face of all evidence. In the most recent (2011) Observer human rights index, Israel did not appear in even the top 20 of human rights abusers, which were listed as (in order):
1. Congo 2. Rwanda 3. Burundi 4. Algeria 5. Sierra Leone
6. Egypt 7. North Korea 8. Sudan 9. Indonesia 10. Yugoslavia
11. Pakistan 12. China 13. Libya 14. Burma 15. Iraq
16. Afghanistan 17. Iran 18. Yemen 19. Chad 20. Congo (Republic).
3.2 In Iraq, gays are rounded up by police, thrown into prison and tortured; Israel, by contrast, serves as a haven for gays in the Middle East, even mounting an annual Gay Pride march, an event unthinkable elsewhere in the region.
3.3 Israel is a country of political and religious pluralism. Freedom of expression and worship is welcomed. Israeli Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, are a full part of Israeli society, and can and do serve as parliamentarians in the Israeli Knesset. In no Arab country, and in few Muslim countries, is the presence of Israelis or Jews even tolerated.
3.4 Israel’s architectural body is itself made up of Israeli Arabs as well as others. Nowhere does such reciprocity exist in Arab or Muslim countries.
3.5 If the vote against Israel is to stand, it must logically be followed by similar calls for architects in countries beyond the Middle East to be banned.
4.0 The vote was reductive
4.1 If Council wishes to support the aspirations of the Palestinians, it has an obligation not to do so at Israel’s expense. Politics should not be a zero-sum game: the RIBA should recognise that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to end up with better outcomes. In Council’s vote, however, support for Palestinians was expressed in language defined entirely by vitriolic negativity towards Israel. This is utterly inappropriate and gives rise to reasonable speculation that the vote was as much about hostility to Israel as about support for Palestinians.
4.2 As the aftermath of the Arab springs has shown, Middle Eastern politics is far more complex than the simplistic “Palestinians-good/Israel-bad” formula that supporters of the vote in Council represented. The reductivism that Council has voted for is shameful in its effort to resort to pre-Arab Spring blindness about long-standing Middle East rivalries and hostilities, of which hatred of Israel is neither the biggest nor the most entrenched.
4.3 If Council truly wished to have a say only about the Middle East, it should be supporting all people in the region who are truly suffering victimisation and oppression. If the vote in Council is allowed to stand, it must therefore be followed by a huge programme of similar and more appropriate calls for suspension—especially against Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran—and especially against other countries whose treatment of Palestinians is much more reprehensible than that of Israel, but whose actions are deliberately ignored and veiled by obsessive opponents of Israel who wish only to use the Palestinian cause to damage Israel.
5.0 The vote disgraces the RIBA
5.1 For the reasons given, by allowing the vote against Israel to stand, the RIBA risks emerging not as a body that supports Palestinians but as a body with an in-built and unprincipled prejudice against Israel and legitimate Jewish aspiration.
5.2 For more than a thousand years, the Christian Church attempted to eradicate Judaism, either by mass killing or mass conversion. Were it the case that the majority of Council members came from Christian backgrounds, some observers might conclude that the vote continued a long-standing cultural prejudice against Jews within our society in general and within the RIBA in particular.
5.2 The campaign to boycott Israel is also bound up with a much more insidious pan-Arab and pan-Muslim campaign to delegitimise Israel and eradicate it as a state. Thus, a millennium of opposition to Jews being Jews could be seen to be joining forces with a century-long campaign to prevent Israel being Israel.
5.3 In voting for Israel’s suspension, the RIBA could be seen as siding with the most vicious campaigners against not just boycott and divestment but against Israel’s legitimacy and its survival as a state.
No one could want to belong to a body that can be characterised as anti-semitic, nor is it appropriate that an institutionally anti-semitic body should retain its royal charter.
In view of the above, I urge the RIBA to reverse its decision as soon as possible. If it does not, there will inevitably be a campaign calling for the removal of the royal charter, and this will involve much unnecessary expenditure of time and effort all round.
I am copying this letter to the press.
To assist Mr. Games and others in the UK who oppose the boycott, please sign this petition , and (per the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s approach) consider contacting the president of the Union of International Architects (UIA), Prof. Albert Dubler, and ask that the group reject RIBA’s endorsement of a policy of racist exclusion targeting Israelis.
