Editors – putting the independent back into indie

Campaigners for the cultural boycott of Israel don’t tend to discuss how it would work to achieve its objectives. This is partly because there’s no consensus about objectives and focusing on them reveals the extent to which the boycott is an attack on Israel’s actual existence. It’s also because cultural boycott is primarily about the self-image of boycotters and without power to change the circumstances of the conflict.  It is ostensibly a lever seeking to use ordinary Israelis as political tools – but in open denial of their complex circumstances and interests. Often, cultural boycott is an expression of disgust. As an inarticulate wedge, well-meaning people need to understand that social isolation is the chosen method of groups which express hatred of Israel and Jews. Boycott has existed since numbers of Jews began to increase in Mandate Palestine, and most Jews view its current incarnation as continuous. And although it’s unfashionable to mention it, boycotters have readily permitted their campaign to become a conduit for antisemitism – in fact perhaps it was never anything else. As an instrument of peace, cultural boycott is a dead end.

Nevertheless, it has won some important converts recently and the trend is bad. When Elvis Costello’s late cancellation of his Israel gigs was called a ‘turning point’ in the The Forward, my thought was that it has now become easier to boycott Israel than to resist, and that performing there would take daunting amounts of independence, spine and integrity.

Editors are an indie band from Brummie land who must have come under pressure to boycott Israel. They discussed it seriously and responsibly and decided that boycotting wouldn’t do any good and that they wanted to see their Israeli fans. Afterwards vocalist Tom affirmed their decision on the band’s blog:

“Thank you Tel Aviv for a beautiful evening, one that will linger on in our memories for a very long time. When Pixies cancelled their headlining performance at PicNic we talked long and hard about if it was the “right thing” for us to still go or not, as we did when we initially got the offer for the show all those months ago. But the simple fact is we do not believe that playing a show in a country is an endorsement of its government. For example, our shows in Northern America during the Bush administration did not mean we were comfortable with the invasion of Iraq. Right now there is no global concerted effort to change the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians as there was from the world’s media, sports stars and musicians etc with apartheid era South Africa. Sure, given the recent events and the way Israel and the whole of the middle east is discussed and viewed through the western media it would have been the easier thing to do for us to cancel, to forget about it and wait until Israel is out of the news again.

We live in complex times, there are terrible things that happen the world over, but a country’s people are not it’s government. Tonight we played one of the most memorable shows of our career, 1004 people singing their hearts out, 1004 people who hope for peace and resolve wherever the troubles may be, be it on the door step or the other side of the world. Thank you for tonight Tel Aviv, we hope to see you again soon. Peace. Tom (and the other Editors) xxxx “

Anti-boycotters (no less diverse in their objectives than boycotters) shouldn’t seek to appropriate Editors, or any other artist who refuses to boycott. They shouldn’t be treated as ornaments to this or that political cause and beatified without their consent. But it is tempting to lavish them with approval.

104 Responses to “Editors – putting the independent back into indie”

  1. Good to see Says:

    This reminds me of a comment Paul Heaton once made when asked why the Beautiful South didn’t play charity gigs. His response was along the lines that he thought there was nothing worse than musicians getting involved in something they new little or nothing about; that fundamentally changed nothing and was little more than an act of self-aggrandisement.

    I liked the Editors before this – and now they’ve just gone up in my estimation.

  2. shirley Says:

    Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?

    It’s manipulation that no longer works, and it’s offensive and insulting. One of these days, your gonna get sued.

    Do not insult either my intellect nor character.

    I shall now firmly and steadfastly boycott Israel, in the name of compassion and decency.

    Re: the other comment – The Beautiful South might know nothing, but some of us do know our stuff!

  3. Shirley is wrong Says:

    Shirley says ” Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?”

    But nobody says all critics of Israel are antisemitic, It’s a figment of your imagination.

    “It’s manipulation that no longer works, and it’s offensive and insulting. One of these days, your gonna get sued.
    Do not insult either my intellect nor character.”

    You have a great intellect Shirley – Mint condition.

  4. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Good for them, there a decent band as well

  5. zkharya Says:

    ‘Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?’

    Not all. Just those that claim anyone who says it often is antisemitic are claiming ‘all’.

  6. zkharya Says:

    ‘I shall now firmly and steadfastly boycott Israel, in the name of compassion and decency.’

    i.e. the dissolution of the one Jewish state in the world?

  7. zkharya Says:

    You see, Shirley, I think that desire to dissolve the state of the second or largest Jewish community in the one, comprising Jewish refugees from the persecutions or dissolutions of the largest Jewish communities in the world elsewhere, is in fact, to all intents and purposes, into what the antisemitism most dangerous to the most Jews has ‘evolved’.

  8. zkharya Says:

    Also, Shirley, I’d stop lauding your intellect, if I were you.

  9. zkharya Says:

    *

    the second or largest Jewish community in the WORLD

  10. zkharya Says:

    *
    comprising Jewish refugees from the persecutions or dissolutions of the largest Jewish communities in the world elsewhere, OR THEIR DESCENDANTS

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    Dear Shirley,
    Thank you for your comments.

    You note at the outset,

    “Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?”

    In regards to this post considering the Editors not cancelling their trip to Israel, as opposed to Elvis Costello and others, could you please indicate where you think the accusation that those who criticise Israel is being accused
    in the post of being “antisemitic”?

    As far as I read it, the claim being made is that a boycott of Israel is problematic in that the means will not achieve its ends in bringing peace to the region or of ensuring a sovereign state of Palestine that co-eixts with Israel (assuming that it does have that end as its objective; and that those who call for boycott divest themselves of any meaningful role in bringing that outcome to fruition or, further, of having anything of signifiance to say about the ongoing conflict.

    Of course, if I am misreading the post, then, please point out to me where I have been in error.

    I look forward to your reply.

    Thanks.

  12. vildechaye Says:

    RE: can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?”

    I think any person who brings up the tired old rubbish about Israel supporters saying all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic when in fact very few if any Israel supporters actually say that are either mentally challenged or, dare I say it, anti-semitic. Probably a combination of both.

    Most Israel supporters, in fact, only raise the spectre of anti-semitism for very specific reasons that they usually outline very carefully, which has nothing to do with “criticism of Israeli policy” but lots to do with things like singling out and continually focusing on Israeli misdeeds to the exclusion of all else, inventing modern day blood libels, calling for Israel’s total destruction, things like that. Anybody who twists these specific examples into a statement like “they think any criticism of Israel is anti-semitic” probably IS anti-semitic.

  13. GideonSwort Says:

    “Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?”

    The unwritten laws on imprudent flatulence apply here, as the only one labeling critics of Israel as Antisemitic Shirley, I’ll make the call of ‘he who dealt it, smelled it’. Take control of that wanton sphincter Shirly…

    “One of these days, your gonna get sued.”

    Go on Shirl, be the one wielding the writ baton.

    “Do not insult either my intellect nor character.”

    You do a very good job of this by your lonesome, no assistance needed or indeed offered.

    “I shall now firmly and steadfastly boycott Israel, in the name of compassion and decency.”

    You go girl… Make sure Bernanke is on your bandwagon.

    “Re: the other comment – The Beautiful South might know nothing, but some of us do know our stuff!”

    Yeah yeah Shirl, yous born on the Bayou and come to chase down us hoodoos here.

  14. NIMN Says:

    What a pity that Shirley has chosen the easy option.
    Far better for her to take her seemingly raw moral outrage (including the implication that anyone who does not support boycott lacks both compassion and decency; Eve Gerrard’s’s point elsewhere)) and channel it into concrete and positive political action; rather than the knee-jerk primal instinct to DO SOMETHING (precisely the same instinct that drives the actions of right-wing and nationalist governments, including, but not only, Israel).
    It is always interesting to note how “opposition” takes on the same character as that it believes it is “opposing”.

  15. gary carp Says:

    Boycotting Israel is an act of support for terrorism, is anti-democtratic and fundamentally antisemitic. The boycott = racism. No other liberal democracy faces a declared existential threat on its borders. The defence of liberal democracy has seen the British and US Governemts take the defence of their citizenry militarily into the heart of other sovereign nation states over many years. I don’t hear too many British journalists, artists, trade unionists or academics demanding a British / US boycott. Maybe if they did, they might do the world a great service.

    So why is Israel different? Does Israel have the right to defend its citizens? Absolutely, and not just the right, it has a profuond basic duty so to do. How would the British, US or any other liberal democracy act defend it’s citizenry faced with existential threats? The answer is simple: All out war leading to the total destruction and surrender of the enemy combined with significant infrastructural and collateral damage. For reference see Europe, North Africa, Middle East and the Pacific 1939-1945.

    The threats facing Israel are far more complex to address. Her existential foes include An axis of evil anti-democratic, illiberal oppressive regimes (Iran and Syria); the Proto-and deeply corrupt- nascent State within the Palestinian territories and Terror Organisations – Hamas, Hezbollah – funded by the ever-present “axis of evil” sponsors.

