The TUC boycott conflict, Carter and Obama

I haven’t been able to give due attention to recent boycott events, including Jane Fonda’s apology for signing a boycott petition, anti-Israel policy passed by Canadian Christians, and Samuel Maoz’s anti-boycott statement on the occasion of his Venice Film Festival win. Many more links slide through my fingers, but I managed to grab hold of the TUC.

Boycotting activists have forced the Trade Union Congress to dedicate mind-boggling amounts of time, energy and aggression to debating punitive sanctions against Israel. The TUC should be ashamed to even be considering abandoning Israeli workers – the ‘Global Solidarity’ section of its Final Agenda is misnamed and even more miniscule than the Green Party’s Autumn Conference international business with its perennial and hostile attention to the tiny state of Israel. Why always and only Israel? is an unavoidable question without any reassuring answer, and the weird singularity of boycott activism against Israel makes most Jews feel rightly insecure. And yet it’s the only aspect of the conference I heard about on the News today, and most of the country must now think the TUC is fiddling while Rome is burnt to a crisp.

A policy of boycotting Israel is a badge of conflict for an organisation, a flat denial of the needs of Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, nothing to do with solidarity, nothing to do with the labour movement. The TUC should vote it down and ponder instead why the Israeli workers movement might have supported action against Gaza, why it is so important to boycotters to minimise the role of Palestinians in the conflict, and what is to be done to get Israeli and Palestinian workers to recognise their shared interests in ending it.

Walking over London Bridge today, I heard the following BBC Radio 4 6 o’Clock News analysis by North America editor Mark Mardell – which I transcribe from about 19:54 – of the vitriol directed at Barack Obama ostensibly for his incendiary proposed health care reforms. I thought that what was said about this is also true for the zombie-like boycott campaign against Israel.


“Here in South Carolina less than a decade ago the Confederate battle flag fluttered above the state capitol building, and Congressman Joe Wilson was one of a handful of politicians who voted to keep it flying. It’s perhaps why his heckling of the president with the battle cry “You lie” has echoed across the nation, allowing a usually subterranean debate to bubble to the surface. Some feel the vitriolic contempt to President Obama in many public meetings organised by his opponents is because he’s black. Former president Jimmy Carter says it’s abominable.

[Excerpt of Carter’s speech in Atlanta] “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African American ought not be President and ought not be given the same respect as if he were white, and this has permeated politics ever since I have been involved in it back to the 1960s”.

The part of Mark Mardell’s piece which resonated with the boycott campaign and its context in the history of the world’s relationship with its Jews was this:

“But many Conservatives feel that kind of talk is a smear used to stifle legitimate debate and smother heart-felt anger. It is of course very difficult to pin down the precise reasons for the fury that President Obama evokes in his opponents, and naive to think it has only one cause, but the relationship between the white majority and the black minority has been a huge factor in American politics from Civil War to civil rights and it would be extraordinary if it played no part in perceptions of America’s first black president.”

This is right, and it’s also the responsible way to view the furious hostility directed at Israel, and its attendant antisemitism.

On Mark Mardell’s blog there are already 417 responses to his question:

“So I am describing and inviting debate, not passing comment. The relationship between black and white has been such an important driving factor in American political history that it would be strange if it now mattered not a jot. The allegation is that many of those who are calling their president “un-American” mean he is not white. Democratic propaganda, over-sensitivity or truth? Tell me…”

Definitely worth a look.

Obama is resolved to take all criticism of his incendiary health care reform proposals at face value, which is very thought-provoking, but not for this post.

Update: We should congratulate the trade unionists who succeeded in reasoning boycotters away from their moribund position of total boycott. TUC statement; Brendan Barber’s speech on the subject; Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine point to the good aspects of the statement (the fostering of PGFTU-Histadrut projects); Michael Leahy speaks at the Trade Union Friends of Israel fringe meeting; Histadrut calls for peace and cooperation.

39 Responses to “The TUC boycott conflict, Carter and Obama”

  1. N. Friedman Says:

    I am an American who supports reform of the health care system. I am rather sure that not all and, more than likely, not very much of the objection to health care reform is tied to race – although, of course, some of it no doubt is.

    Recall, that Republicans felt that their last president was unfairly tarred as a “liar” and “mass murderer,” etc., etc., by their opponents. So, there is an aspect of political payback that is clearly involved.

    Having nasty language hurled at a president is nothing new and has little meaning. That Mr. Wilson may harbor racialist views is certainly possible, even likely, but, again, that such are the views that motivate most objection to the President’s policies, including on health care, seems pretty preposterous, at least to me.

    Recall the last time that health care reform was on the agenda. The two Clintons’ proposals were attacked savagely. How is the opposition to the bill any different this time? The attacks are, thus far, not worse this time.