As Harriet Sherwood’s days as the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent wind down, she’s evidently decided to use her remaining time doing what she does best: legitimizing the most marginal and hypocritical efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israeli Jews. Her latest report focuses on efforts – by some ‘sophisticated’ Brits – to isolate the latest international ‘misfortune': Israeli architects.
Sherwood’s report begins:
Britain’s leading architectural association has called for its Israeli counterpart to be excluded from the International Union of Architects in protest at Israel‘s occupation of Palestine, in a further indication of the growing momentum of the boycott movement.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has demanded the suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the international body, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law.
Riba’s president, Angela Brady, told a meeting of the its council on Wednesday that failure to back the motion “would send a clear message to the world that we as an institution turn a blind eye or by inaction support what’s going on – land grabs, forced removals, killing the state and human rights, and reinforcement of apartheid“.
Additionally, we glanced at the website of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which provides more information on the effort to boycott Israeli architects:
The full RIBA motion, proposed by RIBA Immediate Past President, Angela Brady, was:
“Since the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) has paid no regard to the UIA resolution 13* of 2005 and 2009, the RIBA calls on the UIA, as the international guardian of professional and ethical standards in our profession, to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association of United Architects, until it acts to resist these illegal projects, and observes international law, and the UIA Accords and Resolution 13.”
So, what does Resolution 13 say:
*UIA’s Resolution 13 (2005 and 2009) states that “The UIA Council condemns development projects and the construction of buildings on land that has been ethnically purified or illegally appropriated, and projects based on regulations that are ethnically or culturally discriminatory, and similarly it condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.
So, leaving aside the fact that RIBA evidently has no problem with the other 74 members of the International Union of Architects – a list which includes Pakistan, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria – it seems that, per their own language opposing building on lands which has been “ethnically purified”, they should boycott a member “state” known as ‘Palestine.
You see, while there are no restrictions on the purchase of private land in Israel by Israeli Arabs or by non-citizens (nor any such restrictions on leasing public land to Arabs by the Israeli Land Authority), the Palestinian Authority bans the sale of land to Jews. The Palestinian Land Law, which was originally put in force by Jordan when they occupied the West Bank, carries the death sentence.
Is it even debatable that banning the sale of land based solely on the fact that the potential buyer is Jewish represents a perfect example of “ethnically purifying” the land?
But, of course, the BDS movement has never been concerned with the equal application of moral standards, but, rather, with legitimizing their racist witch-hunt – the targeting of Israeli Jews for delegitimization, demonization and exclusion.
- Confirmed: Harriet Sherwood announces her departure from the Guardian. (cifwatch.com)
- Qalandiya “Martyrdom”: Harriet Sherwood Tweets from the Palestinian street (cifwatch.com)
- More on Harriet Sherwood’s love letter to the “miraculous” people of Gaza (cifwatch.com)
- Shocker in London: Guardian reporter refers to some Palestinians as ‘terrorists’ (without quotes) (cifwatch.com)
In a 2700 word March 16 cover story about Scarlett Johansson – titled “In Alien Territory” – published at The Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), roughly 600 words deal with the row involving the actress’s decision to step down as Oxfam ambassador after the NGO criticized her for becoming global brand ambassador for SodaStream.
While Johansson acquitted herself quite well in the interview, conducted by Carole Cadwalladr, what most stands out is how even their media group’s culture critics automatically become experts on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and adopt the Guardian narrative about the conflict.
Cadwalladr is a features writer for The Observer, and though it doesn’t seem she’s ever weighed in on the issues of BDS and Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria previously, she wasn’t shy about boldly making it known which party is in the wrong.
Cadwalladr begins discussing the SodaStream row in the following passages:
I move on to…a difficult subject. SodaStream. When I Google “Scarlett Johansson” the fizzy-drinks maker is the third predictive search suggestion in the list, after “Scarlett Johansson hot” – before even “Scarlett Johansson bum”. A month ago, Johansson found herself caught up in a raging news story when it emerged Oxfam had written to her regarding her decision to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream.
The company, it transpired, manufactures its products in a factory in a settlement on the West Bank, and while “Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors,” it wrote, it also “believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support”.
It of course would be more accurate to say that one of SodaStream’s 13 plants is located in the West Bank’.
Johansson responded by stepping down from her Oxfam role. From afar, it looked like she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?
Johansson admirably defends her decision:
But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”
Naturally, Cadwalladr has no rejoinder to Johansson’s central point: that Oxfam and the BDS crowd would evidently rather see hundreds of Palestinians lose a good paying job than tolerate an Israeli factory in the West Bank.
