June 04, 2007

Boycott Britain and boycott boycotts update

Here's more on the anti-saxonist boycott Britain campaign. It's an article by Conal Urquhart in today's Guardian.
Israeli groups are planning to launch a counter-boycott of Britain in response to a series of boycotts proposed by British unions and associations.

The counter-measures include an email campaign to convince North Americans to boycott British goods and services and a threat by union workers to refuse to unload British exports to Israel.

Israelis have reacted angrily to proposals by the University and College Union and Unison, the largest public sector workers' union, to boycott Israel in protest at its treatment of Palestinians. The proposals follow a similar resolution passed by the National Union of Journalists earlier this year.

Before yesterday's weekly meeting of the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem, ministers said they were concerned at the prospect of a boycott. Israel's trade minister, Eli Yishai, said he would hold talks on how Israeli industry would respond. The minister for social affairs, Isaac Herzog, said the boycott proposals were part of "a long trail of anti-semitism in Europe, which includes one-sided articles and anti-semitic harassment, topped by torching of the synagogue in Switzerland. This is a great challenge for the Israeli government to deal with."
While Israeli officialdom examines ways of countering the boycott against them their unofficial on line embassy known as Engage has gone into overdrive in its comments section on the same subject.

Reading the Engage comments gives a wonderful insight into the sheer disarray that the zionist movement is in. Some contain threats of the power of American government being brought to bear on known boycotters:
it's time to pass on a list of boycott supporters and activists to the US authorities. This will in due process turn this group into persona non grata in the US, prohibit any academic exchange and will make any financial/grants emanating from the US illegal.

As the following link demonstrates, counter action can be swift, effective and painful.

Goodness, to the American authorities. But the Americans have got 50 states, the British have only got one! There's a saying "if you've got it, flaunt it" but do zionists really have the power this guy is flaunting on the Engage site? Dr Hirsh, the leader of the Engageniks clearly thought this was a comment worth approving. That's not to say he approved of it, just that he thought it a worthy contribution to a discussion on helping Israel out of its current difficulty.

Of all the comments, I found Linda Grant's and the responses to them to be the most fascinating. Linda Grant sees the way the wind is blowing on this one:
If you want to have this debate, you really should familiarise yourself with your enemy's arguments. I do not think they are stupid, or incoherent.

I have had these conversations many many times with the pro-boycotters. They believe that as apartheid South Africa was replaced with a single democratic state which despite its difficulties today is better than its predecessor, so in Israel the same will happen. All objections as to how this will happen, the difference between the two situations, the complicated nature of the Middle East, the role of religion ,the Jewish right to self-determination, are brushed aside. South Africa is the model. Faith in the future is the creed.

Palestine has become a Cause, as was Spain in the 30s, South Africa, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Chile, etc. There is an anti-imperialist world view which sees the oppressed in a struggle against America and its chief ally Israel. The Palestinians are regarded as the shock troops of that struggle, the suffering uber victim of American/Zionist aggression. Which side are you on, they ask themselves? Well, it is a simple choice, they see themselves as on the side of the oppressed, of course. Israel is simply on the wrong side, and only by its dismantling as a Jewish state can the beginnings of real equality in the whole region can emerge.

Needless to say I do not agree with this view, but that is the debate you are entering, on the left.
There it is, Palestine is the new black, zionists the new blackshirts. She'll try to argue that it is the closedmindedness of the pro-boycotters that is the problem with trying to defend Israel from the boycott proposals. For her the campaign should be against boycotts generally and not for Israel as Israel will lose the debate, as it has already. It is clear though that she is concerned that the non(so far)committed will be swayed by the "Israel is an apartheid state" argument:
If you repeat over and over again the question why Israel, then over and over again you will get the answer because it is an apartheid state, until Israel=apartheid becomes an association in the minds of the public.
There's a hint there of how some of these Engageniks want to play it. They want to ask "why Israel?" Those of us who are familiar with Engage-type arguments will know that the question "why Israel?" isn't a question, it's an allegation of antisemitism and a false one. And they've done that one to death now anyway. They know the answer to the question and Linda Grant has spelt it out for them. Israel is an apartheid state. Governments are doing nothing and unlike other serial abusers of human rights, Israel is rarely condemned in the media. This leaves boycotts by ordinary people and their own grass roots organisations to fill the gap. The only way to argue against a boycott of Israel is to boycott boycotts generally. Linda Grant's right about that one.


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