    Beyond this challenge the belief that any Palestinian leader can deliver peace is a fallacy. It’s a bleeding-heart liberal fantasy that the conflict surrounds parties of like minded liberal democrats who will after sensible discussion come to a reasoned outcome and create a new peaceful 2-States reality.

    No. Wrong. The Palestinian leadership who sign a Peace Accord and call for the end of terror and normalisation of relations with Israel will simultaneously write their own death warrants. Militant Islamic Fundamentalists will accuse them of betrayal, issue a Fatwah etc. That is why Arafat couldn’t make the final step when finally had the chance.
    More than that, any of the other Arab / Middle Eastern autocracies who sought to normalise relations with Israel would find themselves subject to internal condemnation by radical Islamists and the very future of their rule would be under threat, much as the Shah fell in the late 1970s. So Israel is better as an enemy – even when there is no intent for war – than it could ever be as a friend, for these governments.

    What then is the role and purpose of the call for a boycott of Israel? Is it the defence of democracy? No. Is it consistent with calls for boycotts on other western states including our own for acts of potential aggression in defence of a real or perceived threat to its citizenry?
    No. Perhaps, it is a sense of even handedness combining a call for a boycott with a demand for the instant release of Israeli hostages and an unequivocal end to terror? No – Unite are strangely quiet on this, as is everyone else.

    So why is the Jewish State singled out for such inconsistent, illogical, anti-democratic, pro-terrorist criticism?
    Ah, good old anti-semitism. Perhaps in addition to an academic boycott you guys should follow through you half-hearted logic and demand the teaching of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a basic primary education text….and while you’re about it, don’t forget the blood libel!!

    Those who support and defend terrorism; those who deny nation-states the right to defend their citizens; those who believe peace is a one-sided compromise are no more constructive than JCR pimple-faced debaters, high on testosterone, alcohol and misplaced empathy and a total absence of realpolitik and pragma.

    When wil there be peace between Israel and the Palestinians? As Golda Meir put it “when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate us”. How does the boycott help this end?

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Gary, your view leaves Israel no option but to abandon politics to conflict. Once you start talking of neighbouring states as an ‘axis of evil’ then the inexorable logic is to fight it, of course – but how will this logic persuade – as you and Golda put it – Palestinians to love their children more than they hate Israel? Israelis respond badly to force – why should Palestinians confronted with force suddenly discover love?

      This is a blog about antisemitism and boycott – we could do without sweeping pessimism on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Where we touch on that, it’s in support of peace activists.

      • gary carp Says:

        Mira
        The boycott cannot be disentangled from the conflict and the forces who fan and sustain the essence of the conflict. Rather than demanding boycotts, true supporters of peace would demand greater rapprochment from all sides. Enouraging debate and inter-communal relationships and creating stronger ties on the ground. Twinning Palestinan towns with Israeli towns for mutual cultural and economic interaction, inter-faith conferences and school exchanges and sports competitions.

        A peace process requires neogtiations between current enemies – but in truth, poplitical leaders are constrained by their constituencies and can only move at their pace or, actually, a little more slowly. Peace in Northern Ireland only became possible as the mood of opinion rejected violence.

        The advocates of the boycott only serve the interests of entrenching divisions and this is only to create a greater groundswell of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment. In Europe for example, attacks on Jewish Cemeteries, Schools and Shuls is at a 50 year high. These are not attacks on Zionist establishments (e.g. Israeli embassies) but on the greater Jewsish community – and it is these fanatics with whom the advocates of the boycott seek to encourage and cultivate. To what end?

        We must not be weak. Weimar Germany fell because it failed to address the Nazi threat in its infancy – with its leaders improsoned for treason. Liberals who defended freedom of speech failed to recognise the existential threat to those freedoms represented by the Nazis. What do you call countries who actively pursue nuclear weapons programmes and whose leaders has already called for the destruction of the state of Israel? An Axis of Peace?

        Peace cannot be built on a foundation of weakness. It requires strength and courage. And it requires the same sense of strength and courage to call out and identify unequivocal threats that must be addressed and put down.
        This is not an “either or strategy”. We can seek to make a lasting peace with the willing but we must not yield to the threats of the unwilling – because this will lead to ever greater threats.

        Land for peace – in the absence of a genuine cession of violence – is a failed strategy. It is failing in Israel as much as it failed in the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland. Where are the Iranian and Syrian peace activists?
        Peace is a two-sided coin. And if the 1930s teaches us anything, it is you cannot appease your way to peace.

  16. Philip Says:

    A quick question.

    You note that Editors did the responsible thing by not backing the boycott. I don’t really want to get into the rights and wrongs of that particular call. My question is: is it just the academic and cultural aspects of the boycott campaign that you view as irresponsible? Would an economic boycott be valid? Are there circumstances in which boycotts of a particular country could be productive?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      A longish answer, becuase there is hardly a quick one that doesn’t raise even more questions than it answers :

      an economic boycott would be no more valid than cultural and/or academic one(s) would be. Why should it be? This is not, however, to argue that individuals must, therefore, buy goods from anywhere and everywhere, irrespective of the nature of the regime. As an individual, but without demanding the same of others, I refused (after Sharpeville and up to the release of Mandela) to wittingly buy South African goods. I did not demand that others do the same, and I suspect that the actions of the boycotters had decided less effect on the end of apartheid than the cumulative effect of a skewed labour market (and thus on the skills set available to employers and the economy). I also (again on a personal level) refused to buy Spanish goods or to holiday in Spain while the fascists were in power and only went there once democracy was restored. And that only happened with the death of Franco and the total misreading of the personality and personal politics of the chosen successor for king, Juan Carlos.

      Perhaps more importantly, the reason for the opposition to any boycott of Israel is that it is _only_ Israel that is so treated, without any reasoned, ideological argument why other states which commit equally bad human rights abuses on others not their citizens (or, in some cases, on those who _are_ their citizens) are not and should not be treated in the same way.

      It is thus the pro-boycotters (the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” – BDS – people) who must justify their only Israel stance, not us who should have to defend Israel. It is the one-eyed nature of the boycott calls that leads to the suggestion that, without such an ideological justification – one which by definition will not rely on the Jewish nature of the Israeli state – such calls must be suspect as to their potential for description as possibly being antisemitic.

      In other words, call me a Jew (or any euphemism for such) and _only_ that, without reference to my other (good, bad or indifferent) qualities, and I will need serious convincing that the caller isn’t being antisemitic, because that is the only quality they see as important.

      Long and full enough for you Philip?

      • Philip Says:

        Long and full, thank you. Basically, though, you’re saying that boycotts don’t work, and even if they did, because this one is targeted only at Israel it’s wrong.

        I think your stronger argument is the first. And perhaps you’re right about South Africa, too. Certainly, Margaret Thatcher put great emphasis on boycott not working, and to her great credit, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes to try to persuade that country’s leaders to abandon apartheid. Whether it was that behind the scenes activity, or things like the sporting boycott (or the labour market, as you say) that was the most significant, I guess historians will take some time in getting to a consensus answer.

        I think the second argument is not so strong, however, as my previous paragraph shows. Israel is not the only country to have a boycott campaign directed at it. South Africa was on the end of a sustained boycott campaign, and even today, Myanmar has a boycott campaign directed against it. We have economic sanctions on a number of countries around the world. They may all be pointless (if boycotts are in the end ineffective), but I think you’re being myopic to think that only Israel is threatened by boycotts.

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          “Whether it was that behind the scenes activity, or things like the sporting boycott (or the labour market, as you say) that was the most significant”

          Don’t forget the political efforts of the South African anti-apartheid majority.

          “I think you’re being myopic to think that only Israel is threatened by boycotts.”

          There’s an order of magnitude more interest in boycotting Israel than there is in boycotting Burma. Just run some web searches to confirm that. A lot of people find the idea of boycotting Israel has a deep appeal out of all proportion. That’s more ominous than the boycott itself, for me, Philip.

        • Philip Says:

          On the first point, absolutely.

          On the second, I ran some Google searches. ‘Boycott Israel’ pulled up 3.7 million pages. ‘Boycott Myanmar’ and ‘Boycott Burma’ together came up with just over 5 million.

          It’s rudimentary. And indeed I’m sure there are people who back an Israel boycott because they’re racist. But as I said before, for me the stronger argument is the one about whether boycotts are effective or not. Though I haven’t made my mind up on the answer to that one yet.

