Fair enough, I can now see that it was a mistake to write ‘Jews are as welcome here as anyone else’ in that it has been taken, by many people, in exactly the opposite way that it was intended (but perhaps I should have foreseen that – I apologise). Obviously, whilst writing anything about boycotting Israel (I’ll come to that in a bit) I wanted to also state what is obvious to me: that that doesn’t mean we’re anti-Semitic. I only felt that needed stating because certain people (such as Israeli politicians and pro-Israeli journalists) deliberately try to muddy the water by conflating anti-Israeli sentiment with anti-Semitism. I don’t care (and obviously generally don’t know) what community/religion/race/diaspora our customers come from – however in answer to the comment about taking fascist shekels, we would never knowingly serve a member of the BNP – and, in terms of individual Israelis, I don’t blame anyone for the misdeeds of their government, in the same way that I would hope that no one would hold me responsible for the misdeeds of British governments, past and present.
But we will continue to boycott Israel, and we certainly won’t hide the fact. All the time that we’ve been open, there have been stickers on the walls calling for a boycott. To me, it’s as legitimate as boycotting South Africa was in the 1980s [By the way, we don’t use Columbian coffee beans, we use Fairtrade Brazilian beans]. It doesn’t mean that I am a supporter of Hamas. It just means that I am more than a little frustrated with seeing absolutely no progress in favour of the Palestinian people, despite decades of handwringing by Western governments (and by progressive/leftwing Israelis). The walls, roadblocks, checkpoints and settlements continue to go up; the mass-killings, collective punishments, arbritrary arrests and incarcerations carry on, as the ineffectual UN resolutions continue to be passed.
I don’t see Hamas as being comparable to the WWII French Resistance, but I do see the Intifada in general as being so. It’s a popular uprising against a hated, and militarily far superior, occupying force. You cannot cite Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket attacks as being anywhere near the same league as what has been meted out by Israel; they don’t amount to 1 per cent of the total carnage and misery. Israel needs to think about why so much of the world is against it, in the same way that the USA has started to do in recent years (we boycotted them, too – and we had a notice up about it, but no complaints or counter-boycotts, as far as I’m aware – while Bush was in power; looks like it worked).
I am well aware of the Holocaust (my wife’s stepfather was in a concentration camp as a child) and the unjust treatment and displacement of Jews in general, in much of the world, for centuries. But these facts do not give Israel a licence to kill and oppress, or to steal land, anymore than the legacy of British colonialism gives Robert Mugabe excuses for his behaviour, despite what he might say.
And, Contentious Centrist, I’d like you to tell me exactly what my ‘ill-concealed wishes’ are, and why on earth I would feel ‘anguish …as a result of so many Jews feeling welcome in [my] cafe.’ The Jewish person who works at Café Crema certainly appears to feel welcome, and this doesn’t cause me much anguish. And this is not ‘gestural politics’. This is absolutely sincere.
Once again, to anyone I’ve offended, or made feel unwelcome, I apologise. However, the boycott remains. I’m genuinely sorry if this means we’ll lose certain customers; that’s obviously not our intention.
Chris, Café Crema, New Cross
John Strawson Answers:
The arrogance of Chris’s position is astounding. Britain has been a colonial power for 3 centuries during which time it played a major role in the slave trade, ethnically cleansed most of North America and Australia, created concentration camps in South Africa and fought vicious wars to keep its colonies – do not forget some 100,000 Kenyans died in the 1950’s. Incidentially it also prevented many cictims of the Nazis from reaching Palestine – and did nothing to stop the Holocaust during World War II. The same Britain has recently been helping occupy Iraq since 2003. Chris is not frustrated by his own state and its bloody colonial record – he is only frustrated by a Jewish State. I think he has a problem.