    Recall that when horrid President Nixon proposed his health care reform plan, Democrats opposed it vehemently, even though the plan was, by any standards, more liberal than Obama’s proposal.

    A more likely explanation is that American attitudes about government are very different than in other countries. American attitudes regarding public spending is, rather particularly, very different than in other countries. A large percentage of Americans believes that only the individual (i.e. his or herself), not society and not the poor, is what matters so far as domestic policy is concerned. And, people who hold that opinion are willing to put up a fight for those views. And, on top of that, Obama is making a very large number of major proposals that, to most Americans, have no obvious usefulness other than to increase the power of the government over average people – something that is intolerable to many and, likely, most Americans.

    In the case of the Arab Israeli conflict, the chorus of anti-Israel rhetoric from outside of the Middle East is not remotely explainable by the positions and activities of those involved directly in the dispute. This is not a conflict regarding the rights of Americans or of British – only of Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. All of us who invest opinions on this matter are budding into the problems of others and, as such, prejudice/bias, not fact, is certainly the driving force on all sides.

    In any event, no one can say with a straight face that Israel’s behavior is, by world or even Western standards, bad. Is it bad by the standards of Britain in Iraq? Of course not. By Britain in Afghanistan? Of course not. In fact, Israel’s behavior is notably better than that of any European country that is fighting today. And, Israel has a whole lot better case for having troops in Gaza or the West Bank at any given time than the US or Britain has for having troops in the Middle East – thousands of miles away from home.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    We must note that the GMB union has stated flatly that it is not in favour of a boycott of Israel or its trade unions and will not support a boycott if any such motion is passed by the TUC Conference. It was made clear that the leadership of GMB felt that this would be unhelpful to their Palestinian and Israeli union comrades, and, further, that it wasn’t something that Palestinian trade unionists had called for.

    It’s worth noting that the General Secretary of the union responsible for the motion, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had left the TUC Annual Conference _before_ the vote was taken and it was stated on BBC radio news that he was not expected back before the Conference ended. It was also reported that he’d come under tremendous pressure from other trade union leaders and the TUC hierarchy to drop the motion.

    Clearly, the TUC isn’t a monolith, isn’t 100% (or even 51%, perhaps) in favour of a boycott. This is written before the result of any vote is known (I believe it happens tomorrow, Friday).

    It would also be interesting to know whether the rank-and-file of the FBU have had an opportunity to vote on this motion (just like the rank-and-file of UCU have[n’t] had such a chance since 2004); and if so, what their decision was. Perhaps they collectively think that their leadership should concentrate on more mundane matters, like pay and conditions, while expressing solidarity with embattled unionists elsewhere – like Iran, for example.

    Somehow, one can’t imagine the late Jack Jones, International Brigadista (and wounded in Spain), firebrand T&GWU General Secretary and general thron in the side of moderate Labour Party leaderships for decades, falling for this clap trap about boycotts of Israel and its trade unions.

    Off topic, (but not _that_ much), today’s Jewish News – distributed free in the London area in or outside your local Jewish grocery store or deli – carries an interview with Gordon Brown in which he opposes outright a boycott of Israel in any form and declares his government’s support for Israel. He also supports “better” labelling of goods from Israel, so that if goods come from the settlements, people (on an individual basis) can decide whether to buy them or not.

    I’d like that: I think I’d prefer not to buy goods manufactured solely in the WB settlements, without any benefit to the surrounding Palestinian population. If I come up with a better link than this:, I’ll post it separately a.s.a.p. The interview is on p 2 of the issue of 17 September 2009.

    Shona Tovah to all (and I do mean all).

  3. Boycott The Planets. « ModernityBlog Says:

    […] But then again that’s not going to happen, many pro-boycotters are happy to perform token gestures but much less likely to let the boycotting of Israelis have a detrimental effect on their own lives, and so it is with the proposed TUC motion. […]

  4. Israel Boycotts: The Battle Isn’t Over at Z-Word Blog Says:

    […] the website of the valiant Engage, Mira Vogel gets it absolutely […]

  5. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “TUC backs off from Israel Boycott”

    TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber noted that rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were as bad as Israeli attacks on Palestinians (not a direct quote). As you will see if you follow the link, the TUC does call for an arms embargo on Israel – trouble is, of course, that like the arms embargho on Spain, 1936-39, only one side will honour it: Iran will still arm Hezbollah and Hamas, even if no-one supplied arms to Israel. How even-handed is that? And how far does it contravene the original UN Resolution of 1947?

  6. modernityblog Says:

    It is a pity that gesture politics, in the form of pro-boycott sentiment, has finally reached the TUC.

