The Palestine Solidarity Campaign – smashing Israeli growers and pickers

Here are some boycotters of Israel after a successful campaign to rid Sussex University Student Union’s shelves of all those mounds of Israeli produce which were there before. But what is this? The feet of our international conscience appear to be clad in Nike. Haven’t these people read Naomi Klein from back when she was good?

And here’s a plan, by the Socialist Action-pwned Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to smash Israeli growers and pickers on pretext of justice for Palestinians (who probably don’t want that kind of help).

Anybody who decides to participate in this boycott should understand that they are hurting modestly-remunerated Israeli growers and pickers.

The boycott can’t touch this Israel – the one with the population of 7m which attracts more venture capital than France and Germany combined. The very young country whose economically successful innovation and entrepreneurialism has, in these authors’ assessment, been largely motivated by adversity. The authors pass over it, but I’m guessing they mean the denial of Israel’s right to exist, the terrorism, constant threat of war, and the boycotting of Palestine’s Jews which hardly missed a beat in 1948 when it turned into a boycott of Israel.

They aren’t repeating Naomi Klein’s slanted and made-up doctrine that Israel manufactures adversity in order to profit from it; rather they are confirming the age-old proverb about necessity being the mother of invention.

How can this boycott, an act of aggression, change the international policy – or any policy for that matter – of a country so well equipped to thrive (economically) on adversity?

From an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg with one of the aforementioned authors:

JG: Go to one final thing, something that struck me when I was reading this book.  You have a boycott movement in Europe, but in the U.S., too, you have forces that want to delegitimize Israel. I realized in reading this that it would be quite something to go tell Intel or Google or IBM to divest from Israel.

DS: They’ll never do it. I mean, it’s impossible. What various companies told us is that if they had to shut down operations in India tomorrow, they could survive because it’s basically a lot of outsourcing and a lot of call centers. They said if we had to shut down our operations in Ireland, we could survive. But what one person after another told us is that the one place in the world that would devastating for them to have shut down would be Israel, because they put so much of their mission-critical work  and R&D in Israel.  The Intel story we tell is amazing, this key chip that was central to Intel taking off was designed and then manufactured in Israel, so it would be devastating to these companies to lose Israel. And one more thing — the most interesting data point on all of this is that European venture capitalists invest more in Israel than they do in any single European economy.

JG: Is that true?

DS: Yes and, to me, that says it all. For all the ranting from Europe about boycotts and attempts at boycotts, that’s not what European capital is doing. In terms of the U.S., this is even more true. I don’t want to oversimplify, but who do think is more important to Barack Obama: The head of J Street or Eric Schmidt at Google? And if Eric Schmidt said that his company would be devastated if Israel came off-line — and we interviewed Schmidt and he talked about the importance of Israel — then I think I know the answer.”

This boycott is blatantly destined to fail – not only in its stated aims of liberating the Palestinians, but in its unstated aims of crippling Israel and ending its existence. So why would somebody persist in turning their back on ordinary Israelis, far from power, with produce to sell? The only plausible reason I can think of is visceral animosity towards Israel.

If you hate the world’s only Jewish state then you’ll get a certain amount of personal satisfaction out of boycotting and calling for boycott. But if you want a real result, have a read of the rest of the Atlantic piece linked above, which tells you all you need to know. Basically, you need to send your pennies to Ahmadinejad and get that Iranian nuke off the ground.

Or if this makes you pause, then how about sending some money to one of the many organisations in Israel trying to bring about an end to hostilities, hold their government to account and protect the rights of Palestinians and Israelis. Gisha, B’Tselem, Machsom Watch. Help OneVoice fund youth leaders in Palestine and Israel. Contact the International Labour Movement and find out how you can strengthen the agreement between Israeli and Palestinian trade union movements. Send some money to Shatil, which supports Israeli social change activists (they need it!) and teaches strategies to grow their networks and stop them burning out. Write to your elected representatives insisting that they maintain efforts to facilitate the parties to the conflict from their self-serving conflict management routine into sincere conflict resolution activity. Don’t allow the Israeli right to marshall existential fear into votes for themselves – reinforce Daniel Gavron’s sense of Israeli self-confidence and vision for peace

Just do something constructive, and relevant. Don’t boycott Israeli herb farmers and their labourers.

Meanwhile I suppose I’d better develop a taste for thyme.

50 Responses to “The Palestine Solidarity Campaign – smashing Israeli growers and pickers”

  1. luny Says:

    Meanwhile, the journalists who rely on research rather than corporate PR interviews say this:
    It looks like Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest effort is as well researched as his 2002 scoop on Iraq supplying Al Qaeda with WMDs.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      JG’s “latest effort” was an interview with a patriotic capitalist (literally). Basically the bit I quoted sets out how globalisation and technology together marginalise boycott practice, limiting its impact to the most basic products which form a non-critical part of Israel’s economy, and I conclude (not for the first time) that boycotting is primarily about boycotters’ own gratification.

