July 16, 2011

Omar Barghouti and Jonathan Freedland: BDS debate audio

I'm a bit late with this but there was a debate last Sunday night on the motion,
Where basic freedoms are denied and democratic remedies blocked off, cultural boycott by world civil society is a viable and effective political strategy indeed a moral imperative.

Omar Barghouti and Seni Seneviratne spoke for the motion and Jonathan Freedland and Carol Gould. The audio is here.

Tony Greenstein wrote it up here. It's about as close to a transcript as I have seen. The Jewish Chronicle website has a partial write up here:
A culture of "impunity, racism and genocidal tendencies has overtaken Israeli society", according to Palestinian boycott activist and author Omar Barghouti.

Mr Barghouti was speaking in support of a boycott motion proposed at a London Literature Festival debate at the Southbank Centre on Sunday.
He was joined by Seni Seneviratne, a British-Sri Lankan poet who is a member of British Writers in Support of Palestine, in backing the motion, which questioned whether a cultural boycott could be a "viable and effective political strategy; indeed a moral imperative".
Mr Barghouti said: "Israel uses culture to brand itself and change its image around the world. Boycott is the most effective non-violent means available to us to end the occupation and apartheid."
Ms Seneviratne compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and said the boycott was "forcing Israeli journalists and politicians to recognise the shift in world opinion".
American writer Carol Gould, opposing the motion alongside JC and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, challenged the comparison. She said: "If Israel is an apartheid state how is it that Omar has been able to study at Tel Aviv University? Did blacks study at Wits [in Johannesburg]?"But both Ms Gould and Mr Freedland were repeatedly shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists.
[Actually blacks did study in South African universities and were overwhelmingly supportive of a boycott]

A clearly shaken Mr Freedland told the audience: "Tonight has been hugely revealing. I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation and you want to see the end of occupation and it was an argument about tactics.
"What has come through loud and clear is your motivation is not actually just the end of occupation but it's with Israel itself - you have a fundamental problem with it."
A quick look at other Israel advocacy sites like Engage and Harry's Place shows that by common consent Freedland lost the argument. For Engage,
The Israel eliminationists won
For Harry's Place:
Jonathan lost
But the poster, Alan A, made the following request to the HP faithful:
can I ask as a special favour, please give the “kapo” and “court Jew” stuff a bit of a break. It is dull and nasty.
Well that was too much for some with a chap called Harvey offering a not too atypical response:
Oh and I don’t like the term kapo either . They were having to make life and death decisions . What’s freedlands excuse for selling out .
There we have it. Jonathan Freedland is worse than a kapo for talking to Omar Barghouti or possibly for getting into a position where he would lose a debate which often moved from the rights or wrongs of BDS to whether or not Israel should be characterised as an apartheid state or indeed whether Israel, as a state specifically for Jews should exist at all.

Both the pro-BDS position and the Israel is an apartheid state position won the argument.


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