Cadwalladr continues, and pivots to the desired talking points:
But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there.
“I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”
Cadwalladr, the Guardian Group journalist that she is, obviously has a little stomach for nuance on the dreaded ‘settlements’ issue, and feigns expertise:
Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank.
Evidently, we can assume that the Observer journalist has thoroughly read Article 49(6) of the 1949 Geneva Convention (the primary document cited by international bodies in their determination that Settlements are illegal). Further, we can be confident that she has come to the conclusion that Israelis who voluntarily moved beyond the green line in the years following the Six Day War evoke the inhumane practices of the Nazis during and before World War II which that article of the Convention was meant to address. And, she no doubt also believes that the Convention text concerning “the mass transfer of people into and out of occupied territories for purposes of extermination, slave labor or colonization” should be read to prohibit an Israeli factory in one such ‘settlement’ which employs both Jews and Palestinians.
“I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”
Cadwalladr smugly replies:
Well, not just the UK. There’s also the small matter of the UN security council, the UN general assembly, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Court of Justice… which all agree that they’re in contravention of international law
Then Cadwalladr gets patronising:
Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns –
Then she gets insulting:
her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…
Cadwalladr of course has no idea whether the fact that Johansson’s mother is Jewish influenced her decision to represent SodaStream.
She then suggests a less than admirable motive which ‘some’ may impute:
“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”
“Sure I think that’s the way you can look at it. But I also think for a non-governmental organisation to be supporting something that’s supporting a political cause… there’s something that feels not right about that to me. There’s plenty of evidence that Oxfam does support and has funded a BDS [boycott, divest, sanctions] movement in the past. It’s something that can’t really be denied.”
Finally, Cadwalladr writes:
When I contacted Oxfam, it denied this.
Oxfam may deny it all they like, but as NGO Monitor (NGOM) demonstrated, they simply are not being honest.
Oxfam denied that it was involved in BDS, but the facts proved the contrary. Between 2011 and 2013, the Dutch branch, known as Oxfam Novib, provided almost $500,000 (largely from government funds provided ostensibly for humanitarian aid) to one of the most radical BDS leaders, the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP). This group also received funds from Oxfam GB (Great Britain). The discrepancy between Oxfam’s claims and the documentation of its role in BDS was highlighted by SodaStream executives and in a number of media articles.
Although CWP is technically an Israel-based NGO, almost all of its activities are focused externally in promoting boycott campaigns, particularly in Europe. (For political purposes, ever since the NGO Forum of the infamous 2001 UN Durban anti-racism conference, the Arab and European leaders of BDS often use fringe Israeli and Jewish groups as facades, and this is the case with CWP.)
Though Cadwalladr was wrong on the facts, “half of me admires” her “for sticking to her guns”. But “half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive…or, most likely, poorly advised” by her Guardian handlers.
“Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…”
In the short time we’ve been monitoring the work of Times Middle East correspondent Catherine Philp, we’ve already noted a few significant errors. (Note: All Times stories referenced below are behind pay walls.)
- In July we fisked a story by Philp (‘Fizzy drinks SodaStream giant caught in EU rules on Israeli settlements‘, July 25) which casually suggested unequal pay between Jews and Palestinians at the SodaStream factory in Mishor Adumim, and later prompted the paper to acknowledge that Philps also failed to reveal that “Faiz Abedy” (the Palestinian allegedly interviewed for the report) was actually a pseudonym.
- In September we fisked a story by Philps (Israel slams door on Ethiopian Jews after final airlift, Aug. 31) which claimed that the unemployment rate for Israelis of Ethiopian descent was 60% – a figure, we demonstrated, that was wildly inaccurate.
- And, in late December we fisked an ugly smear (Settlements choke peace in little town of Bethlehem, Dec. 24) suggesting that Israel was ruining Christmas in Bethlehem, and which contained the false claim – later corrected by Times editors – that the Christian holy city had become more densely populated than Gaza.
The latest report by Philp which caught our eye was a curiously titled piece (Israel starts new propaganda war to beat boycott, Feb. 11) about efforts by Israeli government officials to combat boycott efforts, and included this passage:
Oxfam was accused of promoting an anti-Israeli boycott last month when it parted company with Scarlett Johansson, the Hollywood star, over her promotional work for SodaStream. The Israeli company manufactures products in a West Bank settlement.