      And whereas Dan Senor did refer to the threat of brain drain, the piece you refer to doesn’t even mention the boycott, Luny. What seems clear is that Israel as a whole is not secretly crumbling because it can’t shift its thyme. The demise of pickers and growers who depend on exports will pass unnoticed.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    How about some sort of argument, statement or conclusion based on the sources you cite, luny? That’s twice now in succession that you’ve cited articles as though they were somehow conclusive in themselves. The current one says nothing about boycotts, actual or potential, as Mira cogently notes, but discusses the risks a brain drain might represent to Israel’s future in technological leadership.

    So, luny? Your point is?

    A cousin of my wife’s, leading edge in water purification technology, left Israel for the US for a variety of personal and professional reasons these many years ago. I don’t notice any dimunition in Israel’s ability to provide itself and others with water purification technology, even though the cousin has moved elsewhere. Lots of scientists move in all sorts of directions.

    If you believe you have a point to make, make it. Don’t act smart with totally unconvincing innuendos that actually say nothing.

    Is it, by the way, a coincidence that your chosen pseudonym is a colloquialism for someone who is mad (at least in English)?

  3. zkharya Says:

    What actually are the boycotters’ goals? What does “comply with international law” actually mean, point by point?

  4. zkharya Says:

    There are economists who say Israeli vegetable production is uneconomical anyway.

  5. zkharya Says:

    Cardiff University reversed the divestment decision of Cardiff Student Union:

  6. Nancy Says:

    FYI, there is this interesting interview Goldberg does with Hussain Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine. The BDS issue is discussed:

  7. GideonSwort Says:

    “but discusses the risks a brain drain might represent to Israel’s future in technological leadership.”

    Israel is increasing production of brains as we speak, maternity wards churning out precious little Entrepreneurs. Supplies are constantly being replenished. It’s not drained of brains, it’s Exporting them, Outsourcing them, putting them on Consignment. One could even generalize by saying that Zionists are all personally invested in this loins growth industry.

    I scratch my head when I hear Israel’s detractors talking about the imminent demise of Zion.

    Dan Senor interviewed on CNBC:

  8. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Gideon, my point was that the article luny (loony?) linked to didn’t say what he thought or wanted it to say (no surprise there: typical boycotters misreading), but discussed the apparent Israeli brain drain to (mostly) the US and the likely effects on the Israeli economy. I didn’t say I agreed with it, as my aside about the cousin in water purification science should have indicated.

    Further, these things don’t work in a straightforward manner. In the 1960s and 70s, there was serious debate in the UK about the brain drain of scientists in particular from here to the US. However, in the 2000-08 period, there was a significant movement the other way of scientists working in the field of stem cell research, given the far more liberal attitude in the UK towards this area.

    So, Gideon, I think we agree about luny’s lunacy. And I loved the loins growth reference!

  9. Lynne T Says:


    I make it a practice to buy teas imported from Israel (you wouldn’t believe the variety and quality of the green and herbal teas produced by Adonim) and also Israeli wines(2007 was an exceptional year for reds).

  10. Gil Says:

    It appears that there was some trouble at the Waitrose branch in Bloomsbury this afternoon. I arrived there at around 5 o’clock to see police outside the shop and someone carrying a makeshift Boycott Israel placard. There were also police inside the shop talking to staff. I made a point of stocking up on Israeli herbs.

  11. Ethan Heitner Says:

    Hi all-
    There seems to be some real confusion on this blog about the boycott.

    The boycott is almost unanimously supported by Palestinian unions and trade federations.

    The goals of the boycott are clear, concrete, and specific:
    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

    The fact that small herb growers and other Israelis nominally not involved in the conflict may suffer is understandably difficult to come to terms with, but historically, this is putting the sensibilities of Afrikaaners above those of black South Africans.

  12. zkharya Says:

    Heitner, thank you for clarifying your goal:

    the dissolution of the Jewish state of Israel.

    i.e. the erasure of the mistake that you see was Zionism from the beginning.

    i.e. effecting what Palestinian and other Arab Christians and Muslims, state and non state, failed to achieve from at least 1947-49 and after.

    You want to erase the mistake that you think was the Balfour Declaration, and the national liberation movement of Zionism that brought too many Jews to Palestine in the first place.

    You want the dissolution of the one Jewish state in the world, the product of the Jewish national liberation movement, above all other states and national liberation movements, including the numerous Arab and Islamic, including, of course the Palestinian Christian and Muslim, which sought to subject, exclude, dispossess then eliminate the Jews from Palestine from its beginning.

    Your comparison with white Afrikaner South Africa is fatuous and irrelevant. That was a colony of the motherland of Holland.

    The Jewish state of Israel is a colony of no one but itself, a people historically dispossessed for most of Christian and Islamic history, and faced by deadly enemies, even now, within its historical homeland.