        • Bill Says:

          Well I can tell you right now that true academic boycott of Israel isn’t going to work unless the UCU, BRICUP and the like exert undue pressure and infringe on the academic freedom of the rest of us. If a single prof or a consortium of profs want to discriminate against Israel-and-only-Israel, that is indeed their business. That is… unless they do so by making a hostile environment against Jews-as-Jew (and according to the law, Israelis-as-Israelis). At that point the manual says it becomes my problem and that of my human resource officer’s right heel (after which, it won’t be anyone’s problem any more). But until then and even after, if a someone from another unit, or even my own, comes into my office and tells me with whom I can and cannot collaborate, they’ll get a lesson in academic freedom they and their hind quarters will never forget. That same view will be shared with a lot of profs no matter what their views on the I/P conflict are — which is why the boycotteers are so afraid of making this an issue for the general UCU membership.

      • Philip Says:

        I’m not sure I fully understand this point: “It is the one-eyed nature of the boycott calls that leads to the suggestion that, without such an ideological justification – one which by definition will not rely on the Jewish nature of the Israeli state – such calls must be suspect as to their potential for description as possibly being antisemitic.”

        Are you saying that the boycott targets Israel because it’s a Jewish state?

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘Are you saying that the boycott targets Israel because it’s a Jewish state?’

          A frequent aim of BDSers is the dissolution of the Jewish state. It sounds a pretty normative BDS aim to me.

        • Bill Says:

          “A frequent aim of BDSers is the dissolution of the Jewish state. It sounds a pretty normative BDS aim to me.”

          Also the BDS movement will occasionally slip and leverage jewish stereotypes and moves into direct RRA (or Title VII depending on your geography) danger language. Check out this foot in the mouth:

          Tom Hickey to the British Medical Journal:

          “And we are speaking of a culture, both in Israel and in the long history of the Jewish diaspora, in which education and scholarship are held in high regard. That is why an academic boycott might have a desirable political effect in Israel, an effect that might not be expected elsewhere.” (emphasis Bill’s)
          http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/335/7611/124

          That was my holy crap moment.

          1) Special pleading for select discrimination National Origin and Religion (and would you like some Race with that?) using cultural stereotypes. Notice also that the language alludes to not only Israelis being possible targets.

          2) To make matters worse, leveraging said stereotype so as to block out an avenue of economic and professional development (that being academia and research) for an historically underrepresented group which exists in part due to past historic and systematic discrimination.

          3) and just ain’t that a slap in the face to other underrepresented groups, explicitly mentioned by Hickey in the pleading, who he clearly feels are well… unschooled inhuman barbarians to use his verbiage and therefore cannot be expected to listen to his power of persuasion (or UCU’s deluded and diluted persuasion of power). I mean REALLY Tom! Keep digging like that and you’re gonna strike oil!

          And that’s the argument they gave to certified smart people?!?

        • Philip Says:

          I would just add a touch of caution. I had a brief look at the Global BDS website, where it states that their aim is to force the Israeli government to recognise Palestinians’ right to self-determination and to comply with international law. Now, while I think it’s legitimate to look at what individual campaigners are saying and doing, I also think you have to note that the official aim of the boycott is certainly not the dissolution of Israel.

          And second, even if they were calling for such a dissolution, I doubt very much whether, except in the case of a very few, they are doing so specifically because Israel is a Jewish state.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘I also think you have to note that the official aim of the boycott is certainly not the dissolution of Israel.’

          Yes, but ‘rights of the Palestinians’ often entails or implies dissolution of the Jewish state, or a set of circumstances that will entail its dissolution, or, indeed, no more Israel within a short period of time e.g. millions of Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians within Israel, outnumbering Israeli Jews.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, rights are rights. Either you think Arabs have the right to full equality or you don’t. Either you think that the right of return is valid or you don’t. Or you think that it should be recognised, there should be token attempts to recognise it and full compensation for those who can’t return, or you don’t. The same goes for Jewish refugees who want to return to Arab countries.

          These rights are surely independent of nationalist concerns?

          And are you really saying that the reason people want to uphold human rights is specifically because they want to get rid of Israel? I can imagine circumstances in which that might be the case, but I can’t imagine that they would occur too frequently.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘Well, rights are rights. Either you think Arabs have the right to full equality or you don’t.’

          Yeah, but rights often conflict. And Israeli Jews have a right to a Jewish state.

          ‘Either you think that the right of return is valid or you don’t.’

          To a Palestinian state, yes. To Israel proper, no,

          No right is absolute, or can be considered without reference to other rights.

          ‘Or you think that it should be recognised, there should be token attempts to recognise it and full compensation for those who can’t return, or you don’t.’

          Compensation was part of the deal at Camp David II and Taba.

          ‘The same goes for Jewish refugees who want to return to Arab countries.’

          And Jews generally: they have a right of return to the land of Israel. That is the basis of the Balfour Declaration, partition etc. Palestinian Muslims and Christian fought that, threatening Palestinian, Israeli and other Jews with exclusion, dispossession or elimination.

          ‘These rights are surely independent of nationalist concerns?’

          Not really. Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalism, in its exclucivism, dispossessivism and eliminationism forced war on Palestinian and Israeli Jews for nearly 100 years. And they have never recognised Jewish nationalist rights, ever.

          ‘And are you really saying that the reason people want to uphold human rights isspecifically becausethey want to get rid of Israel?’

          When they are applied to such uniquely absolute or eliminationist lengths, and their only target is the Jewish state of Israel, I do not think the two facts coincidental, no.

          ‘I can imagine circumstances in which that might be the case, but I can’t imagine that they would occur too frequently.’

          Then you are profoundly ignorant. The impetus of most BDS organisations in the UK is most definitely eliminationist of a Jewish state.

        • Philip Says:

          It’s probably best not to call your interlocutors ‘profoundly ignorant’. It’s very rude.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Philip I also think you have to note that the official aim of the boycott is certainly not the dissolution of Israel.”

          Philip , please ask leading boycotters what the aim of the boycott is. Ask them if they accept a 2 states settlement, ask them if they accept Israel’s right to exist, ask them what Israel has to do for the boycott demand to be lifted. Engage supporters have and the answer is never that Israel has the right to exist and there is never an answer as to what Israel has to do for the boycott demand to be lifted. Nowhere do they talk about 2 states, nowehere do they mention Israel having a right to exist. Many boycott leaders do however quite openly call for a one state solution and deny Israel’s right to exist.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. We probably have just met people who come from different perspectives. I personally know people who support the boycott but don’t propose the dissolution of Israel.

  17. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Oh, Shirley, what a tangled web you attempt to weave, when you say:

    “Please, can we drop this tired old rubbish about all critics of Israeli being anti-semitic?

    It’s manipulation that no longer works, and it’s offensive and insulting. One of these days, your gonna get sued.”

    Others have already said, and continue to say all over these comments threads, that nobody says that criticism of Israel is antisemitic – heavens, we criticise Israel ourselves all the time, or haven’t you noticed. If not, you need to read these columns a lot more closely than you plainly have.

    This is not say that _no_ so-called criticism of Israel isn’t or can never be antisemitic. Some, indisputably, is.

    More importantly, stop this threatening stance of “your gonna get sued.” No-one has yet, although at least one person threatened to do so when her (undisputed) words were repeated, and the quoter merely suggested that she consult a lawyer. She may or may not have done, but no more was heard of the threat. Then her husband repeated the threat in these columns, and was reminded that only the allegedly libelled can sue, not anyone else. He vanished as well. Then there’s the David Irving case: he sued over claims that he was a Holocaust denier. He lost, and still owes millions in unpaid costs.

    So, Shirley, either sue someone, or stop mouthing idle threats: they neither impress nor scare.

  18. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Further to the points made above to Philip, there aren’t many major UK or US organisations calling for boycotts of Myanmar, and they are certainly not all over the media if they are. Yet, arguably, the military regime there has committed at least as many, if not more, human rights breaches as any Israeli government.

    Further, if we accept that there are many other countries where governments are committing human rights offences against their own and/or other countries citizens, we don’t hear or read of UCU, Unite or Unison passing similar resolutions on Sudan, Zimbabwe… (must I _really_ go on with this list?). Given that, it has to be that the _boycotters_ have to demonstrate that they are _not_ being antisemitic when they present and pass these resolutions. It is not up to us to demonstrate that they are, and their bland assertions that “criticism of Israel cannot, per se, be taken as antisemitic” (or similar bland idiocies) is just eyewash. Especially when a prime mover in this campaign, Tom Hickey, can write what he did (as quoted by Bill above); that statement is both racist and antisemitic. Odd how he has never revisited it, never defended it, never apologised for it, or attempted to bloody well _explain_ just what he meant by it.

    Either he has airbrushed his own memory, is too embarassed by it, or prefers to pretend it doesn’t exist to ever respond to being reminded of it. So when you say, Philip, that “Are you saying that the boycott targets Israel because it’s a Jewish state?”, well, what do you think? We know what we think, but we haven’t heard a reasoned, empirically based, rational response from you on the question of a boycott and how it is ideologically justified.

    • Philip Says:

      The reason I haven’t said what I think is because I was using this as a forum to ask questions. You come in all guns blazing. A little more patience and we might actually get around to finding out what I think.