Of course, the claim that Oxfam “parted company with Scarlett Johansson” is not true.
As statements by both Oxfam and Johansson - and every other media outlet and blog we are aware of – made clear, it was Johansson who ‘parted company’ with Oxfam after the highly politicized NGO criticized her decision to become the global brand ambassador for SodaStream.
We contacted editors at The Times concerning this false claim and are awaiting a reply.
In the past several months the Irish Times published three op-eds by a socialist named Eamonn McCann – diatribes which included a pejorative use of the term “chosen people” to suggest that Israeli attacks against non-Jews are arguably inspired by a belief in their own superiority, a prediction of the Jewish State’s ultimate demise and the claim that racism lies at the core of Israel’s official ideology.
Yet, evidently, the progressive voices who gather in Dublin don’t feel they are completely free to tell us what they really think.
An official (unsigned) Irish Times editorial (The right to be wrong, Feb. 6) about the injurious effects of activists who attempt to suppress free speech begins with the following passage:
When an Israeli minister over the weekend accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of serving as a mouthpiece for anti-Semitic views he was only doing what countless other defenders of Israel have done in associating even mild criticism of the state’s policies with anti-Semitism. It is a bullying rhetorical device, often deeply unfair, that in practice successfully muzzles many critics, and not least, by playing on national guilt, German critics. And it is particularly effective in the US where the Israel lobby finds such a strong echo.
First, the row they’re addressing began when US Secretary of State John Kerry said the following last week in Munich, commenting on the likely harm to Israel if a two-state agreement isn’t reached:
“You see, for Israel there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There is talk of boycotts and other kinds of things…Today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.”
As we noted in a recent post, the Israeli minister in question, Naftali Bennett, didn’t accuse Kerry of being antisemitic, only that such boycott efforts are antisemitic. Indeed, the belief that boycott campaigns which single out Israel – and only Israel – are indeed antisemitic, per a recent survey by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, is shared by 72% of European Jews.
So, unpacking the Irish Times argument:
What first stands out in the editorial is their evidently sincere belief that, due to smears by pro-Israel Jews, Israel’s opponents are “muzzled” and the state is spared its fair share of criticism, representing a simply astonishing inversion in light of the disproportionate (often obsessive) negative focus on the state by the mainstream media, NGOs and international bodies such as the UN.
Moreover, by giving voice to what’s known as the Livingstone Formulation (named after the former London mayor), in suggesting that Jews raise the issue of antisemitism “in response to even mild criticism of the state’s policies” in order to “muzzle” debate, they’re in effect engaging in an ad hominem attack on Jewish communities. That is, they’re not just simply rationally refuting accusations of antisemitism, but imputing bad faith and dishonesty to those who do – an increasingly popular meme on the anti-Zionist left.
However, while reasonable people can of course disagree on what constitutes anti-Jewish racism, the overwhelming majority of Jews who talk seriously about antisemitism are merely asking those who fancy themselves anti-racists to avoid tropes, narratives, graphic depictions and policies based on – or which evoke – anti-Jewish prejudices, and which have historically been employed by reactionary movements which initiated assaults on Jews and Jewish communities.
Boycotts which single out the Jewish state evoke, for most Jews, racist boycotts targeting Jews and Jewish businesses of previous eras, and so necessarily poison the political environment that Jews inhabit.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with the proposition that anti-Israel boycotts are motivated by antisemitism (or have an antisemitic effect), Jews who passionately believe so should (at the very least) not have their motives and sincerity questioned, or their integrity maligned.
What Jews talk about when they talk about antisemitism (cifwatch.com)
Yesterday, CiF Watch prompted a correction to a false claim by Guardian Middle East editor Ian Black that the SodaStream main office was located in Ma’ale Adumim, when in fact that industrial park in greater Ma’ale Adumim (known as Mishor Adumim) is simply the location of one of their 20 factories. Their headquarters, as we noted, is in Lod, near Ben Gurion Airport. (CiF Watch prompted a previous correction to the same error, by another Guardian contributor, in Oct.)
However, upon reviewing the language of the correction we prompted on the Guardian’s Correction page, we noticed an additional editor’s note relating to another SodaStream related story:
According to (occasional) ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Ben White, per his following post at Electronic Intifada, he was the activist who prompted the revision:
Responding to my correspondence, The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor has amended an article written last week by Matthew Kalman.
