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Why blame Israel for keeping out those who would destroy it?


What do you do when a number of organisations have as an express purpose the destruction of your country’s economy in an effort to support those who wish to fundamentally change the country, and not in a good way?

Most sensible people would see this as a form of economic terrorism and think that restricting those organisations’ actions within your country would be an appropriate response. But then most sensible people don’t read the Guardian.

Israel plans, starting in March, to ban a group of 20 charities and human rights groups from entering the country because they support BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions). BDS targets Israeli goods, foreign companies and individuals involved in Israel, academic and cultural contacts. The government of Israel says the campaign actively denies Israel’s basic right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and promotes the country’s demise.

The restriction is part of Israel’s larger effort to fight what it sees as an increasing threat. Two years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu budgeted more than £20million annually to that fight.

Writing in the Guardian, Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want, one of the banned organisations, attacked the ban. On behalf of those banned, he alleged Israel’s response is ‘borrowed straight from the play-book of South Africa’s apartheid regime’.

Rehman called upon the British government ‘not only to condemn this crackdown, but to stop arming Israel – and to hold its government to account for the apartheid policies [my italics] that made BDS a necessity in the first place’.

Appropriately enough Rehman, like many Leftists when it comes to Israel, takes lessons in tactics from Nazi propaganda minister Dr Joseph Goebbels: ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.’

At the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban, the PLO delegation led by Yasser Arafat and his nephew, Nasser al-Qudwa, with member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and many Western NGOs, formulated the final NGO declaration isolating Israel as an ‘apartheid state’.

Labelling the sole Middle East state in which parliament, the military and police, universities and voting rights are open to all citizens regardless of race or religion an ‘apartheid state’ is worthy of the description ‘big lie’.

Israelis, including many who disagree with their government’s policies, find the term deeply offensive. It is seen as an inflammatory analogy aimed at isolating and delegitimising their country.

Media support for BDS is widespread. In the Irish Times BDS is described as ‘a grassroots movement . . . which criticises Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians’. If only that were all.

Many, including Israelis, severely criticise Israeli policies, a legitimate and necessary activity in any functioning democracy. Simply to claim that legitimate political criticism is the underlying purpose of BDS is to downplay the movement’s real aims, which are to outlaw Israel and bring an end to the country as a democratic Jewish state.

BDS leader and activist Omar Barghouti has openly said: ‘Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.’ Ahmed Moor, another activist leader, concurs: ‘OK fine. So BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state . . . BDS is not another step on the way to the final showdown; BDS is the final showdown’.

It is no surprise that Israel sees BDS and its Arab and Western supporters as posing a threat to the nation’s existence.

The New York Times, whilst attempting to give context to the ban, served only to make matters worse by perpetuating the apartheid slur. ‘Supporters of the pressure strategy favor the boycott of Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, provides full equality under the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel and grants a right of return to Palestinian refugees. But refugees number in the millions, and their return would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.’

On one point the New York Times is correct. The BDS aim of bringing about an influx of millions of aggrieved Arab Muslims, backed by the terrorist organisations Hezbollah and Hamas, into a democratic Jewish country of 8.5million would not end well.

Where the NY Times errs is in the implication that Israel’s Arab citizens are disadvantaged under Israeli law, which if true would indeed be a form of apartheid. However, ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel’, or Israeli Arabs as they are more accurately known, have equality under the law, the same as all other Israeli citizens.

British BDS supporters include the Green Party and the National Union of Teachers, Kate Osamor, shadow International Development Secretary, and others in the Labour Party. Among international supporters are Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other academics and activists.

Encouragement for BDS is widespread. Virginia Tilley, a politics professor, and Richard Falk, one-time United Nations Special Rapporteur, co-authored a report on Israel for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The report, submitted in March 2017, concluded: ‘Israel has established an apartheid regime that systematically institutionalises racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole’. Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of ESCWA, strongly supported the report, arguing Israel has succeeded in ‘imposing and maintaining an apartheid regime’.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested the removal of the report from the ESCWA website, stating that it had been released without authorisation. Khalaf, a long-time supporter of BDS, resigned in protest.

The NY Times argued that Mr Guterres dissociated himself from the report not because it was wrong but because it ‘seemed bound to aggravate the already tense relationship between the world body and the Trump administration’.

BDS activists and their NGO, media and governmental supporters claim they are not anti-Semitic but anti-Zionist. BDS activists, however, violate a number of precepts outlined in the US State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism:

  • ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’;
  • ‘Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis’;
  • ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy with that of the Nazis’.

BDS, despite the protestations of some of its more naïve supporters, is not a well-meaning humanitarian movement. When Israel puts restrictions on organisations motivated by a desire to see its destruction it is merely taking sensible precautions.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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