    It would have been far better had the TUC spent its energies encouraging regional co-operation between all trade unionists in the Middle East (including, but not limited to, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, etc)

  7. Ms Question Says:

    Do “engagers” believe that Britain and Europe should have an entirely normal, straightforward trade policy RE products made by Jewish settlers in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      I gave my personal answer in first comment above. I would prefer goods from the West Bank settlements labelled as such, especially if these could be distinguished between those settlements which in some form or other benefitted the nearby Palestinians (maybe they employed them at the going union rate and/or bought raw materials ets at the market rate from them) and those which hermetically seal themselves off from the surrounding population. Then I could decide for myself what I thought _my_ relationship should be to these goods.

      This would much the same as when Labour Party materials _always_ carried the epigram “printed by x company, t.u. all departments”. As for governments, Gordon Brown gave the answer for the current UK Government in the article I linked to in the same comment.

      Others must answer for themselves – there is no “engage” view, and David H. can, for example, only answer for himself, while the other members of the site’s editorial team can only do the same.

      More importantly, Ms Question, what’s _your_ answer to the question you set us? Or can I make an educated guess? Further, it would be interesting for us to hear _your_ responses to the points made by other commenters here: N. Friedman, for instance, or the comments I make in my first comment, instead of just posting loaded and one-sided non-questions.

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    There is a scene in Apocolypse Now in which the US soldiers massacre a boat load of frightened unarmed Vietcong civilians. Having done so, wracked with guilt, the sergeant believes that one person, a child, is still alive. He picks up the child (who is evidently dead) and demands that she be taken to a hospital. He is disgusted when the officer shoots the child whilst in the sergeant’s arms.

    I think that answers Ms Q’s question.

  9. Ms Question Says:

    Mr Goldfarb,

    My answer: I tend to refrain from trading with robbers of TVs, bikes or land – or with robbers of any kind whatsoever. Like Uri Avneri, Gush shalom and the International Court of Justice – I consider all Jewish settlements to be illegal and all Jewish settlers in the occupied West bank to be robbers (even if indeed state-sanctioned which makes the situation all the more appalling). Since the settlers (especially religious ones) also violate one of my ten commandments – you by now both understand and have my answer to your Q.

    And do you Mr Goldfarb (or other engagers) believe that Spain, Britain and Europe should have an entirely normal, straightforward relationships with a project about architecture made in Ariel college in the occupied West Bank (see here from today,7340,L-3779907,00.html )?

    I believe that the decision of the Spanish government is both correct, moral, philosemite and pro-Israel.

    Ariel college and all its employers are robbers in my opinion. (Even if the entire university would have been comprised of non-Jewish Palestinain citizens of Israel – which it is not of course – I would still continue to think that the college needs to be boycotted.

    If someone would rob my bike, I would generally prefer that you, as a moral person, would not allow him to present an art project in your house. I’m looking forward for your answer (hopefully less convoluted than the one given previously).

    The modernityblog linked here above employs in his website the phrase “disputed territories”. (How 70s it is! A brother-phrase of the “en-lighted occupation”…). Either way: as such, the author of the modernityblog is an integral part of Israel’s Zionist Right – and is not part of Israel’s Zionist left (to which engagers tend to associate themselves with no justification in my opinion – but that is different matter).

    • Richard Gold Says:

      “and is not part of Israel’s Zionist left (to which engagers tend to associate themselves with no justification in my opinion – but that is different matter).”

      Care to expand ? If you’re implying that Engage is right wing then please feel free to back up whatever it is you’re saying with examples.

    • N. Friedman Says:

      I, for one, think that the categories occupied/disputed are irrelevant and make any settlement of the dispute less, not more, likely. In any event, Israel will not give up all of the land captured in 1967 – only some of it. They would be foolish to give up all of the land, since that would leave the country with a 9 mile neck, mid-country and with neighbors who still wish them ill.

      In any event, whether or not the land held in the West Bank is or is not occupied, UN 242 simply does not require that Israel return all of it. No court is going to say otherwise, because that would require the court to ignore entirely the wording and history of the resolution.

      Further, a very substantial portion – probably a majority – of the Palestinian Arab population is not planning to give up demanding that Israel be eventually, if not immediately, dismantled. While Israel might be in a position to solve the land dispute, only the Palestinian Arabs can decide if that resolution ends the dispute. Thus far, there is no evidence that, for the politically aware class, accepting Israel’s permanence on any land is really seriously contemplated.

      That problem cannot be solved without a dramatic change of heart among Arabs. That is not likely to happen in our lifetime. Hence, moral grandstanding about Palestinian Arabs who, at the end of the day, have no intention of resolving the dispute is, to be, morally bankrupt and rather pathetic.