Kalman’s article reported on the controversy over Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson ditching her role as humanitarian ambassador for the charity Oxfam, which objected to her endorsement deal with SodaStream, an Israeli company with a factory in a settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The piece, “Oxfam under pressure to cut ties with Scarlett Johansson over SodaStream ad,” now appears with the following appended text:
“In a sub-heading and in the body of the text campaigners seeking to pressure Oxfam to sever ties with Scarlett Johansson were described as “anti-Israel.” To clarify: the campaigners are opposed to settlements”
Remarkably, the Guardian Readers’ Editor upheld the objections to Kalman’s original characterization of the anti-SodaStream activists as “anti-Israel”, and bought the argument that they are only opposed to ‘the settlements’.
To give you a sense of how extraordinarily misleading such a benign characterization is, here’s a brief summary of the ideological background of some of the more prominent BDS activists and groups involved in the anti-SodaStream campaign:
Ben White: White, who evidently prompted the Guardian correction and is one of the most vocal activists campaigning against SodaStream, opposes the existence of a Jewish State within any borders, and is even on record expressing sympathy towards anti-Semites:
Ali Abunimah: Abunimah is the co-founder of Electronic Intifada, has expressed sympathy towards Hamas, rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State within any borders, has likened Zionism with Nazism and has explicitly called for the start of a 3rd deadly Palestinian intifada.
Here are additional anti-SodaStream campaigners – that is, those who would prefer that 500 Palestinians workers get laid-off, rather than there be any Jewish presence at all across the green line:
Palestinian BDS National Committee, a radical movement which opposes all forms of normalization between Palestinians and Israelis, and supports the unlimited ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants, a tactic designed to erase Israel’s Jewish identity.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign: a marginal, radical movement based in the UK, which supports the cultural, academic and economic boycott against Israel, and opposes the existence of a Jewish State within any borders. Further, PSC members have taken part in convoys, flotillas, flytillas, and various demonstrations and events organized by supporters and members of terrorist organisations.
Code Pink: A radical left group whichworks with the pro-Hamas Free Gaza Movement, and signed the so-called Cairo Declaration to End Israeli Apartheid, a document which opposes Zionism and calls for the unlimited right of return for millions of Palestinian ‘refugees’. (See this clip of Hamas welcoming a Code Pink delegation to Gaza in 2009)
To recap: Most of the activists aligned against SodaStream have either expressed sympathy or outright support for Islamist terror groups, support the boycott and complete isolation of Israel, oppose any cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, and reject the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State.
Only in the mind of Guardian editors would such hateful views – some which are indistinguishable from the ideologies of violent extremist groups – not qualify as “anti-Israel”.
Did the Indy get it wrong again?
You may have been following our ongoing investigation into a wild story by Indy reporter Adam Withnall, in an article on Jan 1, which claimed the Israeli government is torturing Palestinian children – a reckless charge that the paper seems to have no real evidence to support. (Though we’ve already prompted a correction to one of the specific claims made by Withnall, we’re continuing to press them to take further action and, barring any new evidence, acknowledge that the entire story is untrue.)
More recently, the Indy published an article by Business Editor Jim Armitage (based on an unnamed source) claiming the UK security company G4S “is facing an investigation by international authorities into its alleged activities in…the occupied Palestinian territories”. However, this also may be completely inaccurate.
Though, according to Armitage, the “Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) UK staff have indicated that it will be investigating the company’s work supplying Israeli security services,” according to a story in The Jewish Chronicle (The JC), a G4S spokesperson said that the Indy report was ‘wrong’. The spokesperson further said that “the firm was not under investigation and that it had not been contacted by the OECD or any government department.”
Further, per The JC, the “OECD said it was not directly involved with any such inquiries.”
We’ll continue to follow this story and update you if there are any further developments.
Though Guardian Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood consistently either ignores or plays down Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, she rarely misses an opportunity to provide free PR for even the most marginal BDS and delegitimization campaigns targeting the Jewish State. Indeed, in December she of course found time to write an 800 word feature on a largely symbolic boycott resolution by a small number of American academics.
In attempting to impute significance to the motion, Sherwood wrote the following:
A prestigious US academic body has joined a growing movement to boycott Israel in protest at its treatment of Palestinians, in a move both welcomed and condemned in a bitterly divisive international arena…The American Studies Association (ASA), which has more than 5,000 members, is the most significant US academic organisation to back a boycott of Israeli educational institutions following a two-thirds majority vote.