    If you treat Israeli Jews as white Afrikaners they will not respond as white Afrikaners but as they believe themselves to be: more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

  13. Ethan Heitner Says:

    If calling for equal rights is “calling for the destruction” of your state, then what sort of state are you defending?

    We are calling for the transformation of the state to a state of all its citizen, equally.

    The Afrikaaners saw themselves as a persecuted religious minority fleeing oppression in Europe and founding a homeland for themselves. They fought a defiant war of independence from their European colonial masters as well (remember the Boer War?)

  14. zkharya Says:

    I note you claim to seek justice.


    Then you will acknowledge, as a matter of course, the essential justice of a Jewish right of return to, as well as right to national self-determination and sovereignty in, the land of Israel as much as of a Palestinian Christian and Muslim in the land of Palestine.

    You will acknowledge of the essential justice of both movements of national liberation and self-determination.

  15. zkharya Says:

    You are seeking to perfect the one Jewish state from existence. Conspicuously, no other.

    Arab Muslims and Christians have more rights in Israel than any Jew anywhere in the Arab or Islamic world, including what was intended for Jews by the Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement.

    But no Arab state you seek to perfect from existence, least of all a putative Palestinian Muslim and Christian one.

    Neither white nor black South Africans believed the former were an historically dispossessed people returning whence they had been historically dispossessed. Black South Africans did not historically seek to subject, exclude, dispossess or eliminate white South Africans, least of all promulgate the final solution for the Dutch of European and Arab Christendom and Islam, as well as South Africa.

    And Afrikaners still thought of themselves as mostly originally Dutch colonists, nor was Dutch Reformed Calvinism ever a persecuted religion, anywhere, least of all in South Africa by black South Africans.

    If your point is that the Voortrekkers thought of themselves as “Israel”, so did Palestinian Christians, who thought they had acquired the land of Israel from Jews precisely because g-d/Rome had stripped the latter of the status of “Israel”. Palestinian Muslims thought they were the true successors to the Israeli warriors of old too, and the Jews a serious falling off.

    Hence the cry of the Palestinian Arab Muslim progromchiks of the 1920s:

    “Islam was spread by the sword and the Jews are our dogs”, which rhymes in Arabic.

    The imperial power the Boers fought was Britain, not Holland.

  16. zkharya Says:

    “In particular, we support the call by Palestinian civil society organizations for non-violent punitive measures including boycotts, divestment, and sanctions to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law”

    So, presumably, Ethan, you call for Palestinian Christians and Muslims to recognise the Jewish people’s inalienable right, as in accord with the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations’ Mandate and the United Nations’ recommending of partition (accepted by Palestinian Muslims and Christians at least 40 years late, having waged a dispossessive or eliminationist war hitherto, with considerable ambivolence ever since).

    Partition was recommended for the formation of a Jewish national home, not merely for the Jews in Palestine in 1947.

  17. zkharya Says:

    UNSCOP Recommendation II, Part 1:

    8. Jewish immigration is the central issue in Palestine today and is the one factor, above all others, that rules out the necessary co-operation between the Arab and Jewish communities in a single State. The creation of a Jewish State under a partition scheme is the only hope of removing this issue from the arena of conflict.

    The purpose of allocation of territory for a Jewish state was to allow Jewish immigration. That assumes a Jewish right of return, as well as right to self-determination and sovereignty in the land.

    Do you affirm that as the inalienable right of the Jewish people?

  18. Ethan Heitner Says:

    Such a lengthy response to the request for equal rights!

    I am not a Palestinian much less a member of the Boycott National Committee, the Palestinian coordinating body of the boycott, but I believe the 3 stated goals as above are compatible with a “two state” solution along the 1967 borders, as long as neither of those states is a racist, discriminatory state.

    I am perfectly happy to place Israel in a category with Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. as corrupt, dictatorial, discriminatory theological states. Let’s start treating Israel like we treat Iran!

    I don’t think Jews, a religious group from all over the world, have rights that supercede the rights of people living in their own country on their own land in their own homes. The Right of Return refers to the international legal concept of refugees returning after a war. Jews are not “refugees” from Palestine. Of course, in that context, before you ask, Jewish refugees from all over the world, be it the Arab world or Eastern Europe, should be allowed and encouraged to return to their homes.

    I do think that Jews, as a religious group, of course must be protected from discrimination. Jews lived in Palestine peaceably continuously for thousands of years.

    I don’t think that our real persecution gives us the right to persecute others.

    PS the Balfour declaration is not international law, but the law of the colonizer, Britain, imposing its will on the colonized, the native population of Palestine.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      “I do think that Jews, as a religious group, of course must be protected from discrimination. Jews lived in Palestine peaceably continuously for thousands of years.”

      Good. We are agreed.

      What you would not contest is that it’s been a few generations now since Jews have existed without harassment in the Middle East, and that anger against Israel is widely and easily, mystified as hatred of Jews. We can have little confidence in ending Israel peacefully. And we already know that there is a lot of racism in Israel against Arab citizens and Palestinians.