      On the issue of the uniqueness of the call to boycott Israel, I should probably point out that the TUC supports the boycott of Myanmar. In fact, it’s something of a cause celebre among trade unionists. The other countries you mention (Sudan, Zimbabwe) have both been on the end of sanctions from the international community. These are in effect government-imposed boycott campaigns. The striking thing about Israel is the extent to which it avoids censure.

      None of this is to say that the boycott campaign is well-conceived. I’m simply trying to emphasise the point that your best argument is to say that boycotts are ineffective. You could also argue that Israel doesn’t deserve to be boycotted (or censured) on the basis of its actions (questionable), but I don’t find the uniqueness one convincing.

      I didn’t make any comments along the lines of ‘criticism of Israel cannot, per se, be taken as antisemitic’ (though I do agree with the sentiment of it), and I don’t know who Tom Hickey is.

      PS. could you use speech marks instead of underscores? They would make it easier to follow your text.

      • zkharya Says:

        ‘The striking thing about Israel is the extent to which it avoids censure.’

        Only if you think Israel’s sins are especially egregious or if it is not entitled to do the things that many other states, who also escape censure, routinely, do to defend and preserve themselves

        i.e. if your focus on Israel is conspicuously disproportionate in comparison to others i.e. a de facto act of discrimination.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘The striking thing about Israel is the extent to which it avoids censure.’

          That is itself an iteration of the slander that Israel is both especially evil, both as to deeds and to international influence to escape the consequences of those deeds.

          Thus the Jew among nations deserves not only punishment for its sins, but also for trying to get away with them.

          Its evils are not merely those evident, but also those hidden, or contrived to be hidden. It is in fact a mystification of the evils of Israel, culturally akin to the mystification of, say, the crucifixion, but one man, but, as g-d incarnate, the whole world or cosmos.

          If it is acknowledged Israel is not the worst of sinners (which to BDSers it often is), then it somehow prevents the punishment of other sins because of its power or influence to escape punishment. It is the number one cause of a clash of civilisations, or the especial ethno-national-state fly in the ointment of the world, or the thorn in its side.

          Again, it is a mystification that has little bearing on the merits of the case.

          The Jew of the nations prevents the Salvation of the Whole World.

        • Philip Says:

          This is a slightly bizarre argument. I’m not sure I fully understand it. I don’t know why you are using such odd religious language.

          All I was saying is that compared to other states, when Israel commits abuses it receives comparatively less censure than other states. I’m either right or wrong. I don’t see what it has to do with ‘mystification’.

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          Example of singularity of the Israel boycott – comparatively sober and grounded discussion about Sri Lanka at 2009 UCU conference.

          https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/david-hirsh-is-blogging-live-from-ucu-congress/

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘All I was saying is that compared to other states, when Israel commits abuses it receives comparatively less censure than other states.’

          You have got to be kidding, right?

        • zkharya Says:

          The mystification lies in Israel being less bad or better than other states which receive far less attention i.e. exactly not the situation of which you speak.

          Also, here are some US BDSers: they have a problem with Israel in just about every way:

          They are hardly atypical, from what I have seen.

        • Philip Says:

          I don’t think it’s anything to do with mystification, nor evil, nor sins, nor whatever else. It’s a simple observation. Israel has been illegally occupying a swath of territory for over 40 years, and treating the inhabitants of that territory appallingly.

          On the one hand that deserves censure, independently of any other considerations, just from a moral standpoint. On the other, to has to be compared to other instances of human rights abuse around the world to see if comparatively, bearing in mind the length, intensity, etc., the level of censure is more, less, or about the same as in other cases.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘I don’t think it’s anything to do with mystification, nor evil, nor sins, nor whatever else.’

          I beg to differ. Israel’s sins are paltry compared to many Arab and Islamic states, for instance.

          ‘It’s a simple observation. Israel has been illegally occupying a swath of territory for over 40 years, and treating the inhabitants of that territory appallingly.’

          But they have been at war with Israel until at least 1988. The leadership dragged its feet in negotiations in 2000-2001 and chose war instead again. Israel cannot relinquish territory without a) certain guarantees in return or b) fixing matters do they do not constitute an existential threat e.g. the separation barrier.

          ‘On the one hand that deserves censure, independently of any other considerations, just from a moral standpoint.’

          So does Palestinian Muslim and Christian eliminationist threats or war for more than 60 years. Any ‘moral standpoint’ which does not acknowledge that, unless Palestinian and Israeli Jews were strong, Israel would not exist, given the express historical eliminationist threats of her Palestinian and other Arab Muslim and Christian neighbours is profoundly immoral. And that, in the UK, largely typifies the BDS movement.

          ‘On the other, to has to be compared to other instances of human rights abuse around the world to see if comparatively, bearing in mind the length, intensity, etc., the level of censure is more, less, or about the same as in other cases.’

          Which it manifestly isn’t. Sri Lanka eliminated the Tamil Tigers and tens of thousands of Tamils simply because they wanted a rather small state of their own.

        • Philip Says:

          Listen, we can disagree about whether Israel receives more or less censure than it deserves. The discussion at the moment is just going back and forth.

          However, I would caution you not to make sweeping condemnations of Arabs and Muslims. If you’re going to start accusing them of ‘sins’ which make Israel’s ‘sins’ look paltry ( hope this is exaggeration / poetic licence) then you probably need to justify that with some examples / evidence.

          But here is my main issue with your argument. It’s that it’s a prime example of ‘what-aboutery’ a term coined by Johann Hari (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-how-to-spot-a-lame-lame-argument-1667373.html). I wouldn’t dream of trying to deny, explain away or justify the crimes of Hamas, some Arab states, etc. Your refusal to admonish without having a dig elsewhere does you a disservice. As, incidentally, does the odd religiosity of some of your comments.

        • Philip Says:

          No, I was making an observation. Either Israel receives more censure than it deserves (benchmarked against an average based on cross-country comparison), less censure than it deserves, or just the right amount. I observed that it receives less. You can agree or disagree with the observation.

          It is not discriminatory to make the observation.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘Either Israel receives more censure than it deserves (benchmarked against an average based on cross-country comparison), less censure than it deserves, or just the right amount.’

          But I question your benchmark: during Cast Lead, Sri Lanka was killing 1000s more Tamils, and putting 100s of 1000s into a real concentration camp. And the Tamil Tigers et al. do not aim to eliminate all of Sri Lanka as a state, nor regard all of Sri Lanka as truly theirs. They merely want their own state within a limited segment of it. They aspire to no more.

          ‘It is not discriminatory to make the observation’

          It is if it’s untrue.

        • Philip Says:

          It’s fine to question my benchmark. That’s what discussion and debate is about.

          If a statement is untrue, it’s untrue. A statement is only discriminatory if it’s discriminatory. The two are not linked.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘If a statement is untrue, it’s untrue. A statement is only discriminatory if it’s discriminatory. The two are not linked.’

          Not necessarily, but they can be. And, in this case, they are.

        • Philip Says:

          When you say ‘in this case,’ are you referring to my comments or to boycotters in general?

      • zkharya Says:

        And, Philip, if you want to adduce the case of South Africa, it is the almost universal view of BDSers that Israel is -worse- than SA, often far worse.

        That assertion is to eliminate or exclude anything significant of justice that both justifies Zionism, and which shows it is significantly, if not fundamentally different.

        It is the removal of anything significant that justifies Zionism in the court of history, and leaves it without defence.

        It is the case of the Prosecution that seeks to do away with Zionism’s Advocate for Defence altogether.

  19. Mira Vogel Says:

    To reply to Philip’s thoughtful points of Jun 20th 6.13 and 6.21.

    I haven’t looked to see where you’re from Philip, but google.co.uk search for “boycott Burma OR Myanmar”, no other restrictions: 409,000. The same but for Israel: 4,850,000. On a Google.com search it’s not dissimilar (I don’t know how Google’s algorithm incorporates the searcher’s location).

    On the aims of boycott, Richard is right – the answer you get from boycott leaders is either a call for a single state, or a superficial commitment to a state of Israel existing, but if you probe, turns out that this is conditional on no reasonable defence or control of who gets citizenship – i.e. none of the means to continue existing that other states take for granted. I dare say I’m as troubled as anybody else by defence and immigration controls, but there’s no way I’m singling out Israel out as a site of the fight against these things when there are so many armed religious supremacists on the scene and when relatively peaceful Belgium is falling apart in my back yard. You have to keep reminding yourself how bizarre it is to propose to make Israel a world cause.

    And on whether or not the most important thing is whether the boycott works, I think that whether or not it could bring about an end to the occupation is important, and one of the most astonishing things about the boycott – or the thing that makes you say “Ah, I see, it’s not about ending the occupation at all” is that it doesn’t have any mechanism for ending this occupation. I can’t remember an Israel boycotter every making a convincing case that the SA boycott ended apartheid, and yet the SA boycott is cited all the time as a reason to boycott Israel.