Sherwood further contextualized the boycott motion as a victory amid the ongoing “international boycott drive against Israel”.
However, days before the ASA boycott vote was even cast, a more sober assessment on the potential anti-Israel resolution was published at this blog.
In his CiF Watch guest post on Dec 15, Jon (from the blog DivestThis!) argued that the ASA was setting itself up for failure, and that if the vote was to pass, “it will be a vote of an organization that has discredited itself, even before the rest of the academy marginalizes them still further by pointing out that…an academic boycott is the opposite of academic freedom“.
Then, following the vote, an interesting thing occurred: A remarkably large segment of American academia indeed took steps to marginalize the ASA and stand up for the principles of academic freedom threatened by the boycott resolution.
Thanks in part to the dogged efforts of tireless activists such as William A. Jacobson, the following is a current list (per Avi Mayer) of institutions whose presidents or chancellors have publicly rejected the ASA’s academic boycott of Israel:
- American University (President Cornelius M. Kerwin)
- Amherst College (President Carolyn A. Martin)
- Barnard College (President Debora Spar)
- Birmingham Southern College (President Charles C. Krulak)
- Boston University (President Robert A. Brown)
- Bowdoin College (President Barry Mills)
- Brandeis University (President Frederick M. Lawrence)
- Brooklyn College, CUNY (President Karen Gould)
- Brown University (President Christina Hull Paxton)
- Carnegie-Mellon University (President Subra Suresh)
- Case Western Reserve University (President Barbara R. Snyder)
- City University of New York (Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly)
- Colgate University (President Jeffrey Herbst)
- College of Charleston (President P. George Benson)
- Columbia University (President Lee C. Bollinger)
- Cornell University (President David Skorton)
- Dartmouth College (President Philip J. Hanlon)
- Dickinson College (President Nancy Roseman)
- Drexel University (President John A. Fry)
- Duke University (President Richard H. Brodhead)
- Emory University (President James Wagner)
- Florida Atlantic University (Interim President Dennis J. Crudele)
- Florida International University (President Mark B. Rosenberg)
- Fordham University (President Joseph M. McShane, S.J.)
- Franklin & Marshall College (President Daniel R. Porterfield)
- George Washington University (President Steven Knapp)
- Georgetown University (President John J. DeGioia)
- Goucher College (President Sanford J. Ungar)
- Hamilton College (President Joan Hinde Stewart)
- Harvard University (President Drew Gilpin Faust)
- Haverford College (President Daniel Weiss)
- Indiana University (President Michael McRobbie)
- Johns Hopkins University (President Ronald Joel Daniels)
- Kenyon College (President Sean M. Decatur)
- Lafayette College (President Alison Byerly)
- Lehigh University (President Alice P. Gast)
- Loyola University Maryland (President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (President L. Rafael Reif)
- Michigan State University (President Lou Anna K. Simon)
- Middlebury College (President Ron Liebowitz)
- New York University (President John Sexton)
- Northwestern University (President Morton O. Schapiro)
- Ohio State University (President Joseph A. Alutto)
- Pennsylvania State University (President Rodney Erickson)
- Princeton University (President Christopher L. Eisgruber)
- Purdue University (President Mitch Daniels)
- Ramapo College (President Peter Philip Mercer)
- Rhode Island College (President Nancy Carriuolo)
- Rutgers University (President Robert Barchi)
- Smith College (President Kathleen McCartney)
- Stanford University (President John L. Hennessy)
- State University of New York (Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher)
- Swarthmore College (President Rebecca Chopp)
- Trinity College (President James F. Jones, Jr.)