      So, the question is, what has a blanket boycott of Israel which seems to hurt only those who are visible to boycotters – the art practitioners, the growers, the pickers – got to do with this conflict and those antipathies?

      To answer my own question, the boycott exascerbates them.

      • Ethan Heitner Says:

        Thank you for returning the discussion to boycott.

        I would reply that the fundamental disagreement is that I don’t regard Jewish Israelis and non-Jewish Palestinians as being in equal positions of power. Jewish Israelis benefit from a system of apartheid, as defined in international law as:
        “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

        I think Ali Abunimah’s excellent recent article (about the one state solution, but relevent to the boycott discussion) provides a good context for this debate:

        South African whites typically attempted to justify their opposition to democracy, not in terms of a desire to preserve their privilege and power, but using liberal arguments about protecting distinctive cultural differences. Hendrik Verwoerd Jr., the son of assassinated Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, apartheid’s founder, expressed the problem in these terms in 1986, as reported by The Toronto Star, stating that, “These two people, the Afrikaner and the black, are not capable of becoming one nation. Our differences are unique, cultural and deep. The only way a man can be happy, can live in peace, is really when he is among his own people, when he shares cultural values.”

        Zionism’s claim for “Jewish self-determination” amidst an intermixed population, is in effect a demand to preserve and legitimize a status quo in which Israeli Jews exercise power in perpetuity. But there’s little reason to expect that Israeli Jews would abandon this quest voluntarily any more than South African whites did. As in South Africa, coercion is necessary — and the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is one of the most powerful, nonviolent, legitimate and proven tools of coercion that Palestinians possess.

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          I think you are missing my point, Ethan, in favour of your own, which is boycott as a means to a single state.

          I’m just shrugging. You can’t unite two states, the populations of which are famously antipathetic, on the back of a boycott of one of them. You can’t force a reconciliation. Boycott makes no sense. I speculate a lot about why people pursue it but I’ll spare you – it’s Friday, I should be carousing.

          On the apartheid analogy, the relevance of Abunimah’s piece depends on the conceit that Israel has annexed the Palestinian territories and Gaza, or that they are actually all one state, and that Israeli Jews consider themselves biologically superior etc. You’d think, from Abunimah, that there was no conflict, and no genocidal tendencies against Jews in the region. Abunimah’s is not a helpful piece.

          Susie Jacobs of Jews for Justice for Palestinians is worth reading on the apartheid analogy.

          Ditto John Strawson.

          Ditto David Hirsh

        • Ethan Heitner Says:

          I do not think the apartheid argument depends on the “conceit” that “Israel annexed the Palestinian territories and Gaza, or that they are actually all one state, and that Israeli Jews consider themselves biologically superior etc.”

          I refer to the report of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa report “Occupation, colonialism, apartheid?: a re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.” It is an extensive analysis by legal experts that finds that Israeli practices in ’67 are almost certainly prosecutable under international law as apartheid. They do not examine ’48.

          Within ’48 the US State Department’s survey of religious freedom 2009 report might be useful. (And yes, I am aware the report critiques the PA–I’m certainly not here to support the PA).

          Apartheid does not depend on similarity to South Africa’s situation (as Hirsh, Strawson Jacobs seem to believe), but rather to the international covenants banning the crime as defined above.

          I challenge any assertion that there was “genocidal tendencies” against Jews “in the region” (ie, the Middle East, the Arab world in general) prior to the advent of European colonial presence in the twinned form of the British Mandate and Zionism.

          And I challenge the idea that the remedy to discrimination is further discrimination.

          PS, Zkharya:
          quick factual counterpoints:
          1. We give lots of money to Israel and support it unanimously, we sanction Iran and act as a hostile counter-force to it in the region (and even fund enemies of the current Iranian regime classified as terrorists).

          2. The Balfour Declaration, whether or not you agree with it, whatever most Israeli Jews think of it, is not international law. It was a policy statement of the British government.

        • Ethan Heitner Says:

          Oh, sorry, PS: again, I think the point of Abunimah’s article is that the goodwill of the Jewish Israelis is not a counterargument. Yes, they will have to be coerced into giving up power and privilege. They will not do it willingly. They will be unhappy about it. But, among other reasons (like justice for Palestinians) it is the only way to guarantee the long-term sustainable presence of Jews in the region. Not at the point of a gun but on firm principles of equality.

  19. zkharya Says:

    Hi Ethan,

    I repeated some posts that I thought had been deleted or censored.

    Partition, UN Resolution 181 assumes Jewish immigration to Palestine, as well as Jewish control over the matter. That assumes a right of return Q.E.D. The reason for that is that the Jews are historically a people dispossessed from the land of Israel (and just about everywhere else since) is not only a cultural datum of Talmudic or rabbinic Judaism, but also European, North African, Asian and, above, Palestinian Christian and Islamic tradition, for most of Christian and Islamic history.