    And if in Israel’s case it did have any prospect of precipitating an end to the occupation, I worry – given what we know about boycott organisers’ aims, and the Israeli and Palestinian extreme right – that we would be seeing blood. In other words, not everything that works is good – it depends on the side effects. The occupation needs to be ended by a political solution which doesn’t leave a vacuum. The international community needs to pull together as an honest broker – but there are many stakes in keeping this conflict going. So don’t kick Israel, but build.

    • Philip Says:

      Thanks for your comment Mira. I used Google.com, but I searched for the terms Myanmar and Burma separately and added the two together. Each had about 2.5 million hits, though I expect there was some overlap.

      A lot of people do think the SA boycott was what ended apartheid there. I’m not sure whether that’s entirely true, but I certainly have heard the argument.

      One of the reasons why I think that the ‘boycotts don’t work’ argument is more compelling is because it stands by itself. If you rely on the ‘it only targets Israel – that’s unfair!’ argument, or the ‘the boycotters hang out with too many questionable people’ argument, then ceteris paribus, if I can change those conditions, you have to support the boycott. (An interesting though experiment to test whether one’s own motivations is to ask whether there are circumstances under which one would support the boycott.) So as an outsider to the world of UCU I’m just saying that I think you’re on stronger ground (though I’m not saying you’re right!) by saying that boycotts are ineffective.

      I agree that we need positive steps to end the occupation. Though the bulk of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of politicians who have hardly covered themselves in glory on this count.

      I personally try not to get involved in political groups that affiliate themselves with questionable others, so I certainly see that this is a problem for the Israel boycott crowd. While it undermines their credibility, it doesn’t invalidate their arguments.

      • Mira Vogel Says:

        Of course all of us have heard the argument that the SA boycott ended apartheid – but it’s never substantiated. It’s an argument of convenience and, based on the small but pertinent amount I know about the end of apartheid, I reckon it’s false.

        “An interesting though experiment to test whether one’s own motivations is to ask whether there are circumstances under which one would support the boycott.”

        I don’t think you can be familiar with this blog. That’s fine – but do have a look back through, there are plenty of relevant posts, including on the settlement boycott. We’re much more concerned with antisemitism than with its boycott symptom, and we know that boycott is not always a symptom of antisemitism.

        And I trust, given your scepticism, observation that boycotters keep bad company, and general concern, that you are active on pro-boycott sites suggesting thought experiments about circumstances in which the communities there *would not* support the boycott.

        “While it undermines their credibility, it doesn’t invalidate their arguments.”

        It’s not a coincidence but a decision that they are prepared to work with haters in this overt way. Plenty – I think most – pro-Palestinian initiatives don’t. See our posts on OneVoice, the New Israel Fund and The Abraham Fund.

        And once again, I don’t think the argument about boycott not working is has the most traction, given that not everything that works is good – side effects, baby and bathwater, etc. I’m interested in the interaction of all that is wrong with this boycott, and its likely counterproductive effect on the conflict is something to take very seriously – but antisemitism in the singularity and discourse of the campaign should also be a major reason to oppose it in its current form in our various institutions. There’s a lot wrong with the boycott, but the antisemitism that characterises it is disgusting and intolerable.

        I’m afraid I’ve run out of time to discuss this.

        • Philip Says:

          That’s all fair enough. Just two quick points to finish, then.

          First, you ask the right question about challenging pro-boycott sites about the conditions under which they wouldn’t support the boycott. I haven’t done this, though.

          Second, while I think we’ll probably have to disagree about which argument has more merit, I would say that you’re right that if a group associates itself with questionable characters that’s a good reason for staying away. However, Brian Goldfarb’s first comment suggests that one can boycott individually (as he did with Spain and South Africa) without being part of an ‘official’ campaign. And I guess that if someone does that in good conscience then we have to say it’s fine and dandy. (Unless of course we don’t think boycotts work, but we’re going to start going round in circles…)

  20. Richard Gold Says:

    Hi Philip, i’m posting this here because it gets confusing replying to your reply which is further up.

    Anyway with regard to the aims of the boycott you say

    ” Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. We probably have just met people who come from different perspectives. ”

    I’m sorry but you avoid the point that the boycott leaders do not accept 2 states and they are leading the boycott campaign and using the language of one staters and of those who delegitimise Israel. You say you have met people so can i ask – Which boycott leaders have you met who have accepted Israel’s right to exist in a 2 states settltment? I’ve come across several who do not- John Rose, Barghouti , Blackwell, Kharmi – and others who refuse to answer such as Hilary Rose. So again which leaders of the boycott have you met who will accept 2 states and Israel’s right to exist ? Let’s have the names.

    • Philip Says:

      I don’t believe I’ve met any ‘leaders’ of the boycott campaign, but I do know a number of people who try to boycott Israel and none of them oppose two states. They may not be movers and shakers, but given that the boycott campaign is hardly unified under a single command structure, they may at least represent a good chunk of popular opinion.

      I’m probably opening a can of worms here, but there is nothing inherently wrong, delegitimising, and certainly not anti-Semitic, with believing in the one state solution either. I accept that there may be racists who appropriate that language, but you have to better define the causal relationship if that’s what you want to say.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “I’m probably opening a can of worms here, but there is nothing inherently wrong, delegitimising, and certainly not anti-Semitic, with believing in the one state solution either.”

        I know I say it below, but you _really_ need to read Benny Morris “One State, Two States”, paper, 2010, without any preconceptions, and then, having done so, come back and see if you can repeat that comment with your hand on your heart.

        Bearing in mind the eliminationist ideologies, constitutions and practices of Hamas, Hezbollah and their backer, Iran.

      • zkharya Says:

        ‘I don’t believe I’ve met any ‘leaders’ of the boycott campaign, but I do know a number of people who try to boycott Israel and none of them oppose two states. ‘

        How do they feel about a Jewish state? With a Jewish right of return, and no right of return for millions of Arab Muslim and Christians?

        i.e. how do they feel about a two state solution with an Israel that will continue to exist for more than a few years or decades?

        I can tell you now that most BDS organisations in this country are none to happy with the idea.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, a couple of them are Jewish, so I think they are relatively comfortable about the idea of a Jewish state. What they are deeply uncomfortable with is exclusivist racism based on nineteenth century notions of nationalism. And what they are comfortable with is a scenario, whether one, two, or twenty-eight states, where people are accorded respect regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

  21. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip, this is a discussion/debating site, so the presumption is that we argue our points, with evidence, to attempt to show any who disagree with us why and how we reach our conclusions. There are times when even those who broadly agree with the mission statement of this site (see “About us”, top left of every page, and find – sorry, I don’t know exactly where it is – the text of the Euston Manifesto) argue with each other. I had a long argument with Neil Friedman a couple of months ago which ended inconclusively, yet we’re on the same “side”. Thus, when you ask the question as to whether the calls to boycott Israel are because it is a Jewish state, this suggests that you haven’t read either the mission statement or these pages either for very long or particularly closely to know what our answer to that question is likely to be.

    I asked you a direct question on June 18, and it isn’t an answer to say that you haven’t answered “because I was using this as a forum to ask questions.” Given that you have asked questions (which we have attempted to answer) but made no effort to answer those we ask back, you surely understand when we might get just a tad impatient with you. It is often those who do not wish to reveal their positions on issues who adopt such a stance. If that isn’t what you are doing, then you might seriously consider just what your answers to our questions are, even if you then say that the answers aren’t yet fully formulated.

    Everyone is allowed thinking time.

    To continue with the issues in play here: it is, or should be, abundantly clear that many of those who favour a boycott of Israel, in whole or in part, desire that Israel, as a separate Jewish state, ceases to exist. If you don’t believe that this is the case, then maybe you need to read certain of the comments immediately after your effort which attracted a tail of attached replies. Further, it is quite clear that the major armed groups opposing Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their major backer and arms supplier, Iran, are eliminationist as far as Israel is concerned: they do not wish to see a two-state solution to the Middle East problem.

    In order to better acquaint yourself with these issues of the number of states there should be “between the river and the sea”, you might care to read Benny Morris’s latest book “One State, Two States”, which is about exactly that. Or you could read my review of it, which is now about 2 pages below this one. No-one has yet suggested that I have misinterpreted his book.

    I was planning to question the evidence for your statement that all those other states mentioned have been or are the subject of boycotts, but I realise that this is irrelevant. The boycotters of Israel do not lump Israel in with other alleged breachers of human rights, but somehow see Israel as unique as in breaching human rights, and go further in using near antisemitic tropes, for example, designating the situation in Gaze as akin to or worse than the Warsaw Ghetto; in alleging that a genocide is taking place on the West Bank. I am not aware of any evidence that could be used to substantiate any such claims, and if these are being used as mere “calls to arms” and are not meant to be taken literally, then one should seriously question the motives of those using such phraseology. And I’m not trying to suggest that have done this: far from it.

