February 23, 2013

Galloway misrepresents BDS as does BICOM

Now look what George Galloway has gone and done.  Admittedly there are supporters of BDS who support Galloway's refusal to speak to an Israeli recently but the general BDS idea is better summed up on the BDS Movement website:
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian unions, mass organisations, refugee networks and NGOs that leads and and sets the guidelines for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, supports all principled action in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality that is in line with universal human rights and international law.
In its 2005 BDS Call, Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott of Israel, its complicit institutions, international corporations that sustain its occupation, colonization and apartheid, and official representatives of the state of Israel and its complicit institutions. BDS does not call for a boycott of individuals because she or he happens to be Israeli or because they express certain views. Of course, any individual is free to decide who they do and do not engage with.
The global BDS movement has consistently adopted a rights-based approach and an anti-racist platform that rejects all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
These guidelines and the fact that BDS has been initiated and is led by Palestinian civil society are major reasons behind the rapid growth and success that the BDS movement has enjoyed around the world.
Now take a look at what BICOM, the Britain Israel Communication and Research Centre are saying in the Huffington Post:
What is so abhorrent to him about conversing with an Israeli? Why is he so adamant that the Israeli should not be seen; that the Israeli should not be heard?
Perhaps he is afraid that if people hear from Israelis first hand, it will belie the demonic image he would like to create of them. 
Now that's just plain silly because the mainstream media always puts Israel and Israelis in the most favourable light possible and there's not a whole lot Galloway can do about that.  And, the writer of the HuffPo piece, Toby Greene, comes close to admitting as much:
Galloway himself is of course irrelevant. His repeated, ridiculous acts of buffoonery are a gift to those who reject his opinions and a liability to anyone who might share them.
So what's the problem from the Israel lobby perspective?
Unfortunately, Galloway is the thin end of a more disturbing wedge. There is a small but energetic movement to silence the voices of Israelis and prevent them from being heard more widely. Most people completely reject this movement, but they are nonetheless succeeding at times to impose their will.
On Wednesday, Israel's deputy ambassador, Alon Roth-Snir, was prevented from speaking at Essex University, where he had been invited by the Department of Government, and forced to leave the campus. This month the student union at Oxford University is considering whether or not to endorse a motion to promote a boycott of Israel.
Such attempts to silence Israelis extend even to Israeli academic work and cultural expressions that have nothing to do with politics. In the past year there have been attempts to disrupt Israeli dance performances, plays and concerts, carried out by individuals who simply cannot stand the sight or sound of an Israeli.
Now this is nonsense.  The issue here is the extent to which an individual or group can be said to represent the Israeli state.  An Israeli diplomat is obviously a representative of the Israeli state.  I know of no other diplomat from a notoriously human rights abusive state being invited to address a university in the UK.  That doesn't mean it hasn't happened but it seems unlikely.  A dance troupe from Israel might be harder to discern as boycottable but this is the first paragraph of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel's call to boycott the troupe that Greene is referring to, ie, Batsheva:
The Batsheva Dance Company of Tel Aviv is touring the US and Canada in January, February, and March, 2009. A recipient of public financing since the 1990s, the dance troupe is clearly an Israeli apartheid cultural institution. Writing October 26, 2008, in The Independent of London, Jenny Gilbert reports that the dance company is "funded by Israel's government, its performers include none of Arab extraction, and it is 'proud to be considered Israel's leading ambassador.'"
Read the whole thing and see for sure that clearly this isn't a case of people being unable to "stand the sight or sound of an Israeli".

Galloway did manage to convey that impression to non-initiates but it's hard to believe that there is anyone at BICOM who doesn't know the general thrust of the BDS Movement.

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