    Indeed, that is a key reason why, in the 19th and 20th centuries, most European, North African and Asian Jews were not regarded as nationally European or Arab, say, as Jewish, or Judean. With a crucial consequence being that most were killed or effectively driven out: before 1914, mostly to America; after 1914, mostly to Palestine or what became Israel.

    Which is why the Jewish state of Israel is the second or largest Jewish community today, and certainly the one most obviously Jewish.

    You want to encourage Jewish refugees to return to Europe or Araby? Interesting.

    Jews lived as a smaller and smaller discriminated against minority in Palestine for most of Palestinian Christian and Islamic history.

    The Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement tried to keep Jews to a tiny number, exclude others, then dispossess or eliminate them. Their leadership promulgated the final solution for the Jews of European, North African and Asian Christendom and Islam, as well as Palestine.

    The only way Jews could survive in the land in any numbers, in any security, was as a de facto state, the Yishuv. Nor are their descendants obliged to imperil themselves by risking becoming a minority in their own state, given the fate of almost every Jewish community in the Arab or Islamic world, or revoke the right of Jewish return, as you seem to imply. They are not obliged to revoke the positive discrimination on behalf of Jews, that Balfour Declaration, League of Nations Mandate and UN 181 assumes.

    You many regard the Balfour Declaration and League of Nations Mandate as illegal and illegitimate: most Israeli Jews do not.

    Well, hopefully one day you will be as excised by the prejudice and discrimination in other Arab or Islamic states or national movements, including the Palestinian Muslim and Christian.

    In the meantime, I suspect the response of most Israeli Jews to perfecting their state from existence will be, Thanks, but no thanks.

    “Let’s start treating Israel like we treat Iran!

  20. zkharya Says:

    “Let’s start treating Israel like we treat Iran!”

    You mean leaving its regimes and discriminatory institutions (including, arguably, its nuclear ones) completely untouched?

  21. zkharya Says:

    “Zionism’s claim for “Jewish self-determination” amidst an intermixed population, is in effect a demand to preserve and legitimize a status quo in which Israeli Jews exercise power in perpetuity.”

    You mean preserve a Jewish sovereignty, autonomy, state and/or majority in the face of at times dispossessive or eliminationist hostility from Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians?


    Hams is still dedicated to the ultimate extinction of any kind of Israel.

  22. Jonathan Romer Says:

    Ethan Heitner,

    The smaller point first:

    “the Balfour declaration is not international law, but the law of the colonizer, Britain, imposing its will on the colonized, the native population of Palestine.”

    The Balfour Declaration was adopted by the League of Nations on July 24th 1922 as a mandate to be overseen by Britain. When the League of Nations was superseded by the UN, the Declaration, in the form of the League of Nations mandate, was carried over intact.

    In other words, the Balfour Declaration has as much validity as any international law you might name, and your comment is a reminder that a sense of certainty is not the same as possession of facts.

    The greater point stems from this:

    “I don’t think Jews, a religious group from all over the world….”

    The Jews are not just a religion, but a nation. It is not for you to tell us who or what we are; Jews will decide that for themselves. The lesson of our past is that without a land of our own we will not have self-determination; without self-determination, our own declaration of who we are will often be overruled by others who are not our friends; and with our identity assigned by our enemies we will be continue to be defenceless against everything from exclusion from country clubs to exclusion from governments, from jizya to pogrom to Holocaust.

    You don’t have the ability to assure us that our future in diaspora would be different than our past. You don’t have the moral standing to persuade us that either you or your government, whichever it may be, would even try.

  23. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    With the moderator’s indulgence, I’d like to draw Ethan Heitner’s attention to the post immediately below this, the one which states, in it’s title, that Palestinian trade unions _don’t_ support boycotts. You may well post a link that asserts that “The boycott is almost unanimously supported by Palestinian unions and trade federations.” Either you or TULIP (Trade Union L(inks?) Israel Palestine) are 180 degrees wrong. I know who I suspect is correct, and it isn’t the person who provides a link to “The Electronic Intifida” and the BDS campaign – hardly unbiased sources. TULIP, on the other hand is an official international trade union body.

    Who would anybody but Ethan (and his buddies) prefer to believe? The unbiased trade union body, concerned with international trade union solidarity and workers rights, or a politically biased web site and politically active body, both committed to the extinction of Israel?

    If the moderator permits, I’d further like to draw the attention of Ethan (and anyone who thinks his view is the real deal) to that article and my comment (the first) on the comments thread attached to it:

    “Wow, hot news! Trade union members join unions to gain better pay and working conditions. Stop press: standards of living are more important than empty political gestures, if only because the latter don’t not only fail to put bread on the table, they might even take that bread off it.