  10. Ms Question Says:

    forgot modernitybolg’s “disputed territories” source for you:

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      That is not Modernity’s blog. That’s the z-word blog.

      And I’m afraid they clearly are disputed. Sumantra Bose, for example – an expert – refers to them (among other terms) as ‘contested’.

      You can’t wish this horrible conflict away by framing the debate, Ms Question. If only.

      And in answer to your first question, personally I do not want to economically sustain the settlements. To do so undermines Palestinian and Israeli progressives, and I have no intention of doing that. But for states or institutions to care only about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands while showing shocking relative disinterest in any other forms of provenance is extremely suspect and to be opposed. It’s only recently that there’s been much talk about boycotting just the occupation. Most boycott resolutions taken to their conclusion would render Israel powerless in its own defence – and of course it requires self-defence. Boycott of Israel in its entirety was the starting position of this latest iteration of the boycott campaign which began at the Cairo conference in, I think, 2003, and remains the dominant call today. Don’t forget that Israel has been boycotted since its inception, and boycotters would have to work hard to distinguish their boycott from hatred of Israel, and before that, Jews. Most boycotters have not even tried – they’ve mocked, they’ve scorned and they’ve smeared.

      One form of opposition to this singling out of Israel is disparaged as whataboutery – but it has its place.

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    Dear Ms Q,

    “I tend to refrain from trading with robbers of TVs, bikes or land – or with robbers of any kind whatsoever.”

    I assume, therefore, that you refuse all produce from the US, Canada, and Australia (dispossession of the entire indigenous population; many of whom still are living in abject poverty in reserves and reservations and, in Australia were systematically murdered; and in Canada, the children of Inuits stolen from their parents and given to “white” families – the legacy of which continues to this day.)

    Likewise with Kenya and Uganda (in which those who immigrated from India were stripped of all rights and property).

    The last time I looked, the eighth commandment does not come with a statute of limitations.

    So, let’s be honest about it shall we. When one scrapes away your universal condemnation, all that is left is a particularist application. Of course, a quite common feature of philosemites such as yourself.

  12. Comrade T Says:

    Could you explain how “the author of the modernityblog is an integral part of Israel’s Zionist Right”?

    Seems to me modernityblog is just one of millions? of bloggers expressing a particular opinion on a matter of some political signficance. Unless you think that anyone who expresses a view distinct from yours can only be an “integral part” of something much bigger.

    If that is indeed the case, I think you have told us all there is about your “morals”.

  13. modernity Says:

    Mr. Question wrote:

    “The modernityblog linked here above employs in his website the phrase “disputed territories””

    Please, show me where I used the term ‘disputed territories’?

    I didn’t and wouldn’t use such a term. Now please admit your mistake.

  14. Comrade T Says:

    Like many of Ms Q’s ilk, she is only capable of thinking in terms of the herd. Modernityblog is an “integral part of the Zionist right”. Engagers think of themselves as “Zionist left” (but, they’re not really that, nudge, nudge.)

    I love the idea that it is beyond the ken of Ms Q to think in terms other than cliches and labels.

    There is only one thing worse than an antisemite; and that is a philosemite who thinks they are acting for the good of Jews. History is replete with auto de fe’s set up in the name of “helping Jews” be more “just” and “moral”. Indeed, it is the concept of “philosemite” that, despite all claims to universal principle,s indicates precisely just how particularist Ms Q is in her choice of which robbers to trade with.

    Damn those Jewish traders.

  15. NIMN Says:

    I note the slippage in Ms Q’s response from illegality of the settlements to boycott as if there is nothing in between.

    In this context, she quotes somewhat selectively from Uri Avneri. Avneri has come out explicitly against a boycott of Israel (and, as further slippage, Ms Q’s comments about “state-sanctioned” implies the “logic: of boycott of Israel as a whole).

    As with so many who have recourse to “their” 10 commandments, Ms Q is far more concerned with what she sees as her own moral integrity – as well as that of “the Jews” – than with the difficulties of resolving the conflict in Israel and Palestine. Providing she can go to sleep with a “good conscience” then that is all that matters to her.

    And, one final point. What does she mean by a boycott of Ariel being “philosemitic”. In what way is it good for “the Jews”. I can understand the argument that peace and equity would be good for Israel (as it would for Palestine), but for the Jews? Who exactly does she mean? Jews everywhere? Why would peace in the ME be good for Jews as opposed to Israelis. And, conversely, why would it be bad for Jews outside Israel if there
    was continued conflict? Is Ms Q offering a velied threat here? Is Ms Q giving antisemitism a “just cause” legitimation? She wouldn’t be the first.

  16. Absolute Observer Says:

    Whoops, forgot the link Averni’s statement against the boycott.