    You may not know who Tom Hickey is, but Bill provided the link to what he said, all you needed to do was click on it. As to who he is, he has been an elected member of the Universities and Colleges Union Executive for some years, and is a prime mover of the resolutions to boycott Israeli (and only Israeli) universities and academics that appear on the agenda of the UCU’s Annual Congress year after year, despite these being (on the union’s own legal advice) unlawful if acted upon. Indeed, he moved the major motion this very year – you only have go back for about 3 pages to find these Resolutions and the further discussion of them. If you have read the quote linked to, what do you think of his attitude?

    I would be very interested to read your response.

    • Philip Says:

      Your original question asks me whether I think the boycott of Israel is specifically related to it being a Jewish state. I think that different people are motivated by different factors. For some it will be human rights, for others it will be muslim fraternity, for others it will simply be that it is a prominent ’cause’. And for some, I’m sure they would like to see an end to a Jewish state. I think that you could divide them broadly into two: those who are antisemitic, and those who don’t believe there should be a Jewish state for other reasons, for example, because they don’t believe in nationalism at all, or because they don’t believe Jews meet the criteria under international law for self-determination. So yes, there are some, but certainly not all, or probably even most, who want to abolish the state of Israel, or to do so because it is a Jewish state.

      [As an aside, Hamas are not strictly speaking eliminationist.]

      I haven’t read Benny Morris’s new book, though I did read your review (in fact, I read it a while ago). You say his thesis is that we return to the situation pre-1967. While it’s an interesting idea (certainly different from what most are suggesting today) I’m not convinced that it will work now, when it didn’t work then; namely because the Palestinians don’t really trust the Jordanians to look out for them.

      I don’t think people view Israel as a ‘unique’ abuser of human rights, though in its intensity and duration, the occupation is a flagrant breach. Doubtless there are those who focus disproportionately on it. Actually, I think one reason is that people are less likely to argue with you about, say, Myanmar. No one tries to persuade me that Myanmar isn’t so bad after all, and that it’s those pesky terrorists in Shan state who are really to blame. Why, they don’t even accept that a Myanmarese state should exist at all! So naturally, you don’t get so much debate about it, whereas with Israel / Palestine, there’s much more to and fro.

      I agree that people use inappropriate language when talking about Israel. Though some is acceptable. When I visited Yad Vashem, I was particularly struck by the display on the Lodz Ghetto. The previous day I had taken the public bus to Ramallah and Hebron. I was really struck by the similarities. So the use of ghetto, ethnic cleansing or concentration camp are actually quite appropriate. (Danny Finkelstein also makes this point.) However, talking about a genocide or a holocaust is plainly silly. Though not necessarily anti-semitic (why not anti-Rwandan or anti-Armenian?).

  22. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    To add to Richard’s comment, to which you reply, in part:
    “I don’t believe I’ve met any ‘leaders’ of the boycott campaign, but I do know a number of people who try to boycott Israel…”

    In case you hadn’t noticed, it is “leaders” who set the tone of a group, movement, campaign, or, indeed, political party. Perhaps, in addition to Benny Morris, you should read the Charters of Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO, as well as googling the appropriate speeches of the President of Iran. Then, maybe, you might trying googling with the words “boycott, divestment, sanctions, Israel, one state “.

    I’d be interested in what you come up with. There are those who believe that boycotts, etc, will bring about an equitable two-state solution, and I’d be interested if you can show the _leaders_ of such organisations who believe this and say this consistently.

    Good hunting!

    BTW, I use underscoring because if I try to highlight, I lose the comment into cyberspace, and inverted commas imply a direct quote.

  23. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Apologies to the moderator for yet another long reply, but…

    Philip says (June 23, 1.23 pm), before my next comment is posted:”[As an aside, Hamas are not strictly speaking eliminationist.]” Philip, you need to read the Hamas Charter: this quite specifically contains a clause or clauses calling for the elimination of the Jewish state and also for the destruction of the Jews, all 15 million of them. Then come back and tell us that Hamas is not an eliminationist organisation, strictly speaking or otherwise. The same goes for Hezbollah and for the PLO – or so, for the latter, Benny Morris says in his latest book. Despite calls for the amending of their respective Charters, none of the three organisations mentioned has done so – unless the PLO actually has done so in the last 6 months or so. Why should we disbelieve what their Charters say of their aims and objectives?

    Further down the same comment you say, following a sentence about your visit to Yad Vashem, “The previous day I had taken the public bus to Ramallah and Hebron. I was really struck by the similarities. So the use of ghetto, ethnic cleansing or concentration camp are actually quite appropriate.”

    No they are not “quite appropriate” terms to use, or not if directed against the Israelis. I’m quite prepared to debate the whole question of how the Palestinian refugee “question” came about, but will leave that to one side for the moment. I’ll start after the truces of 1948/49 and the establishment of the Truce lines (or the 1967 Green Line, if you prefer). There are at this time some 750,000 Palestinian refugees in camps in Gaza and on the West Bank. By 1967, these camps were still there, now holding 2 to 3 times that number of people.

    That’s 19 years later. In 1945, after the end of WW2, there were a million or more (hopefully someone can provide a more accurate number) “displaced persons” in “Displaced Persons Camps”, mostly in Western Europe. By 1965 there were precisely NONE. The various governments concerned, along with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), had resettled them all, and by no means all or even many of them back in their countries of origin.

    However, the UN Refugee Relief & Work Administration (UNRRWA), set up to deal ONLY with the Palestinian refugee situation, has a major definitional difference from the UNHCR: unlike the latter, it defined anyone displaced AND THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN AND GREAT GRANDCHILDREN, etc, as refugees – until the end of time. The UNHCR restricted the definition of “refugee” strictly to those actually displaced. No wonder the “problem” grew with time, instead of diminishng. Please tell me why the oil-rich Moslem states couldn’t solve the refugee problem as easily as the much poorer (at the time) European countries managed.

    Before you tell me (if that is your immediate reflex) that the Israelis created the problem in the first place, I’ll remind you that this is a separate issue – but go and read the appropriate section on refugees of Benny Morris “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”. Israel only becomes directly involved for these camps after June 6 1967, and was under strict instructions from the UN to leave the camps severely alone. What is a real shame is that Israel didn’t ignore the UN, tear the camps down and rehouse everybody in decent, modern housing and get the rest of the world to invest in building a proper economic infrastructre on the West Bank and in Gaza.

    Now, IF (and it’s a big “if”) the term “ghetto” is appropriate (and remember that it was first coined by the Venetians to describe the quarter of Venice to which the Jews of that city were confined, by law), who created the “ghettoised” refugee camps on the West bank and in the Gaza Strip? The Jordanians and the Egyptians or the Israelis?

    I also think that, given the nature of the Nazi concentration camps from 1933-45, you must be much more definite in your use of terms than this. Are or were the inhabitants of the camps deliberately kept on starvation rations, either by the Jordanians and the Egyptians or, since 1967, by the Israelis – evidence, please, not mere use of terms that slide easily off your tongue and keyboard.

    The same demand of rigour also applies to your use of the term “ethnic cleansing”: by whom? when? where? and what is your evidence – and it must go far beyond some statement that someone told you. Accusations of ethnic cleansing refer us back to the former Yugoslavia and the mass graves of Bosnia; or they take us back to Nazi Germany, and the proud boast of the Estonians (or was it the Latvians, or the Lithuanians – or any combination of them) that they were the first country to become “Judenfrei”.

    Philip, do you really mean all this, or are you playing to some gallery or other? We really do need answers that go way beyond glib statements as found above. And ethnic cleansing is not as far away from genocide or holocaust as you appear to think

    • Philip Says:

      On the first point, I think it’s better to listen to what they actually say and do. For example, Khaled Meshaal here: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47107.

      Let me address the three terms in question in turn and explain why and where they are appropriate.

      Ethnic cleansing is appropriate for describing what happened to Palestinians within Mandate Palestine in 1948. They were driven out of their homes, never to return. Your friend Benny Morris would concur. For example, this reprint of an article from Haaretz: http://www.webcitation.org/5pvy2Rvfw. Zkharya also acknowledged this in our previous discussion: https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/hard-hitting-campaigns-or-outright-anti-semitism/#comment-9092. It also arguably applies to the project of colonial settlement which has been going on in the Occupied Territories, especially in East Jersualem.

      The word ‘ghetto’ is used appropriately when it draws attention to the separation barrier which prevents Palestinians from travelling freely, and consigns them to second class status in the OPT. If you have passed through a checkpoint early morning and seen hundreds of people queuing to go to work, or if you see the separate roads for Palestinians and settlers — this struck me as very similar to the display I saw of the Lodz Ghetto.