    These pro-BDS idiots in the (British) trade union movement have forgotten (if they ever knew) that Marx expected the better fed to lead the revolution, and thus backed trade unions as the obvious mechanism to lead the proletariat into a reasonable standard of living, from which would come the revolution (and, yes, of course I know that it was Lenin who coined the phrase and the terminology of the “vanguard party”).

    Makes one weep to think that British trade union leaders had to hear Palestinian trade unionists remind them of these basic truths. Even the Methodism that lay at the root of British left radicalism/socialism (rather than Marxism) should have taught them this. And it did, of course, until they stopped reading the texts of the founding parents.

    Flow, my tears, at this ahistorical turn of events.”

    All this makes it a very long comment, for which I apologise, but perhaps Ethan would like to consider and respond to the article and this comment on that article? Take your time: it’s taken you 2 weeks to find this thread, another day or so won’t matter.

  24. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Sorry, zkharya, but I’m beginning to do your thing: “and another thing that I just forgot to mention”, but take it as a compliment, please!

    So Ethan Heitner also wants us to treat the _only_ genuine parliamentary democracy in the region (however much the electorate might elect governments which others might wish they didn’t elect) the same as the theocracies of Saudi Arabia and Iran? If zkharya hadn’t already drawn attention to it, I’d spend another 350 words drawing attention to Heitner’s abysmal failure to understand the most basic truths and lessons of political science.

    Why not just come out and say it, Mr Heitner? You think Israel should, by fair means or foul, disappear from the face of the earth as the sole Jewish state in the world. But yiu don’t think that this should be accompanied by a similar disappearance of other states based on religion.

    How is this not antisemitic? This, believe it or not, is a genuine question, to which I await your answer with bated breath.

    • Ethan Heitner Says:

      Hi Brian-

      Well, the statement I linked to is a press release from the Boycott National Committee, the official coordinating body of the Palestinian boycott movement, of which PGFTU and most other Palestinian unions are a member.

      So I think I will trust their account of the position of Palestinian unions.

      Also, please note that as I have stated above, I am all for holding Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel to the same standards.

      • zkharya Says:

        “Also, please note that as I have stated above, I am all for holding Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel to the same standards.”

        But not before the dissolution of the one Jewish state in the world.


  25. zkharya Says:


    I don’t have the greatest memory, I admit. I am a bit scatty, that way.

  26. zkharya Says:

    Ethan, Iran is sanctioned for threatening a fellow member state, and violating its NPL agreement.

    Not to eradicate its regimes, racist or otherwise, not to dissolve any kind of Islamic state. Least of all to grant full human rights to Iranian Jews.

    I think Brian puts you right about the Balfour Declaration and League of Nations Mandate. Even the ICHR began with Mandatory law in declaring the Hafradah barrier illegal.

    In any case, as I said, UN 181 assumes Jewish immigration to the territory of a Jewish state, with full control by that state. It assumes a unique Jewish connection to the land with a de facto right of return.

    Which is one of the chief reasons the Palestinian Muslim and Christian leadership rejected it for at least 40 years, prefering a war to expel all Jews who arrived after 1917.

    “But, among other reasons (like justice for Palestinians) it is the only way to guarantee the long-term sustainable presence of Jews in the region.”

    Really? Do you suppose that is what the majority of Arab and Islamic Jews, and their descendants, who became Israeli, think?

    “Not at the point of a gun but on firm principles of equality”

    Then the historical attitude of the Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement towards Jews, Palestinian, Israeli or otherwise, should give you pause for thought.

    “I challenge any assertion that there was “genocidal tendencies” against Jews “in the region” (ie, the Middle East, the Arab world in general) prior to the advent of European colonial presence in the twinned form of the British Mandate and Zionism.”

    Well, at least you implicitly acknowledge that there was a genocidal tendency in the Palestinian Muslim national movement, towards European, North African and Asian Jews, as well as towards the Jews of Palestine.

    I’m not sure that was ever the experience of the Boers in Africa.

    “And I challenge the idea that the remedy to discrimination is further discrimination.”

    What does that even mean?

  27. zkharya Says:

    If “Apartheid” doesn’t depend on the model of South Africa, how much more grave is the apartheid practised by sundry Arab and Islamic states against their minorities (never mind Jews).

    The OT are a problem. But so is a Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement whose leader chose war over negotiations, not least because he claimed no Jewish temple ever stood on the site of the Haram esh Sharif.

    There was a war this decade. It’s called the Second Intifadah. Over a thousand Israeli men, women and children died. Before that, there was no separation barrier.

    The only bargaining chips for peace Israel has ever had are land and resources. Without those, and defeating the P.L.O., no kind of negotiated peace would have been possible (or any kind of Palestinian state, since neither Jordan, Syria nor Egypt were interested in allowing any).

    You may argue Israel insists on too much in return. But it is not hard to claim the Palestinian Muslim and Christian national movement has offered too little, never mind too late.

  28. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Ethan, your response is, to say the least, ludicrous.