    Funny, I thought deception and selective editing was a prohibition included in the ten commandments. Guess I was wrong.

  17. modernityblog Says:

    Ms. Question,

    again “The modernityblog linked here above employs in his website the phrase “disputed territories”.”

    Nope, that is wrong, I do NOT quote from that article.

    Please demonstrate where on *my* blog I quote from that link?

    I don’t.

    Now please apologize for your inflammatory language and inaccuracies.

  18. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Ms Question, whether you “like” my supposedly convoluted answer or not is of total disinterest to me. If you can’t follow my argument, then tough, no-one else appears to have this problem.

    As for further replies to _your_ comments, then the intervening replies provide all the answer needed.

    And stop conflating “Jews” and “Israelis”: it’s antisemitic to do so, and you are far from the first in these columns to do so.

  19. Absolute Observer Says:

    As Ms Q’s extended comments show, both in terms of her selective readings and her selective moral imperatives, her comments about what is good for Jews, her theologising and singling out of the conflict in the ME, all indicate that her she is arguing mal fide
    etc., etc.

    If she wants to talk about the illegality of the settlements, the general principles of law involved and how the international community has dealt with these issues elsewhere then fine.

    If she wants to make the argument as to why, out of all these instances, only Israel should be the subject of specific action, then fine.

    If she wants to make the argument specifically about a boycott of the Jewish state and only the Jewish state,as opposed to other forms of response, then fine.

    If she would like to discuss how a boycott would help resolve the issue at hand, then fine.

    Unfortunately, Ms Q currently sounds like those awful right-wing moralists who believe that any illegality (such as the example she offers of stealing a bike) should be met with the harshest punishment possible; or, more accurately, of those awful right-wing settlers who, having reduced the world to the axis of right and wrong believe their rights in the OT are God-given and who, therefore, refuse to compromise.

  20. Ms Question Says:

    My sincere apologies modernityblog: I confused your website with the one mentioned in the first post below your (written by a certain right winger called Cohen.

    Rightly or wrongly, these are my own conclusions from the exchange above:

    Conclusion 1: most “engagers” that wrote here believe that Britain and Europe should have a normal, straightforward trade policy RE products made by Jewish settlers in Jewish-only settlements in the undisputedly occupied West Bank.

    Conclusion 2: most “engagers” that wrote here – and this includes Mr Goldfarb who once again fuzzed an answer – believe that Spain, Britain and Europe should have an entirely normal, straightforward relationships with a project about architecture made in Ariel college in the undisputedly occupied West Bank (see here from today,7340,L-3779907,00.html )?

    I think that most engagers here believe that the decision of the Spanish government is incorrect, immoral, anti-Israel and anti-semite (look what a huge category you have here on the left on antisemitism and one author above had the audacity to tell me that I’m now allowed to use the phrase phil0semite).

    Uri Avneri – like the entire Israeli left including peace now – is PRO-BOYCOTT of everything made in the illegal state-sanctioned settlements by cruel, robing and inhuman settlers in the undisputedly occupied west bank:

    And then I’m asked why engage is not right wing and pro occupation… If you translate the entries above to hebrew and convey them to members of Peace Now nearly all of them will spit on you and say that this is not rain: those who are coward enough to denounce the settlers and their illegal settlements are sub-contractors of the Zionist right.

    and I also saw this today in the American Jewish Forward:

    • Gil Says:

      Funny that you should link to that article in Forward. The author does not call for a boycott of Israel, actually. And someone (the author) who lives in the US yet says he feels’ personally implicated’ in Israel’s actions is clearly someone with ‘issues’.

      By the way, when are you going to answer the points that others have made about the ‘selection’ of Israel as a target for boycotts, over all other countries?

      When bleeding hearts, bleeding with selectivity, choose to repudiate the antisemites in your camp, then perhaps you will regain the honest Left’s trust.

  21. modernityblog Says:

    We should have all recognized it, but I think that Ms. Question is not honestly interested in the issues.

    Rather she acts as a troll, someone that makes a provocative point but is more interested in baiting than genuine dialogue.

    Her points, such as they are, are meant to agitate and annoy, not understand the complex issues at hand.

    Best ignored.

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    “one author above had the audacity to tell me that I’m now allowed to use the phrase phil0semite”

    “Audacity” – my what a string word. Looks like I touched a nerve, how very interesting.

    And, again, the misinterpretation.
    I did not say you are not allowed to use the term “philosemite”. Far from it. I find it particularly illuminating.