      The term ‘concentration camp’ (first used during the Boer War, if I recall correctly) is appropriate for describing what Israel has done to Gaza. Namely, turned it into the biggest concentration camp on earth. The inhuman treatment of these people, forced to subsist on meagre handouts, very much fits the term.

      As I said before, it would be innapropriate to use the terms holocaust or genocide in this case.

      I’m not sure of the relevance of your crash course on international law. I am aware of the peculiarity of Palestinian refugees in international law. I didn’t that there were any refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        So no acceptance of a 2 states settlement then by Meshaal. I don’t see anything here that contradicts the Hamas Charter. Nice try Phil.

        • Philip Says:

          Really?

          What about: ‘I have said I accept a Palestinian state if Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 line. That doesn’t annul the historical fact of the Israeli occupation of 1948, but Hamas and the other factions have all accepted this solution of a Palestinian state at the 1967 line. But there’s still no Israeli acceptance of this, and no international recognition of this outcome’?

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Oh come on Phil. Take it in context with the rest of the article. Off course Meshaal will accept a Palestinian state if Israel withdraws to The Green Line but that isn’t his end solution, is it ? He makes this clear in what he goes on to say and which you conveniently leave out :

          Asked whether the establishment of a Palestinian state in just the areas occupied in 1967 would secure the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he responded, “That state is our demand today. When our people are free and have their own state they will decide on this position.”

          In a discussion on the right of the numerous Palestinian refugees from 1948, and their descendants, to return to their ancestral homes and lands in what is now Israel, he defined this as meaning that these refugees still have the right to return to their “home villages or towns”.

        • Philip Says:

          Well I guess we’ll have to disagree. It seems fairly plain to me that Hamas are not the inflexible sluggards that some like to paint them as. There are plenty of criticisms one might make of Hamas, but this really isn’t one.

          For those in positions of power, this kind of misinformation has only served as a justification not to seek peace. If I can paint Hamas as eliminationist then I justify not talking to them, so I can prolong coming to terms. I would urge you to reconsider. Negotiations are there to be had.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Sorry Phil – are you saying that the covenant is misinformation ? Are you saying that when Hamas leaders say they will never accept the existence of Israel that it is misinformation ?

          FYI – I do believe that the Israeli government should talk to Hamas.

          “If I can paint Hamas as eliminationist then I justify not talking to them, so I can prolong coming to terms. I would urge you to reconsider. Negotiations are there to be had.”

          You’d urge me to consider ? Do you think i paint Hamas as eliminationist because i don’t want the Israeli government to negotiate ? I think Hamas are eliminationist (at the moment anyway) because of what they say, not becuase i don’t want the Israeli government to negotiate. I try and judge people by what they say and do – which is why i don’t believe the current Israeli government want a fair 2 states settlement. Kindly stop putting words into my mouth Philip and judge me by what i say, not what you imagine.

        • Philip Says:

          I’m saying that to present Hamas as entirely eliminationist is misinformation. Sure, their charter is a nasty document. But their actual position is much more nuanced and flexible.

          I apologise for putting words in your mouth.

          I do think that is the approach that many (esp. the Israeli and US governments) take to Hamas, ie, finding excuses for not talking to them, even indirectly.

        • Mira Vogel Says:

          Examples of nuance and flexibility, Philip? And which bit of the apartheid document to you want us to look at, and how does it relate to the matters at hand?

          Philip, it is beginning to seem as if you are using our comments thread for recreational purposes – wind-up, as somebody said – rather than to get to the bottom of anything.

        • Philip Says:

          Mira, I’m not sure I understand your comment. Which apartheid document are you referring to?

          You’re right that we are hopelessly side-tracked. In my defence I would say that I’ve only been trying to respond the myriad comments thrown in my direction, and I haven’t been able to make sure that they stay relevant. It’s somewhat overwhelming. Anyhow, please be assured that I don’t mean to take advantage of your good will.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘ but Hamas and the other factions have all accepted this solution of a Palestinian state at the 1967 line. But there’s still no Israeli acceptance of this, ‘

          No they didn’t

          a) Mashaal only said in 2008 they would “consider” recognising Israel should she do so, In fact, all that was offered was a 10 year Hudna. That isn’t peace! It is a temporary truce in an ongoing war whose ultimate goal is the extinction of any Israel! Israel is not obliged to accept that.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaled_Mashal

          b) the recent noises from Hamas, said only to undermine Israel’s claim that Gaza is belligerent territory,

          b) he knows perfectly well Israel cannot withdraw to the ’67 lines, nor a Palestinian right of return to Israel proper.

          Can Israel surrender the Jewish and Armenian quarters, the western wall to Arab control, again?

          Israel offered to return all other land in ’67: she was rebuffed. ’67 was 40 years ago. The penalty is: the clock cannot go back. Israel can offer land in exchange for territories annexed, but that requires negotiations as per Camp David, the Clinton Parameters and the Geneva Accord, something Hamas has said time and again it will never do.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip – How do you feel about attempts to drive Jews out of their homes in 1948 ? what do you think would have happened to the Jewish population in 1948 if they had lost ?

        • Philip Says:

          I condemn them.

          The second part is conjecture, and is not relevant to the question we’ve been asking, namely, is ‘ethnic cleansing’ an appropriate term to be used in describing what happened to Palestinians at the hands of Israelis in 1948?

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Sorry Philip – Why not answer ? Do you have an opinion on what might have happened ? I think you are refusing to answer because it doesn’t fit into your political perspective.

        • Philip Says:

          If you write a blog post about this subject I will happily answer the question. It’s not relevant to this discussion.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          But it is relevant Philip because you’re discussing 1948. So come on Philip what do you think would have happned to the Jewish people in Palestine / Israel if they had been defeated in 1948 ?

        • Philip Says:

          Explain how the answer to that question affects the discussion about whether the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ can correctly be applied to what Israeli did to Palestinians in 1948.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Philip – the original post is about “putting the independent back into indie” so you’ve already gone off topic, so let’s stay off topic and i’d appreciate it if you could answer my question – WHat do you think would have happened to the Jewish population in Palestine / Israel in 1948 if they had been defeated. I’ve had to spend a lot of time reading your comments over the last couple of months so kindly do me the honour of answering my question. I’m interested in what you think.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          BTW Philip – i won’t be on Engage again until Monday- so take your time.

        • zkharya Says:

          a) Zionist Jews did commit acts of ethnic cleansing.

          b) the same or worse was threatened against them: to prevent that Palestinian Jews were entitled to do just about anything

          c) the same or worse happened at the birth of other states, none of whom are castigated as having been born in Original Sin in remotely the way the Jewish state of Israel

        • Philip Says:

          Richard, I’ll be charitable, since you lay on charm. Let’s first come to an agreement on whether the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ can correctly be applied to what Zionist Jews did to Palestinians in 1948, and then I’ll answer your question. So go on: you first.

        • zkharya Says:

          ‘The second part is conjecture, and is not relevant to the question we’ve been asking’

          Of course it is!

          To use an analogy, to omit that part of the story is like telling of the sufferings of the German people in WWI without telling of what they did or threatened against others.

          And no, I am not saying Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians are Nazis. I am saying their national movement moved within decades from being exclucivist to dispossessivist to eliminationist .

          Given the readiness of the BDS movement to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state, as bad as or worse than apartheid South Africa, I think that an entirely reasonable issue to raise.

          The BDS movement typically portrays Palestinian Muslims and Christians as a kind of national Christ, crucified-colonised by wicked Zionist Jews. Of course, they don’t put it in those terms, but the impetus, the crusading-jihadi sheer righteousness of their cause, and the sheer evil of those Zionist Jews is there nonetheless.

        • Thomas Venner Says:

          The word “apartheid” has now been more or less stripped of all meaning. I heard someone on the BBC News recently describing the difference between public and private sector pension provisions as “apartheid”.

        • Philip Says:

          In the context of public international law it’s very simple. The crime of apartheid is defined by the Rome Statute.

          Here: http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/EA9AEFF7-5752-4F84-BE94-0A655EB30E16/0/Rome_Statute_English.pdf.

        • Philip Says:

          I agree and I disagree. If we were looking into the 1948 war and the events surrounding it, then I would agree that we need to talk about what Palestinians Arabs did to Jews, and also crimes committed against Jews in other countries.

          But that’s not what we’re discussing. We were discussing whether it is appropriate to use the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ to describe what was done to Palestinian Arabs. That’s all. That doesn’t require any speculation about Arabs would have done to the Jews if they had been able to.