    _Why_ trust “Electronic Intifida” and the BDS movement when their whole rationale is to eliminate Israel and replace it with one state “from the river to the sea”? By so doing, you align yourself with them. And you assume that _because_ the Palestine boycott movement _says_ the Palestinian trade unions agree with a boycott, it must be so. This is like saying that because the Conservative Party leader thinks his Members of the European Parliament should align themselves with a far-right and fascist grouping in the European parliament, and because they’re likely to be the next UK government, therefore the British people agree with this.


    It’s your opinion, and you offer no evidence that the Palestinian trade unions _actually_ agree with this. Have you actually _read_ the article below this one? If so, what is your critique of it? Without one, your view of “Electronic Intifida” and the BDS set of claims is just that: a view.

    Evidence. Argument. Logic. Rationalithy.

    Provide these or expect to be treated with scant respect. The usual rules of debate and intellectual discussion obtain here. Or hadn’t you noticed? I seriously suspect not.

    And, by the way, you haven’t responded to my points on political science. Your “holding of [them] to the same standards” is actually a null point. In case you hadn’t noticed, either _all_ states are held to same standards – in which case, _you_ must demonstrate that Israel is as bad as Saudi Arabia and/or Iran, and what the standards you are using are. So far you have merely made empty statements. As above: evidence, etc. Provide it or quit the field.

    Not that I expect a response along these lines from someone who has demonstrated his support for a boycott, and the elimination, of Israel.

    It’s the old one: put up or shut up. Or expect to be treated with scorn.

    • Ethan Heitner Says:

      The blog post below this one links to a media report ultimately from the Jewish Chronicle, a zionist newspaper, regarding one statement by one member of the PGFTU to a Zionist delegation (TUFI, which supports the state of Israel). It was taken as representing “Palestinian unions” as a whole.

      I linked to a rebuttal, which you have apparently not read. The rebuttal comes from the PGFTU, as it is a member of the BNC.

      Here is a list of members of the BNC, from the BNC website:
      Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
      Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
      Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall)
      Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
      Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine
      Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) – General Union of Palestinian Workers
      Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition –
      Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees
      General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) –
      Charitable Organizations Union
      Independent Federation of Unions – Palestine (IFU)
      Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU) –
      National Committee for the Commemoration of the Nakba
      Civil Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem –
      Coalition for Jerusalem –
      Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations
      Palestinian Economic Monitor
      Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps

      All of the above organizations support the boycott, not because I say so, but because they have endorsed it and become members of the BNC. I don’t know quite if you’re aware how these things operate, but this are real organizations with real people, and if the BNC was claiming they were members and they were not, you would hear about it—just like they heard about someone claiming they were not supporting the boycott, and put out a press release to correct that impression.

      • Ethan Heitner Says:

        PS the above list represents pretty much all of Palestinian civil society.

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          You’ve peppered this thread with a lot of considerations, Ethan, most of which are well-established as part of the argument and have been answered elsewhere on Engage. Since they break no new ground, I don’t feel the need to respond to them all, although I acknowledge it would be helpful to provide links, but no time. I refer you to the Engage archive for analysis of the boycotters’ apartheid analogy and tactic of delegitimisation of Israel.

          The PGFTU have flip-flopped in recent years – either they are riven, or they feel it’s in their interest to sow confusion, perhaps to distract from the fact that they are forming links with Histadrut at a time when Palestinians who move in this direction are damned as collaborators.

          I can understand individual Palestinians’ decision not to have relations with Israelis – in a weak political position your participation is all you have to give or withdraw. I can understand why some might want to organise this non-participation into a boycott. But this doesn’t address the role of eliminationist organisations like Hamas and Hesbollah – it is very wrong and very significant that you leave them out of consideration, instead urging us to roll back the clock to a time before “European intervention”. So, there was colonial interference in Greater Syria or whatever it was? And? Those days are gone, that boat has sailed, there is an Israel, and Palestine has yet to come into being. Most single staters in the region are maximalists or eliminationists, rather than anti-nationalists – this is no prospect for peace. We should be mindful of history, not use it as a weapon as you do.

          Brian, could you please lighten up with the scorn? You are more than capable of forming a good argument without it.

        • fred Says:

          Good observations of PGFTU’s flip-flopping, Mira. Either they feel pressure or they try to please everyone, hard to tell. question:

          “Most single staters in the region are maximalists or eliminationists,”

          How do you arrive at “most”

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          I anticipated somebody would pick me up on that. From the papers and the campaign sites I look at. Hamas and the waqf-minded. The expansionist contingent of the settlers (be they security- or religious-minded). Got to go out now – feel free to disabuse me in the meanwhile.

  29. Ethan Heitner Says:

    Hi Mira-
    I admit, I got a little distracted from my original point. I didn’t come here to engage in one-state/two-state or Balfour declaration pilpul.

    I would like to address you, directly, as the author of a post titled “Palestinian workers, unions don’t support BDS campaign” with the fact that most Palestinian unions and workers are members of the Boycott National Committee. What is your response to the statement of the BNC?