    But, hey, thanks for trying to make the Jews better people. I am sure they are really grateful. And thank you for all the links to Jewish groups who are falling out of love with Israel. They will be examples to us all. (Although why you assume 1. engagers care a toss what Jews say, and b. the implication that Israel and Palestine is a specifically Jewish issue is beyond me (well, actually, it’s not; it is very clear really)

    And talking of prohibition. As far as I am aware, it’s ok to disagree even with Uri and others of the Israeli left, even if I share their same aims and goals. After all, their context is Israel, mine, for example, is Europe; so it’s completely legitimate for me to disagree on this or any other point as well a disagreeing on matters of principle.

    You may think that political action involves mob or mass mentality; for others, it remains a question of thinking matters through and coming to conclusions that the mob may jeer at.

    I note also that again you are selective as to which posts and question to which you respond.

    Unfortunately, as moderntyblog notes, Ms Q has presented us with a couple of (Jewish) links to things most people have read anyway, as if thinking is nothing but the numbers one can muster, made an absurd connection to an international political conflict and a personal and private case of theft; have claimed a universal principle in guiding her principle whereas it is focussed on a single instance at the expense of even recognition of others; have used the 10 commandments as a weapon. Confuses opposition to the settlements with support for a boycott (that if one recognises the illegality of the settlements then the “only” response is for a boycott.)

    In other words, and in classic fashion, for Ms Q, discussion is substituted fro slogans. Not one of her comments would exceed the size of a protester’s placard.

    Unfortunately, this is now what passes as “debate” for the pro-boycott Lobby.

    I await in vain, therefore, for the response to the following discussion points,

    f she wants to talk about the illegality of the settlements, the general principles of law involved and how the international community has dealt with these issues elsewhere then fine.

    If she wants to make the argument as to why, out of all these instances, only Israel should be the subject of specific action, then fine.

    If she wants to make the argument specifically about a boycott of the Jewish state and only the Jewish state,as opposed to other forms of response, then fine.

    If she would like to discuss how a boycott would help resolve the issue at hand, then fine.

    Oh, and, so as to ease your paranoia, feel free to use whatever words you want. I, for one, have forbidden none. It’s just so much fun watching you give yourself away with your faux, or is that repressed? politeness

    One final thing. Since you are only here to poll numbers, rather than engage in serious discussion, then I suggest you visit JJfp since they are currently balloting on this very issue. Why not go to a site that gives a damn what people like you think.

  23. NIMN Says:

    “Falling out of love with Israel”

    Oh god, a nationalist with a broken heart!

    States are always a disappointment, it’s what they do – France, the USA, Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Israel. Yet, there is always a whole new bunch of people who think this time it will be different; that they can change them.

  24. NIMN Says:

    ANd when they can’t change them; blame the state as opposed to their own idealism.

  25. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    From Ms Question’s latest offering: “most “engagers” that wrote (sic) here – and this includes Mr Goldfarb who once again fuzzed an answer – believe that Spain, Britain and Europe should have an entirely normal, straightforward relationships with a project about architecture made in Ariel college in the undisputedly occupied West Bank” .

    Funny that, I didn’t mention architecture, Ariel College, let alone Spain, Britain and Europe once. I did mention products from WB settlements and my personal attitude towards them. I did, of course, mention Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s straightforward statement of the UK government’s opposition to a boycott of Israel, and that he did call for clearer labelling of products from the WB settlements.

    None of this comes anywhere near what Ms Question asserts I said. Nor what others have said here. Further, Ms Question is showing her lack of geographical knowledge as well as poor grammar: most people would take it for granted that Spain and Britain are part of Europe, not that Europe is, somehow, a separate country.

    So, Ms Question, stop just repeating unsupported assertions as though they are facts (they’re not), produce evidence (you haven’t), stop trying to put words into people’s mouths – that just shows stupidity, in believing that we won’t notice, and faux naive apologies don’t cut it either – and stop conflating Jews and Israelis, which is antisemitic.

    And frankly, I don’t give a shit if you think I’ve fuzzed an answer: your opinion is worthless. Compared with your writings, mine are models of clarity, logic and good sense: I should know, I spent long enough honing them.

    And as for your next paragraph: “I think that most engagers here believe that the decision of the Spanish government is incorrect, immoral, anti-Israel and anti-semite[sic] (look what a huge category you have here on the left on antisemitism and one author above had the audacity to tell me that I’m now {sic: I think she means not} allowed to use the phrase phil0semite)”, this beggars belief. You’re not actually allowed to use words you don’t know the meaning of, unless, that is, you are prepared to be ridiculed. Go and look up the meaning of “philosemite”, and then come back. Again, no-one actually said this, you just wish they had, or are prepared to misinterpret them as saying this about the Spanish government, again in the hope that no-one will notice.

    Or perhaps you just are that so self-satisfied with your own views that you refuse to countenance any chance of being wrong.