- Tufts University (President Anthony P. Monaco)
- Tulane University (President Scott S. Cowen)
- University of Alabama (Chancellor Robert E. Witt)
- University of California System (President Janet Napolitano)
- University of California, Berkeley (Chancellor Nicholas Dirks)
- University of California, Davis (Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi)
- University of California, Irvine (Chancellor Michael V. Drake)
- University of California, San Diego (Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla)
- University of California, San Francisco (Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann)
- University of Chicago (President Robert J. Zimmer)
- University of Cincinnati (President Santa J. Ono)
- University of Connecticut (President Susan Herbst)
- University of Delaware (President Patrick T. Harker)
- University of Florida (President J. Bernard Machen)
- University of Illinois System (President Robert A. Easter)
- University of Illinois at Chicago (Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares)
- University of Illinois at Springfield (Chancellor Susan J. Koch)
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Chancellor Phyllis Wise)
- University of Kansas (Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little)
- University of La Verne (President Devorah Lieberman)
- University of Maryland, Baltimore County (President Freeman Hrabowski)
- University of Maryland, College Park (President Wallace D. Loh)
- University of Miami (President Donna E. Shalala)
- University of Michigan (President Mary Sue Coleman)
- University of Minnesota (President Eric Kaler)
- University of Pennsylvania (President Amy Gutmann)
- University of Pittsburgh (Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg)
- University of Rochester (President Joel Seligman)
- University of Southern California (President C. L. Max Nikias)
- University of Texas, Austin (President William C. Powers)
- University of Vermont (President Tom Sullivan)
- Washington University in St. Louis (Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton)
- Wesleyan University (President Michael S. Roth)
- Willamette University (President Stephen Thorsett)
- Yale University (President Peter Salovey)
- Yeshiva University (President Richard M. Joel)
Additionally, the following institutions’ American Studies programs have formally withdrawn their membership in the American Studies Association (ASA) following their boycott vote:
One of the most eloquent denunciations of the boycott was issued by the President and Dean of Faculty of Trinity College in Connecticut:
To The Immediate Attention of the President of the American Studies Association:
Our Dean of the Faculty, Thomas Mitzel, and I wish to go on record renouncing the boycott of Israel on the part of the ASA.
Trinity once years back was an institutional member (we were then advertising for an open position), and apparently some members of our faculty are individual members. Were we still an institutional member, we would not be any longer after the misguided and unprincipled announcement of the boycott of the only democracy in the Middle East. The Dean and I oppose academic boycotts in general because they can so easily encroach upon academic freedom.
In this strange case, why the ASA would propose an academic boycott of Israel and not, for example, of Syria, the Sudan, North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, or Russia escapes rational thought. Trinity has participated in the Rescue Scholar program since its inception; we have welcomed scholars from some of the most repressive countries on the planet, and it is inconceivable to us that we would ever be welcoming a Rescue Scholar fleeing Israel for political reasons.
As President of the ASA, you have tarnished a once distinguished association.
Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a single university or major academic group in the U.S. supporting the boycott. Indeed, anyway you parse it, if the goal of the ASA – and its anti-Zionist supporters – was to create momentum for the boycott movement, they’ve clearly failed miserably at their task.
You can chalk this up as yet another major BDS Fail.
- American Studies Association purges their Facebook page of critical comments (cifwatch.com)
- Anti-Israel academic boycotters complain criticism violates their academic freedom to boycott (legalinsurrection.com)
- Academic boycotters don’t want done unto them what they did unto Israelis (legalinsurrection.com)
- How ASA Became RASA (Racist American Studies Association) (cifwatch.com)
- University Presidents Across The Country Reject Academic Boycott Of Israel (adl.org)
- The Answer to BDS is Jewish Power (algemeiner.com)
- Proposed ASA boycott of Israeli academics is a guaranteed moral fail (cifwatch.com)
In case anyone is interested in seeing exactly what the leadership of the American Studies Association means when they talk about a “debate” on the issue of their academic boycott of Israel, yesterday the President of the association sent a note to the membership, alerting them that the ten days they had been given to make a decision on the matter (in contrast to the months the leadership gave themselves to achieve consensus on the issue – months that didn’t overlap finals time, by the way) “was designed not only to give everyone a fair chance to vote, but also to promote discussion and healthy debate.”
So far, these leaders have contributed to this “debate” by only providing information supportive of one side (guess which one). But no worries. For according to the ASA President: “A simple Google search will also turn up scores of relevant links to commentary on the ASA resolution and on the issue of the academic boycott of Israel in general.” And a specific resource he linked to was the ASA Facebook page.
Now I stopped by that page which, as it turns out, had only been created on December 3rd (and announced to the membership, as noted above, on December 11, or just four days before voting on the boycott will end). The page has been set up so that only certain people (guess who) are allowed to start threads, and – in keeping with the theme of all ASA communication on the issue – nearly every thread featured some argument supportive of a boycott.
Now comments were open and filled with the same type of “Why don’t you boycott China” vs. “Why doesn’t Israel stop dropping white phosphorous on school children” arguments you see in any boycott-related online message board, with comments apparently coming both from member and non-members. And so I posted a challenging couple of inquiries – mostly regarding the way this whole debate was being conducted.