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      I don’t think the BNC has sufficient credibility to merit a response – if Sa’ad is correctly reported then he’s a man with two opposing views on the boycott for two different audiences. Like the PGFTU – so it goes. But I can’t imagine ever supporting this boycott, which has no mechanism for bringing about peace, and which is overwhelmingly opposed by Israelis. And if the BNC and PGFTU want to play rhetorical games – if this boycott campaign is more about publicity than actually isolating Israel, and you get the sense from this flip-flopping that it may well be – they should understand that they have attracted, tolerated, even welcomed antisemitism in their movement, the responsibility is theirs, and under those circumstances their demands for our support are, well, you choose the adjective.

      Like I’m going to put the interests of a boycott campaign which attracts and nurtures antisemitism in the total absence of peace work, over the interests of Jews where I live. I think not.

  30. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    So, without scorn, and because lists don’t make an argument, how about an answer to the points raised by the article immediately before this one, physically below this one, Ethan. I’ve asked you at least twice to address this, and you haven’t.

    By analogy, the fact that most British trade unions are affiliated to the Labour Party should mean that they therefore support Labour Government and Labour Party policy, right? Seems logical. However, the Labour Government has made it abundantly clear that it is against a boycott of Israel. This hasn’t stopped the Fire Brigades Union and Unison (to name but two) passing boycott of Israel motions. Similarly, the Trades Union Congress, in the person of its General Secretary, Brendan Barber, has made it abundantly clear that the TUC doesn’t support boycotts of Israel either. This hasn’t stopped the two unions named above, and certainly hasn’t halted the UCU (and _both_ the predecessor unions (the Assoication of University Teachers and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education) from passing numerous boycott motions.

    The point about flip-flopping is made above; the further point, should you do a search of these pages, can be easily discovered, that there is little evidence that union rank-and-file _members_ support boycotts over bread and butter issues such as pay and conditions: the point made exactly by the article you prefer not to pay attention to. Also one that can be made for members of British trade unions passing boycott motions without reference to membership secret ballots.

    And there is evidence that trade unions and their members in Palestine/West Bank (the case of Gaza should be obvious) are under all sorts of non-democratic pressure to conform to the BDS movement. Thius doesn’t mean their support is willing or whole-hearted: yet agin, see the article below this one.

    Your refusal to take this one into consideration and/or respond to it must raise doubts as to the point you are trying to make.

  31. Ethan Heitner Says:

    Hi Brian
    I don’t see what there is to respond to in the previous post. There are no specifics cited. There is the report of a Zionist organization and a Zionist member of US Labor Against the War, whose record is pretty consistent. There is no directly attributable information.

    There is a claim that employees of the Jerusalem Municipality, in a joint meeting, didn’t express views that could easily get them fired or exposed to massive levels of harassment. Hell, it could probably lose them Jerusalem residency, if they have it (there are no legal proceedings required to be stripped of Jerusalem residency by holders of it–it is at the whim of Israeli security forces and the government).

    I don’t know how the Labor government works, being American, but the BNC only exists because Palestinian civil society created it. The BNC exists explicitly and only for the purpose of boycott. Why would groups join it if they didn’t support that goal?

    If you are claiming that membership were coerced into joining, or voting for it, you’re going to have to provide some evidence of that.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Ethan, I object to your use of ‘Zionist’. You’re using it as a code word to take shortcuts in your argument. It may work where you usually hang out, but it doesn’t work here.

  32. Ethan Heitner Says:

    And I would point you to the blog of the IWW Delegation to Palestine, which has already been linked to in the above discussion.

    If you don’t trust Palestinians to tell you themselves that they support the boycott, but would rather believe white union members, here is the IWW report of their meeting with Mohammad Aruri of the Federation of Independent Unions:

    “…The conversation turned to the Boycott Israel movement of which the Federation plays an active role. The boycott movement, called by Palestinian workers and civil society groups, seeks to put non-violent pressure on the Israeli government to abide by standards of human rights and international law. Mohammed said that most Palestinians are in favor of the boycott, as it will increase job opportunities, as it will increase opportunities in Palestinian factories, as it will decrease reliance on Israeli goods. Aruri asked that more pressure be placed on Obama, and noted this era as one of much opportunity, given Obama’s promises made in the Cairo speech. The delegation spoke of our efforts to publicize this meeting and build support for the boycott movement in the US labor movement.”

    Note that the FIU is committed to democratic unionism and its leaders are directly elected by workers.

    In general you will find much greater depth and detail of discussion on the IWW’s blog than on TUFI’s.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      “white union members”.

      I’ve already explained why I won’t boycott. Now you resort to calling us racist? a) Histadrut cannot be described as “white”, b) you have no grounds for supposing anybody would favour “white” unionists over others and c) Israeli views matter no less than Palestinian views. I think it’s time for this conversation to end.

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