    What I’m doing here is called “deconstruction”: it means “taking apart” what has been said/written and seeing what it actually means. In your case, very little.

    “And then I’m asked why engage is not right wing and pro occupation…” Well, you’re asked this because you wilfully ignore (or completely fail to understand, appreciate or know) what (i) being left-wing or right-wing means, (ii) have failed to read closely what so many here say of themselves, starting with the founding editor and (iii) haven’t read the section labelled “About Us” up there on the top left-hand corner of every page, including this one.

    Again, a projection of your own views, and/or what you wish our views were. They are not.

    So, go away, do some proper reading and thinking – you could start by going back over the pages of Engage, for a start – and then come back.

    I don’t suppose you will. You’d have to start thinking for a start, and that would be oh so painful.

    And as for this, from the end of your latest comment, “and I also saw this today in the American Jewish Forward:“, all this proves is that the World-wide Jewish community isn’t monolithic. As if we didn’t know that already: just see anything written by Anthony Lerman. As a result, it proves nothing, so you can stop being triumphalist, Ms Question. Just shows, yet again, your inability to know the first thing about the topics you write about.

  26. Absolute Observer Says:


    Ah, the politics of “denouncing!” (which, apprently for the Grand Inquisitor Ms Q is the same as “call for Boycott”)

    Forget context, forget aim, forget the Palestinians (whom she has mentioned not once) just “denounce, Jews, denounce” that’s what all the good Jews are doing!

    What an authortiatrian little Stalinist piece of work she is

  27. Saul Says:

    Perhaps nothing sums up the confusions of the boycott movement clearer than the comments over philosemitism.

    Ms Q cites philosemitism in defence of the boycott.

    Another contributor criticises her for so doing.

    Ms Q interprets that criticism as prohibition on the terms use (i.e. as calling for a boycott of that term, so to speak)

    For Ms. Q therefore, the concepts of “criticism” and “boycott” become one; as if boycotting is the same as criticism.

    If anything proves the validity of the arguments Engage has been making over the past years, this is it.

    (for a critique of the assimilation of criticism and boycott see Jacobson’s speech earlier on Engage)

  28. Ms Question Says:

    Presently, it is Palestinian civilians in the occupied Gaza strip who are the sole ones FACTUALLY boycotted for over 3 years now: any hyper-link pointers in “engage” that demonstrate as passionate opposition to this boycott of (again factually) non-Jewish Palestinians?

    (The U.S. position on whether or not Gaza is occupied: The CIA World Factbook says: “West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement — permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel removed settlers and military personnel from the Gaza Strip in August 2005.” Amnesty says:

    HRW says:

    Either way, my aim in writing here was NOT to debate whether it is OK for Israel to kill Palestinians because white Euro-Americans (perhaps like you?) massacred native-Americans – or whether it is OK for Israel to gas non-Jewish Palestinians because Germans did gas Jews by millions. (That’s how imbecilic some of the argumentation above in this thread is).

    INSTEAD: I wrote here for the SOLE and only purpose of soliciting form engagers two very brief answers to 2 of the simplest questions on earth (above). I thank those who were kind enough to share their thoughts. I hope that I will not be illiberally censored here if I say that as a website, engage and most of its writers strike me as a political farce: engage has none to do with the Israeli left (be it Zionist or other).

    What constitutes and and unites the Israeli Zionist and non-Zionist left (both liberal and socialist) is a crystal-clear belief that boycotting products made in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied west bank is one of the single most morally finest pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish, pro-Palestinian – hence philosemitic – act that individuals and communities can undertake (regardless of geographical location). Sorry, engagers, but there exists no other Israeli left. If you do not subscribe to this view then you are engaged with Israel’s right. This is the factual political israel and that is your factual location. Your postmodern construction of a non-existent Israeli left makes you a unicorn.

    (However, to their left engagers can still join the worldwide support enjoyed by the feminist master of Operation “Cast Lead” Zipy Livni: she and her likud-B party indeed oppose the boycott of products made in the settlements and – luckily for engagers – she and her party are courageously members of Israel’s right wing opposition of the VERY right wing government).

    Sadly, the more engagers join in mumbling in this thread, the clearer it becomes that little separates them (and this website) from the pro-occupation global right be it Jewish or not. Apologies, warnicks, but that’s how most writers here come across. I promise to do my very best to neither visit again, nor bother again any saul here.

  29. modernityblog Says:

    “white Euro-Americans”

    Yet another lazy assumption. Who says “we” are white/pink? Or even Europeans?

    In fact your sole purpose, was to bait, nothing more, you couldn’t even be trouble to read people’s views rather you rashly attributed to them whatever you felt like, which is a very poor approach.