Now this comment was not hostile (certainly not as hostile as the accusations of racism and genocide that already dotted the site). But within an hour, not only had my comment been deleted, but the entire thread to which it was a response had also been “disappeared.” And when I added a comment to another thread asking why the site’s history seemed to be being rewritten before our eyes, that whole thread also vanished within minutes.
Having seen this type of thing happen before, I decided to take a screen shot of the site after posting my last comment, so you can how much debate the ASA was not willing to tolerate.
If you visit the site today (at least as of this morning) you will see that it has been cleansed of every posting relevant to the boycott posted yesterday (December 11).
Under normal circumstances, I’d take solace in the notion of hypocrisy being the complement vice pays to virtue. But what are we to make of an organization that, in attempting to shut down inquiry with their Israeli colleagues is ready to first shut it down among its own members while simultaneously sending out e-mails urging people to participate in “discussion and healthy debate”?
I expect comments on this site to stick around for a while, so any ASA members out there should feel free to tell me if I’m missing something.
Probably the most embarrassing part of the entire ASA boycott debate is the response of those defending a choice to flush devotion to academic freedom down the toilet for the sake of one (and only one) political pet peeve.
Long-time BDS watchers will recognize the well-rehearsed responses to typical questions about why an organization is choosing to target one nation and one nation only for boycott vs. targeting nations with far worse human rights records (which pretty much includes every nation supporting the BDS “movement”).
First you’ve got the pre-digested word-blobs that seem to get trotted out whenever BDS selective morality is brought into question. My favorite is the one about how the boycotters would gladly respond to any call if it came from members of non-Palestinian civil society organizations (implying that the best way to avoid the wrath of the morally perfect is to actually be a totalitarian government that crushes civil society, rather than one which lets it exist to organize global boycott campaigns).
And whenever these and all the other hypocrisies and inconsistencies are exposed (not to mention the truncated arguments and outright fabrications that fill the BDSer’s bill of indictment), the next automatic set of responses include:
- Ignoring critics and pretending that smashed arguments were never responded to
- Flooding the airwaves with pictures and stories of Palestinian broken children (even if some of those photos need to be imported from Syria) in hope to elicit an emotional response from the audience that will overwhelm reason
- Screaming and shouting in order to raise the temperature so high that rational debate cannot continue
- Claiming (falsely) that any argument against a boycott boils down to nothing but accusations of anti-Semitism
The thing is, when years ago I summed up the various defenses and responses you are now seeing used by the ASA leadership and its supporters as a blast shield against legitimate criticism, I was thinking about them in the context of how undergraduates use these tactics when making their case to other undergrads on a college campus. But in the case of the ASA, it is not just grownups using the same tired strategies to avoid the debate they set in motion, but college professors who allegedly represent the virtues of open-mindedness, critical thinking and the importance of following evidence and inquiry wherever it leads.
In other words, the people claiming that their role as scholars gives them and their proposed boycott special meaning have chosen to act like garden variety propagandists – hiding facts, substituting gut emotion for rational debate, limiting rather than encouraging inquiry and debate – to get what they want. And if they manage to eke out a victory, they will immediately try to use the virtues of scholarship they had so recently jettisoned to give their decision extra moral weight.
As this story plays out, don’t forget that nothing is preventing any ASA members from writing and saying anything they like about the Arab-Israeli conflict or joining a group dedicated to defaming the Jewish state. But that’s not what they want, is it? For a professor speaking in his own name is just a partisan individual who can be judged based on the strength and honesty of his or her arguments.
But get a boycott passed by an organization (by any means necessary) and suddenly those partisans can claim to speak in the name of every man and woman in the association and, by extension, the field (if not the academy as a whole). In other words, getting a voting majority (which may very well constitute a membership minority) to pass a boycott will allow a group of single-issue partisans to punch considerably above their weight, the needs of the association and the profession be damned.
As with other equally ill-conceived campaigns, Israel will survive this particular flaccid string and blunt arrow. But I’m not sure the same thing can be said regarding the American Studies Association.
- American Studies Association leaders to members: Dear Mindless Sheep (cifwatch.com)
- American Studies Association endorses BDS (poster) (elderofziyon.blogspot.com)
- Divest This! A modest proposal to the American Studies Association (cifwatch.com)