        • Thomas Venner Says:

          What about what Arabs actually did do to Jews in the Middle East? You’re forgetting the 850,000 or so Jews stripped of their homes and property and forcibly expelled from Arab states as “retaliation” for Israel’s declaration of independence. They made up the majority of immigration into Israel during its founding years, not Holocaust survivors from Europe. This is why the idea of Israel as a state created by “Western colonists/settlers” is nonsense – the majority of those who went there once it was founded were Mizrahi and Sephardi Jewish refugees from other parts of the Middle East, and even after the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, Jews from native Middle Eastern backgrounds still make up the majority of Jews in Israel.

      • Richard Gold Says:

        Philip – surely you are aware that the term “concentration camp” is today used by many as an analogy with the concentration camps in WW2 ? When you talk about concentration camps most people think of the holocast. Anyway i haven’t been following all your comments on this issue but if you have been talking yourself about concentration camps, just to say if you do so again i a comment then i won’t be letting such a comment through. I’m sure you can find other terms to use which don’t involve holocaust imagery. It’s offensive.

        • Philip Says:

          It’s a shame you would make such a comment, especially to someone who has just been arguing that certain terminology thrown around in this debate is inappropriate.

          Still, it’s your blog, and you can censor whomever you like. I like to think of myself as a reasonable person, with reasonable comments. I won’t censor myself, but if you choose to censor me, I guess I have no recourse.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Philip – If you can;t understand why i find holocuast imagery so offensive then that’s up to you. If you want to wind Jews up and taunt them then your holocaust imagery is the way to go about it. If you can’t find alternative words to use then you can decide whether to comment or not. This is a moderated site and i’ve deleted offensive comments from all sides of the debate. You say that you won’t censor yourself – if you mean you are going to continue to use the term “concentration camp” then don’t bother posting it.

        • Philip Says:

          Do you really think, based on what I’ve contributed to this and previous discussions that I want to ‘wind Jews up’ then that’s a real shame.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          No Philip, i don’t think you’re intending to wind Jews up, which is why i suggest you don’t use the term in the debate. But the fact is that it is offensive and it does wind Jewish people up. Maybe you should learn from this discussion.

        • Gil Says:

          So you think of yourself as a ‘reasonable person, with reasonable comments’? Then I suggest, Philip, that you apologise for your disgraceful comment where you compare Gaza to the Lodz Ghetto. No doubt we shall hear some more weasel words where you try and backtrack from this shameful remark. You cherry pick facts compeletely divorced from their wider context and then use inflammatory language in order to bait the readers here.

          You obviously weren’t really paying attention when you visited Yad Vashem. What a wasted trip.

        • Philip Says:

          Well, I don’t want to be picky, but in fact I didn’t make such a remark. I made a different comparison wit regards to Gaza.

          The point I was making was about the word ‘ghetto’ as an appropriate word for describing some of what happens to Palestinians. I remember in particular that there were two areas of the Lodz Ghetto connected by a bridge. The inhabitants of the Ghetto were being interviewed about what it felt like to see others in the free parts of the city walking under the bridge with clean, well-made clothes, etc. As I said,the next day as I emerged from one of the checkpoints to see a huge long line of Palestinians trying to get to work, looking enviously through the mesh between us – well, the situation was not lost one me.

          Now, if you’re offended by that then I’m sorry. I don’t mean to offend you. But I’m less worried about giving offence than I am about saying things as I see them.

  24. Thomas Venner Says:

    All this quibbling over semantics is a bit ridiculous, really. Technically, an “Islamophobe” would literally mean someone who suffers from a crippling, irrational fear of Islam, not someone who simply hates Muslims. Should we then offer our condolences to those poor dears in the EDL who presumably can’t go out for fear that they might encounter a Muslim and suffer a panic attack? And what about homophobes? I can’t remember exactly, but that would translate either as a fear of men or a fear of things that are similar to yourself (which some psychiatrists would find ironically appropriate).

    Yes, we all know that the first concentration camps were built by the British (in India during the 1870s, if I remember correctly, not during the Boer War as popularly claimed), and we all know that Arabs are Semites too and so anti-Semitism in the literal sense should cover anti-Arab racism too, but it’s not really a matter of literal meanings, is it? Most people deal in everyday language, not obscure, smug academic nonsense. All of this postmodernist linguistic contortionism is just an intellectually lazy way to try and avoid ever having to genuinely debate with your opponents. The principle is the same as that of Newspeak as explained by Orwell – you make opposition impossible by undermining the language, invalidating the words themselves and stopping your opponent from arguing against you by simply making it impossible to articulate their argument. Of course, this is very convenient for some people, because they can rely completely on tying anyone who argues against them up in endless petty squabbles about what-word-means-exactly-what, and they will never have to actually get into a proper debate, one that they might actually have to think about.

    Also, while we’re on the subject of “concentration camps”, you do know that the various camps originally set up by the British were also, like those set up by the Nazis, used to deliberately and systematically kill large numbers of people, either by forcibly working them to death while deliberately denying them access to any food or water, or deliberately introducing cholera and other infections into the camps and simply allowing the inmates to die, with many of the survivors being simply lined up and shot afterwards? The original camps in India were set up with the specific intention of wiping out swathes of what the social Darwinists of the day considered to be “useless”, “weak” or otherwise “undesirable” people. The British Empire’s genocide binge in the late 19th century was, by Hitler’s own admission, the inspiration for the Holocaust. The Nazis just made the process more efficient.

    If the Israeli Defence Forces move permanently into Gaza, herd the entire population into a space so small it’s more or less standing room only, feed them a slice of bread and a thimbleful of water every day, force them to strip almost naked and perform purposeless manual labour in the blazing heat for sixteen hours a day until they drop and then spike the small amount of water they give them with sewage just to see how long it takes for most of those who haven’t already died from starvation or exhaustion to die of cholera, then you can start legitimately calling Gaza a “concentration camp”. Until that point, it’s just inflammatory hyperbole intended purely to kick an emotional reaction out of any Jews reading this.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “The British Empire’s genocide binge in the late 19th century was, by Hitler’s own admission, the inspiration for the Holocaust.” In fairness to history, Thomas, Hitler also noted of the Armenian genocide by the Turka, that if the world coiuld ignore that, then it would probably ignore what he intended for the Jews. Or words to that effect.

      • Thomas Venner Says:

        I know that, but Hitler’s inspiration for the act itself came from the British Empire’s genocides. The Armenian genocide was cited as an example of how genocide could be covered up after the fact.

    • Philip Says:

      Thomas, I don’t think it’s fair for you to tell me what I ‘intend’; and I think that a quick read of the Wikipedia entry and the dictionary definitions of the relevant term would be beneficial. But leaving that aside, given the directions of Mr Gold, I think it’s best to leave this particular part of the discussion to one side.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Given your language and failure to respond to questions asked directly of you or respond directly to points made to you, I think it is entirely fair of Thomas to suggest that without the explanation, your comments are intended to do just what he says.

        He (and I) fully explain why we think what we do; you merely assert.

        Not good enough to avoid the accusations coming your way.

  25. Philip Says:

    Mira wonders above whether I have got off the point. Probably, is the answer, so let me therefore try to summarise: My original question was to ask whether you oppose all types of boycott (cultural, academic, economic, etc.) against Israel. I think Brian Goldfarb answered this saying that none is more valid than any other – they should all be opposed (though he conducted his own boycotts against South Africa and Spain, suggesting that he isn’t entirely opposed to boycotts in all instances).

    I actually have som sympathy for the argument tat boycotts don’t work. It’s certainly an effective argument because it would invalidate calls to boycott, even if we were agreed that some kind of action needs to take place. This is strongest when it comes to economic boycotts. Looking at the evidence of economic sancitions used over, say, the past 100 years, they don’t seem to have worked terribly well. A lot of people make the case the sporting boycott of South Africa was particularly effective, which would suggest a differentiation between cultural and economic boycotts; cultural boycotts, goes this argument, are indeed effective. I honestly don’t know whether this argument is true, though.

    The final point which came to light is that people are angry at the Israel boycott movement because they think it is unfairly targetted at Israel and, in some cases, motivated by prejudice. I think this is a weak argument, and something of an example of what-aboutery. I sympathise with people who look at parts of the world where horrific things are happening, and see there is very little outcry (though often what we read in the press is not the whol story – and the UN is often working hard behind the scenes), but really I don’t think that’s a good argument for getting others off the hook. Honestly.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      OK, thanks Philip, and although I disagree with you on almost every point, I’ll stop there because I think otherwise we are liable to go off again. Perhaps it’s the Higher Education profession coming out in me but I think that a conversation like this, where it goes into historical and legal detail which relies on verifiable facts, needs close moderation and the requirement that we substantiate what we argue, rather than asserting – but there is no such moderation available. I wish I knew of a better-moderated forum to refer readers to, sorry to say I don’t. Shall we stop now?

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Hi Philip. I’ve been at a conference today and just seen your reply to my comment , or rather your refusal to answer unless i answer your later question first. Strange way of debating and i’d appreciate your answer rather than making it conditional on me answering your later question first. I really can’t understand your refusal to answer.


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