    Ms. Question, I suggest you take your presumptive attitude and poor mind reading skills elsewhere.

  30. zkharya Says:

    Ms Question,

    what exactly do you want from a boycott?

  31. zkharya Says:

    For any member of the pro-Israel left, the issue of “settlements” is far more complex than you allow.

    Jews were ethnically cleansed by Palestinian and other Arab Muslims from, say, east Jerusalem, old and new, and Hebron, as well as other places. Most Israeli Jewish leftists would argue the Jewish suburbs in east Jerusalem should be allowed to stay, especially since history has shown that, given opportunity, Palestinian and other Arab Muslims have tried to drive Jews out.

    The same goes for some other settlements in the West Bank: they were established at a time when both the Palestinian and other Arab national movements or states were still officially dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Even now there is some ambiguity in the matter in Fatah, none at all in Hamas.

    And to return to my original question, the attitude of individual Israeli Jewish leftists varies considerably with what goals boycotters seek.

    With all due respect, Ms Question, you are very ignorant in what the Israeli left consists. But, for some reason, many British cultural if rather ignorant Christian observers think that allows them to pronounce forth with authority on these matters all the more.

    Your authority on the matter, Ms Question, is, I fear, inversely proportional to your knowledge of it.

  32. Absolute Observer Says:

    Since Ms Q is so very fond of quoting Jewish sources, let’s take a look at this.

    Probably the person writing it was rubbing their hand with glee as they re-run pictures of bombs dropping on Gaza, since all those who oppose a boycott are nothing other than “warnicks” and “pro-occupation”, who get their rocks off watching “non-Jewish Palestinians” being hit by bombs.
    (btw, love the term “non-Jewish Palestinians” – such a nice way for calling for the destruction on the Jewish state of Israel).

    Again the blurring in the fact of occupation and the question of boycott as a response to that occupation…………………
    not one person here defends Israel’s right to the OT.
    not one person here supports a boycott.

    These are two distinct questions.

    Apparently, those that refuse to believe in the alchemy in which one substance melts into another, are, themselves, magically transformed into nothing other than “warnicks”, “pro-occupation”, etc. etc.
    That because “we” dare not agree with one strand of the Israeli left then “we” “are engaged with Israel’s right” (as in George W. Bush’s “if your not for us, you’re against us – now, there’s a true lefty speaking!)

    On the one hand diaspora Jews are accused of blindly following Israel, now, the very confused Ms Q is accusing some diaspora Jews (no doubt some of whom contribute here) of NOT blindly following Israel.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    However, Ms Q is so deluded about things that she thinks that “engagers” are, or should be, extensions of some part of the Israeli left; as if their words are engraved on tablets of stone.

    As for me, I don’t give a toss what some Israelis do and don’t think, anymore than anyone else for that matter. I read what they say, think about it, and then make my own decision. If Ms Q has problems with people not towing party lines, then she has some very nasty precedents and characters to back her up.

    Of course,Ms Q did not come here to debate the massacre of native-Americans! because if she did, she would have to ask why she was not boycotting a state that successfully had colonized a land and a people (through the use of genocide) but was willing to boycott a state who had fallen far short of that, and for whom, as she never tires of writing, many in that state think is a jolly bad idea (as well, of course, as the lack of genocide).

    Rather, either out of spite or ignorance, she interprets the question as making the argument that if one people can do it, why not the Jews?; and just in case we miss the point that it is Jews she is talking about, she brings up the Shoah (and, again with the “non-Jewish Palestinian. Philosemites, you just gotta luv ’em.

    However, even before we had reached the increasingly confused ravings of a philosemite (God help us all) Ms Q begins with the absurd accusation that “we” didn’t answer a question – “any hyper-link pointers in “engage” that demonstrate as passionate opposition to this boycott of (again factually) non-Jewish Palestinians? “- that she didn’t ask (regarding sanctions against Hamas).

    God save us all from the philosemites. We must be a terrible disappointment to them.

  33. Saul Says:

    “I promise to do my very best to neither visit again, nor bother again any saul here.”

    Not sure why I should be so blessed!! But, as they say, one should never look a gift-horse in the mouth.

  34. Comrade T Says:

    “non-Jewish Palestinians”

    hmmmm, I wonder what happened to the Jewish Palestinians (by which I assume Ms Q means members of the Yishuv, many of who, of course, were not “Zionists”) living in Gaza……….?

    Oh, I know,

    “The last Jews living in Gaza left the town as result of the Arab anti-Jewish disturbances and massacres which took place during 1929.”

    “Gaza’s Jewish community was roughly 2,000 years old, and in 1481 there were sixty Jewish households. Most of them left Gaza after the 1929 Palestine riots, when they consisted of fifty families.”

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